To say that I am thrilled with the re-opening of Perennial is an understatement. The talented team behind Boka Restaurant Group had recently closed Perennial after Chef Ryan Poli’s departure, only to hold a LeBron James-esque media event announcing whom the new chef would be. After the hype and dust had settled, they were all business. The group brought in Chef Paul Virant, a past Food & Wine Best New Chef winner and current chef of his own Vie Restaurant in Western Springs, IL. Not only is Paul’s philosophy local and seasonal, he walks the talk in his daily life. There is no other geographic location that made more sense for his restaurant than this one, directly across the street from Chicago’s Green City Market.
Enter Perennial Virant. A homey, sleek, fresh and new establishment. Plants, jars of pickled vegetables and more – it’s like you’re sitting in someone’s living room. The food is simple: minimal ingredients, what’s in season and delicious. The menu is broken up into two sections, a simple 3-course tasting menu or about 15 or so share plates. We chose the share plates.
We started with a fabulous Crispy Carnaroli Rice wrapped around cheese curds. Alongside we had the Local Lettuces with preserved tomato vinaigrette, goat cheese and fennel, as well as the Asparagus Soup served with Meyer lemon.
Next up was the homemade Chicken Sausage, shaped as a disk and served with a hot pepper vinaigrette on top. We added the Gnocchi with an herb pesto that had a beautiful hint of tarragon and vegetables throughout, along with the Scallops with local carrot puree and sorghum, a unique incorporation of this grain.
Last, we tried the Hangar Steak served with Ramps three ways – pesto, creamed and tempura – and a delicate piece of Grilled Camembert cheese served with a red wine jam, homemade lavash crackers and arugula.
The whole table agreed that, especially for a new restaurant, everything was on point. Perennial Virant has since opened for brunch on weekends, and I intend to be there soon.
Perennial Virant, 1800 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614, 312-981-7070, www.perennialchicago.com
Andrew “Kappy” Kaplan loves food. A professionally trained chef, these days you’ll find him on the road talking up kids and cooking as Director of Yum-o! and keeping special projects running smoothly for Rach, all the while taking a bite here and a bite there as he samples and shares local flavor from across the country, from taco trucks to fancier finds. Follow Kappy on Twitter to see what’s On Kappy’s Plate!