Monday, August 25, 2008

Mado Revealed

For the, er, several who read this vehicle steadily, you know that I mention Mado restaurant a lot. I expressed affection for the place before it opened, or at least before I visited. Mado lured me with its twin missions of serving an ever changing menu of market driven cuisine and its dedication to using the whole beast. I have since dined at Mado, I believe, eight times. I have found my initial instincts to be correct. I really enjoy Mado, not just the food presented but the whole Mado shtick. I do, however, need to reveal a few things about Mado.

What Mado looks like: one of the most active in the Chicago eating community, Ronnie Suburban, takes great food pics. We dined with him at Mado last week. Let his pictures do the talking.

The menu canard: the early reviews of Mado warned
By the time you read about what I ate at Allison and Rob Levitt’s minimalist new Wicker Park restaurant, you may have to wait until next year to try some of it.
I've already revealed this on the blog, but Mado does not change quite as much as first suspected. The hanger steak has not left the menu, nor has baby octopus. A grilled lake fish, probably trout, will be there, with a spare sauce, either herb or nut based. Given that these items have been consistently spot-on, I am not so much complaining. Still, not as an every day diner, but as a frequent Mado diner, I can report that the menu does not change as much as you would think.

The impact: over the last several years, my food interests have segued from the hounding, find the next great find mentality, to an intense interest in local, farms and the such. In other words, instead of having a new favorite restaurant each week, I have come to favor only a few. Instead we mostly dine-in on our bounty of local. Mado joined a short list. It is special to me, and I have had few bad things to say about it both in idealism and execution. As I said above, nearly everything I have eaten at Mado, I have loved. Still, I want to express a few ires.

The ires: I think I have already expressed my primary ire, a tendency to play it safe. This, of course, is only a criticism that a true devotee, a full kool-aid sucker could express. I think I understand Mado's concerns. The need to attract customers not as over-the-top as me. To afford some safety or at least have dishes that will sell. It's a needle-threader. I think there are many up to the challenge. More lamb belly? Cuts of cow beyond hanger? Get a little Fergus Henderson on us Rob. Also, I'd like to see a bit more veg adventure too. Mado tends to stall on favored preparations. Small potatoes are roasted; summer squash is escabeached; eggplants are honeyed. The left side of Mado's menu seemed a bit stagnant on my last visit.

Am I like the indy music fan who rejects his favorite band on the first whiff of its hitting it big? But I love Nevermind. I love Mado. I do not think Mado has gone downhill in two short months, nor has it violated any spirit it once had. I think a few revelations, good and bad, are fine for this blog.

1647 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 342-2340
Website under construction


rob levitt said...

i know, the menu doesn't change as much as we'd like either. our focus right now is on execution. we have a tiny staff. allie and i, our sous chef chris and allie's assistant julia. that's it. cooking six days a week, two services a day. and butchering whole animals. and going to the market. and curing meats, charcuterie, etc. and doing the payroll. and managing the front of house. and fixing broken pipes. and taking reservations. and scrubbing down the kitchen every night after feeding lots and ;lots of people. be patient, sir. with any luck, our success with loyals like you and others will continue, and the financial burden of running a restaurant wil lessen. we can hire a bit more staff, and my smoldering, burnt brain wil regenerate. 5 months ago i was teeming with ideas, but now i am bit tired. if it tastes good, and the people like it we'll leave it alone for a bit. as i mentioned, be patient, and enjoy us for what we are and what we want to be. a little spot that serves good food.

VI said...

Hey Rob, thanks for stopping by.

"if it tastes good..."

I have never found you faltering from that goal. Keep up the great work. My family and I look forward to watching (and eating) your sucesses.