Wednesday, August 20, 2008

otom…dining in the mirror…part deux

When I left you dear reader, I was wrapped in contentment of the warm and inviting contemporary atmosphere of Otom restaurant, the mirror sister of moto restaurant next door..
We were drinking cool bubbly waters, fruity wines, ancient beers, munching crusty fresh breads, with homemade butters. We were of course talking about food with each other, the superb chef and his fine staff. But there is so much more yet to tell.

All the members of our group commented on the how the design of the restaurant’s interior was very conducive to a feeling of relaxation, yet imparted a loft-like chic that made one feel that you are in a very special environment. Drawing on my experience as a design professional, I was interested in their feed back. Of particular note were two design elements that all thought worked wonderfully.

The first was the floor to ceiling Paul Smith inspired colorfully striped parachute fabric drapes. In the warm daylight they imparted a lovely cooling environment and as evening fell, the silk caught the candle glow creating a warm and intimate atmosphere.
All agreed that the second design element that was very successful were the molded plastic tangerine chairs surrounding the pristine white-clothed tables. At first glance, they appeared a bit stiff (read totally uncomfortable...). However these colorful chairs proved to be the ultimate in comfort. They are called the “minx” and were designed in Italy by Casprini Gruppo Industriale. The name is also appropriate, as “minx” is an old English word that meant conversation and we did indeed have long lovely conversations in complete comfort seated on the minx.

Interior architect and designer Michael Richman incorporated so many well thought out design details in this interior. They all came together to create the chic sophisticated loft ambiance with that pop of playfulness that kept the space from feeling too stuffy.

Although Otom is the sister resto of Moto, like all siblings, she has her own distinct and striking personality. Otom is about choices. and choose we did. Since we had a party of five, as a group we decided to each get a different dish for each course and share the love.

Some of our appetizers include succulent Butter Poached Shrimp with black beans and chili with puffed rice and a surprise, a green but deliciously spicy jalapeño noodle.
I choose the Thai Curry Mussels with snap pea froth and coconut sauce. That sauce was so flavorful, that everyone at the table used their bread to get the last savory drop.
The traditional comfort food, Macaroni and cheese was elevated to comfort chic with the addition of truffled white cheddar and double-smoked bacon and chives. That was a great favorite at our table and was passed around until the cast iron dish was scrapped clean.

For our entrees, unbelievably had no squabbles about each choosing a different dish as there were enough interesting choices to please each individual palate.
The oldest member of our party choose the somewhat traditional Braised lamb shank with white bean cassoulet, rutabaga and olive oil. She love every bite and that is high praise for a woman that has been a connoisseur of lamb for 80+ years.

We were all intrigued to see and taste the Fried short rib ravioli, and it particularly appealed
to that carnivore that ordered it. Beautifully formed and perfectly fried ravioli (with no trace of greasiness) appeared on a sweet and savory parsnip and vanilla purée with a very generous sprinkling of sweet potato butterscotch brown butter powder.
Now how cool is that…?
Needless to say, everyone enjoyed their taste of this dish.

As always, I chose a fish dish.
The Seared cod was perfectly done. It was presented on a bed of bright crimson lentils, rapini and a miniature sculptural patty-pan squash. Chef Daryl Nash elevated this simple dish to elegance by the addition of semisolids, one tasted of citrus and one had the flavor of capers.
I loved this dish so much and took si much time tasting it as I ate in hope to replicate it at home. I tried this dish from my food memory three times and I have to say I got close, very close. However, I didn’t have the magic of all the flavors and geometry of the semi-solids, or the charisma of Otom in general.

It is no secret in my family that my beautiful 13 year-old niece has a particular weakness for sweets. So we gave her carte blanche to choose 2 desserts if she desired…

One of her choices won her heart completely...simply Milk ‘n cookies…
She was presented by the chef, no less, with two huge (5” in diameter) chocolate chip cookies on a mascarpone and caramel banana bed, topped with vanilla wafer ice cream. Pastry Chef Natalie Oswald’s desert concept hit a definite a home run with my niece with this plate.

The Coconut-pineapple paradise dessert called to the south sea traveler in on person.
It came complete with an inverted pineapple, sand dunes, coconut lotion and a piña colada with a colorful umbrella for shade.

For myself, thinking architecturally, I choose the Key Lime Forms.
This was the perfect finish for my palate. A pie with a perfect and well “tanned” meringue, a deliciously tart sorbet, a sweet lime semisphere presented on an elegant spoon resting on a crumble. I was so sorry to see that this was the hit of the table and was gone long before I really dug in…bummer.
But, that another great reason to return to otom before Chef Nash changes to his autumn menu.

For those of you that live in this area or are planning a visit to Chicago,

Otom restaurant is located at:
951 west Fulton Market Street, just 5 minutes west of the loop.
I promise you, you will not be disappointed, and will feast on more than mere pixels.
Tip: Make a reservation for an early dinner during a weekday.


Camera Crazy said...

I've been blogging for more than a year and I still can't figure things out. Paul Smith has great stripes and those drapes are no exception--wow, that place is awesome. Have you eaten at I think it was called--Green Zebra? It has been a few years since we took our vegan son there so it may not still be there. At any rate, we had a very delicious vegetarian dinner in sophisticated surroundings.

terrie said...

Merci Gail for your kind comment...
I adore Paul Smith as I hung out many hours at his store in Paris on rue du Faubourg St-Honore near my appartement. But all I could ever afford is a

Oui, I have been to the Green Zebra in 2006 right before Shawn McClain won the James Beard Award for best Midwest Chef...They have a wonderful menu.

I also love Spring, right down street and also very vegetarian friendly. Love the ambiance as it was a former Bathhouse that was built in 1923 to serve families and immigrants of the Russian neighborhood. Very cool interior and wonderful cuisine as well.

I wish I had a blog when I was dining at all these place...
I imagine I will have to revisit these places VERY soon.

Wish I could get hired as a resto reviewer and

A Brush with Color said...

Therese-Marie, maybe you should write a newspaper food column--you had me drooling here. It sounds wonderful! You really took your time describing the ambiance and scents and tastes. Your photos are testament to the delicious meal you all enjoyed. Wonderful, compelling post!