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Mado [Rob & Allison Levitt]

Mado [Rob & Allison Levitt]
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  • Post #61 - October 25th, 2008, 9:28 am
    Post #61 - October 25th, 2008, 9:28 am Post #61 - October 25th, 2008, 9:28 am
    Note, Mado has a five course wild boar centered "family dinner" tomorrow (Sunday) at 6 PM @$65/pp. I beleive the event is sold-out, but a call might be worth it. My family and I attended Mado's initial family dinner. If it was not all the other good local food I eat, I would say I'm still stuffed from that meal.

    Listen, I'm on record as being a Mado fan, but let me tell you, the real way to experience Mado is through the family dinner concept. Yes a plate of charcuterie and some cookies would satisfy, but there is something about the whole soup to nuts thing (even without soup or nuts) that ties this place together. It reminded me of a Chinese meal, where each dish mattered less than the whole interplay of dishes; where each dish was not supposed to stand on its own, but rather balance or off-set or counter what was next.

    It's very worth finding out if there's a vacancy for tomorrow's event. Hopefully you also have a DVR so you will not miss the season finale of Mad Men.
  • Post #62 - October 25th, 2008, 4:52 pm
    Post #62 - October 25th, 2008, 4:52 pm Post #62 - October 25th, 2008, 4:52 pm
    Reservation for 3 made.

    Vital Information, reading your post couldn't have come at a better time. My fabulous foodie of a father-in-law is coming to town for a 5 days, and we were orginally going to go to "no-menu sunday" at Bon Soiree only to find out that they are not offering it this season. He is a HUGE fan of wild boar, and recently hosted a wine group dinner featuring a wild boar braise.

    This will be one of my best food weeks ever, as we have already made Monday and Tuesday reservations at Blackbird and Les Nomades. Bon Soiree will fill either Wednesday or Thursday...and we still need a fifth place. Recs appreciated!
    "We eat slowly and with gusto." - Paul Bäumer in AQOTWF
  • Post #63 - October 25th, 2008, 5:18 pm
    Post #63 - October 25th, 2008, 5:18 pm Post #63 - October 25th, 2008, 5:18 pm
    Sounds like you need some Chinatown in there for balance, Sweetbread! I'd say Lao Sze Chuan all the way. What a wonderful week of places (and family; hope dad enjoys everything).
  • Post #64 - October 25th, 2008, 5:27 pm
    Post #64 - October 25th, 2008, 5:27 pm Post #64 - October 25th, 2008, 5:27 pm
    Nice lineup Sweetbread. Sounds like Takashi would fit into that group pretty well. Have fun.
  • Post #65 - October 27th, 2008, 7:13 am
    Post #65 - October 27th, 2008, 7:13 am Post #65 - October 27th, 2008, 7:13 am
    Sweetbread wrote:Reservation for 3 made.

    Vital Information, reading your post couldn't have come at a better time. My fabulous foodie of a father-in-law is coming to town for a 5 days, and we were originally going to go to "no-menu sunday" at Bon Soiree only to find out that they are not offering it this season. He is a HUGE fan of wild boar, and recently hosted a wine group dinner featuring a wild boar braise.

    This will be one of my best food weeks ever, as we have already made Monday and Tuesday reservations at Blackbird and Les Nomades. Bon Soiree will fill either Wednesday or Thursday...and we still need a fifth place. Recs appreciated!


    Sweetbread, I hope you and your foodie father-in-law loved last night's meal as much as my wife and I did. As I noted above, I may like eating at Mado, but I really like to eat at Mado through these family dinners.

    Foremost, the boar from Swan Creek Farm was a revelation. It was surely not pork. It was not so much gamey as rich and intense. It was, to be somewhat trite, almost beefy in its flavor and character. And if I could find anything to quibble about last night's meal, the show-off dish, the one that featured the board head-on (no not the headcheese that was a different course), I'm talking about the spit-roasted loin, I wish I could have had more than a few slices.

    Now, given the absurd amount of food, this was a quibble in the nth degree for sure. Of course when the people around me were splitting Allie Levitt's two cakes*, which showed seasonal, local chestnuts as well as her husband showed the local boar, I had no problem downing two slices. I did not take a third as someone nearby me did though. The procession of foods, from initial platters of testa and that "other one" the one where Chef Levitt takes the odd bits of boar leftover and cooks them with the boar fat to those two slices of cake, it was just a ton of food. Yet, as I mentioned also above, Mado is the kinda place that demands such gluttony. Each dish weaves against another, contrasts and interplays. The theme of wild boar and the hidden ingredient of boar fat connected them all (until Allie took her turn).

    This was a meal of highlights. Who could imagine that the wild boar ragu over home made noodles could be challenged by a salad of shaved fennel, heirloom apples and chestnuts. Well, the guy who thought to add house-made boar bacon to the salad and ensure a bit of that bacon jus made it into the salad as well. There was one little artful touch, a standard street food arancini re-done with boar and risotto. That worked big time, especially with its tinge of Renaissance spice.

    In passing around kudo's, I have to give a brief, although it should be more detailed, shout out to the wine guy at Binny's on Saturday. I went looking for a wild boar kinda wine. I was thinking a Barbera d'Alba, but he directed me to a Sardinian red. Who knew. He did. I just wish I took the bottle home as I cannot remember the exact producer name today.

    Anyways, I look forward to Mado's next family dinner. Word on the street is, it might just be goose.

    *Special bonus comment from my wife: She wants to make sure you know that the cake filling, with chestnut and creme fraiche was worth noting.
  • Post #66 - November 17th, 2008, 9:54 am
    Post #66 - November 17th, 2008, 9:54 am Post #66 - November 17th, 2008, 9:54 am
    If it's available, do not pass on the lamb prosciutto that was just added to Mado's charcuterie menu. Several months ago, a generous customer asked Rob to cook a 10 person dinner with a whole, local lamb that was provided by the customer. There was plenty left, so this is what Rob did with it.

    Just set your expectations right. This lamb is less about salty, briny cure, and more about fatty, gamey meat. If you want to taste the essence of unctuous, unadulterated lamb, this is it. An order is just four paper thin slices on a tiny plate with no accompaniments, so if that's going to bother you, ignore my advice in the opening sentence of this post.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #67 - November 17th, 2008, 12:55 pm
    Post #67 - November 17th, 2008, 12:55 pm Post #67 - November 17th, 2008, 12:55 pm
    Goose it is. Confirmed @ lunch yesterday (we were the only ones there @ 1 pm, a shame).
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #68 - December 9th, 2008, 9:07 am
    Post #68 - December 9th, 2008, 9:07 am Post #68 - December 9th, 2008, 9:07 am
    I'm a big believer in the theory that the best way to approach a big dinner is to eat a big dinne the night before. I'm quite glad that the LTH holiday party nicely expanded my gullet for the next night's goose dinner at Mado. It was a very nice weekend of eating.

    I'm not saying I skipped eating yesterday, but a fairly light dinner of pasta with River Valley mushrooms and leftover beets (Genesis Growers) about did the it for me. My bloodstream was still oozing goose fat, the effects of Sunday night's family dinner at Mado. I'm stuffed.

    As I've said before, as good as meals at Mado can be, there's no better way to enjoy the output of Chefs Rob and Allie Levitt than through their family dinner. The theme this time was goose, which like the wild boar previous, was procured by George Rassmussen of Swan Creek Farm. Rob Levitt managed to get the goose, or at least the goose fat, into most everything he served. Allie Levitt wisely restrained herself.

    There may be no bigger attraction of the Mado Family Dinner than the all-you-can-eat buffet at the start of the meal. Call me crazy, but this is the one time I can eat as much of Mado's from-scratch (the starter's name is Francine) bread. OK, I'm pretty crazy about the sour cherry mostarda too; yea, and like the four year old a few seats away from me, I also very much enjoyed the goose liver mouse and goose rillettes. Of course one of us took two helpings. Rob mentioned that he had never worked with goose livers not of the fattened type before. So, you do not get that buttery foie thing. Instead, you get animal essence, like all the efforts of that goose had been channeled thought its normally operating liver to show its natural flavor goodness.

    It takes much restraint to not simply gorge on charcuterie. I very much love Mado's next course, the vegetable antipasti. I am always so impressed and happy with the things they can do with a few ingredients. Mado seems able to slice up any vegetable thinly, dress it, and make it taste too good. They did this the other night with sunchokes and watermelon radishes. On the other hand, the roasted carrots got a bit of assistance from the goose cracklins.

    We moved on to what some might call the primi piatti, which to others would be a meal and a half. Rob braised the lesser cuts of goose, the gizzards, wings, necks, and served it over polenta. To me, the goose tasted nicely Medieval, with some type of ancient spicing, but Rob insisted that it was really just the flavor of the goose as he used only a limited amount of rosemary and sage. My one complaint, the ratio of goose to starch. As good as the goose was, it was a bit too much compared with the polenta, but like I say, I'm also the guy hording the watermelon radish.

    Rob places a salad course between his primo and secondo or main course. Frankly, it's always been an odd duck of a course (no pun intended!). Not that the food has not been good--I mean I loved-loved last dinner's apple-fennel-boar bacon salad, but I do not quite agree with the placement of this course. The idea of returning to a salad soon after similar vegetable antipasti seems, well, redundant. I'd suggest Mado put the salad after the main course as a palate refresher. (Me, I would still eat it if that's your fear.) On the other hand, no one much thought of this dinner's salad as a salad anyways. Big tubes of goose sausage about hid the frise component of the dish. Then, buried within, chunks of potato fried in goose fat. Really, this is about as ideal of a dish for my tastes as possible. All the things I like, matched in the ways I like. And like the braised goose, the goose sausage had a taste that said ancien cuisine, something to do with its course yet mushy texture (in a good way!).

    Goose showed up in the main course, not just in the spit roasted breasts but in the turnips roasted in goose fat. I'm not sure which one I liked more. I do not believe any goose fat bolstered the carnival squash puree, but I liked that one a lot too. Now, cannot you see why a little green salad would fit in nicely about now.

    Instead, we headed full bore into Allie Levitt's handiwork. The slices of sour cherry pie were not so big, but the pastry-ish crust was big in butter. There were two platters of the chocolate ginger cake, one with slices made from a bundt pan, one with slices cut in triangles. I asked Allie which one she thought contained more cake. She said the bundt type slices. Good, as that's the one I had eaten. I'm never going to be unhappy with sour cherry pie, certainly not one made from intense Seedlings cherries, but the spiced cake certainly thematically drove home the meal. An old fashioned dinner for sure.

    I had about a third of a bottle of Limoncello with me, and all around me were very happy for its cleansing powers.

    Mado's next family dinner will be a New Year's Eve extravaganza. Rob expects to make cotechinno. I've suggested he get some local caviar.

    Mado
    1647 N Milwaukee Ave
    Chicago, IL
    (773) 342-2340
  • Post #69 - December 9th, 2008, 9:46 am
    Post #69 - December 9th, 2008, 9:46 am Post #69 - December 9th, 2008, 9:46 am
    Vital Information wrote:The theme this time was goose

    Rob,

    Mado Goose Family Dinner sounds incredible, each course speaking to me as if straight from my culinary soul.

    Vital Information wrote:Mado's next family dinner will be a New Year's Eve extravaganza. Rob expects to make cotechinno.

    I'm a fan of Cotechino, best example I've had locally being at Riccardo Trattoria, though we are already booked for NYE. For those interested Riviera should have a house made version, as it's an Italian New Years Eve tradition, available.

    A Mado Family Dinner is in my very near future, thanks for bringing us along.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #70 - December 9th, 2008, 10:06 am
    Post #70 - December 9th, 2008, 10:06 am Post #70 - December 9th, 2008, 10:06 am
    I should add that Mado has a certain amount of extra goose. Expect to find the goose sausage on the menu this week. And extra goose fat! Do not be afraid to order anything "vegetarian" at Mado, you never know what'll be gilding the lily.
  • Post #71 - December 9th, 2008, 11:15 am
    Post #71 - December 9th, 2008, 11:15 am Post #71 - December 9th, 2008, 11:15 am
    Sounds awesome, Rob. Thanks, for the report.

    I will definitely be returning to Mado soon -- hopefully for one of the family dinners.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #72 - December 12th, 2008, 1:00 am
    Post #72 - December 12th, 2008, 1:00 am Post #72 - December 12th, 2008, 1:00 am
    Went back for my second time tonight. Goose sausage indeed on the menu, served alongside goose breast; charcuterie was testa, pancetta, lardo, and ham. The sausage was perhaps the best thing I've eaten this year, and apparently I like parsnips now and have Mado to thank for it. The smoked ham was a bit of a miss (would that I could sub in the country pate I had last time, or try the galantine that's on the website menu), but overall an excellent and satisfying meal.

    I cannot imagine how awesome this place must be in the spring.

    Where's Swan Creek Farm?
  • Post #73 - December 12th, 2008, 11:35 am
    Post #73 - December 12th, 2008, 11:35 am Post #73 - December 12th, 2008, 11:35 am
    Vital Information wrote:I should add that Mado has a certain amount of extra goose.

    LTH,

    In discussing with Erik M. where to go for dinner Monday VI's statement popped into my head and, in a flash, the proverbial goose was cooked, and a delicious one at that. First time at Mado and one taste of luxuriously rich goose Goose Rillette, juniper berry scented Venison Pate and nose to tail goodness of Ciccioli I couldn't help wonder what took me so long.

    (Clockwise from top left) Lardo, Smoked Ham, Goose Liver Pate, Venison Pate w/pistachios, Pancetta, Ciccioli. (Center) Goose Rillette. Served with grilled bread, grain mustard, pickled vegetables

    Image

    Meat centric to my core Mado's vegetables were a revelation, in particular sunchokes* with lemon and parsley. Clean cleansing bite of parsley perfect counterpoint to subtle wet wood (in a good way) flavor and crisp, almost delicate, crunch of sunchokes. Sunchokes seem a sadly underutilized vegetable.

    Roasted Beets with hazelnuts - Roasted carrots, parsnips w/Agro-dolce shallots and gorgonzola - Sunchokes w/lemon and parsley - Apple, fennel and chestnut salad - Brussels Sprouts w/pecorino

    Image

    In addition to making magic with seldom seen sunchokes Chef Levitt went two for two with equally scarce, as a menu item, chestnuts. First as accent in apple, fennel and chestnut salad and then Chestnut Polenta w/venison ragu. Lip smacking seems the best descriptor, sticky meaty long simmered venison imparting lovely mouth/tongue/palate encompassing richness.

    Trio of lamb, loin, liver and leg perfectly cooked, subtle aroma of rosemary, mineral tang of lamb liver my slight favorite of the three.

    (top) Chestnut Polenta w/venison ragu (bottom) Mixed grill of lamb: loin, liver, leg w/lentils

    Image

    Wood grilled trout, perfectly cooked, flesh so tender it seemed almost aerated/frothy. Accompanying cabbage w/bacon and cider brown butter lending an earthy richness.

    Wood Grilled Rainbow Trout w/braised cabbage, house cured bacon and cider brown butter

    Image

    I'm inviting Rob Levitt to my next backyard cookout on the off chance he will bring a few links of house made truffled goose sausage. Coarse grind, powerful, yet not overpowering, goose and truffle as perfect a marriage in sausage as pate.

    Truffled Goose Sausage w/roasted root vegetables

    Image

    Though Erik and I were past the point of tapping out, desserts were wonderful, in particular ethereally light shortbread. Actually, it was very sweet, in conversation Rob Levitt was quite modest about his culinary accomplishments, but come dessert time he was enthused and complimentary of his wife Allison's** talent. And rightly so.

    Shortbread

    Image

    Chocolate-Polenta Tart w/Clementines and mint

    Image

    Rice pudding w/raison-verjus sauce and candied almonds

    Image

    Mado has a comfortable convivial feel, exposed brick, wall mounted chalkboard menu, that one can actually read, our feeling of Pooh like snugness enhanced by a cozy-warm window table looking out at snow blown Milwaukee Ave. Danielle hit the friendly yet professional mark dead-center as well as exhibiting in-depth knowledge of the menu and its individual components.

    Danielle

    Image

    Five minutes into the meal Rob Levitt's talent as a chef was evident, though what struck most was his unbridled enthusiasm. It's my feeling, though both husband and wife's culinary CV are impressive, Mado, at less than a year in operation, is but the beginning of their culinary accomplishments.

    Rob Levitt, co-chef/owner Mado

    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    *aka Jerusalem artichoke
    **Allison Levitt was not present that evening
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #74 - December 12th, 2008, 12:09 pm
    Post #74 - December 12th, 2008, 12:09 pm Post #74 - December 12th, 2008, 12:09 pm
    I couldn't help wonder what took me so long


    Always trust content from Sky Full of Bacon! 8)

    I thought it was also interesting that Mado came up so many times in Martha Bayne's piece on where chefs would like to go. It does seem a chef's-chef kind of place, doing the sort of food other places are a little afraid to. But so far, unlike Baccala down the street, they seem to be doing all right serving organs and parts. Especially when people crowd the piggy board like you two did...
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  • Post #75 - December 12th, 2008, 12:19 pm
    Post #75 - December 12th, 2008, 12:19 pm Post #75 - December 12th, 2008, 12:19 pm
    Gary,

    Mado is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, so I'm very glad to hear how much you liked it. Full disclosure: it's possible that I get special treatment, because on my first visit to Mado, I was wearing the very same Yankees cap that Rob is wearing in your picture (and has worn every time I've seen him).

    The servers at Mado are all caring, try-hard folks, but you really lucked out getting Danielle. She's a a former culinary pro who clocked significant time in the kitchen at Ambria, so she certainly knows her stuff. She's also passionate about helping Rob and Allison succeed, and her enthusiasm always shows.

    Kenny

    (edited to note that I was sad to learn today that Mado is completely out of the truffled goose sausage, but happy to learn that there are still a few goose goodies available in limited supply tonight, and possibly through the weekend - including the rillettes and the liver pate.)
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #76 - December 13th, 2008, 10:41 am
    Post #76 - December 13th, 2008, 10:41 am Post #76 - December 13th, 2008, 10:41 am
    G Wiv wrote:
    Vital Information wrote:I should add that Mado has a certain amount of extra goose.

    LTH,

    In discussing with Erik M. where to go for dinner Monday VI's statement popped into my head and, in a flash, the proverbial goose was cooked, and a delicious one at that. First time at Mado and one taste of luxuriously rich goose Goose Rillette, juniper berry scented Venison Pate and nose to tail goodness of Ciccioli I couldn't help wonder what took me so long.



    Well guys, thanks for following the goose laden path and also sharing about the entire current Mado menu with the rest of us! These days, when I'm not declaring Paul Virant and Vie my favorite, best restaurant (I mean after Freddy's and Gene and Judes), I'm saying it's the Levitt's and Mado. Still, as much as I adore Virant's work and the experience of eating at Vie, I think I'm a little tilted these days towards the accessible nature and simplicity of Mado. I do, however, think this is as good a time as ever, although known by many, to also make more explicit, that my wife apprentices in the Mado kitchen.

    Gary, I'm especially glad you kvelled so much over the veg. I'm trying hard not be, well, snide's not the right word, but while you hit Mado this week, I had dinner this week at Spacca Napoli. As much as the pizza crusts work there, my meal, I found, was marred by the quality of the veg. The quality of Mado starts with the strong effort that Rob and Allie take to source outstanding, local ingredients. Sunchokes really do taste special when the sunchokes themselves are special. Some foodies dismiss Alice Waters as nothing more than a great shopper. Let's be as equally dismissive of Rob and Allie Levitt.

    I know Rob Levitt takes a lot of inspiration not so much from Alice, but from one of her more well known progeny. Regardless, Mado's food follow's Water's Art of Simple Food. And like a lot of the "simple" recipes in Water's book, the dishes are not quite so simple once you think about them and learn how they are made. It can take a lot of work and effort to make what seems like a few ingredients taste so good. But the other thing about Mado that I love is Rob's eye (so to speak). It may be a few ingredients, but just about all the time, it's the few exactly right ingredients. Look at the way the truffles and spicing so enhanced the goose sausage. Or take the brussels sprouts/parmesan cheese, a dish my wife has made often both at Mado and at home, it does not seem like much, but it so works. Just for the sake of fairness, I'll also say that I totally agree with you on Allie's rice pudding, one of my favorite Mado dishes.

    Hey, I've confessed a bit of self-interest to Mado. So. I'm also tremendously interested and desirous of restaurants like Mado that start with real food, work with humanely raised animals and take advantage of them from nose to tail. The pics and report should only help.
  • Post #77 - December 14th, 2008, 6:46 pm
    Post #77 - December 14th, 2008, 6:46 pm Post #77 - December 14th, 2008, 6:46 pm
    VI, as a somewhat regular but still casual reader of your blog, I'd wondered for weeks why you wrote so much about Mado (besides the quality of the food and local/seasonal bent). And now I finally know! Wish the disclosure had come earlier or more clearly, but still glad you fessed up.

    :wink:
  • Post #78 - December 14th, 2008, 6:50 pm
    Post #78 - December 14th, 2008, 6:50 pm Post #78 - December 14th, 2008, 6:50 pm
    Vitesse98 wrote:VI, as a somewhat regular but still casual reader of your blog, I'd wondered for weeks why you wrote so much about Mado (besides the quality of the food and local/seasonal bent). And now I finally know! Wish the disclosure had come earlier or more clearly, but still glad you fessed up.

    :wink:


    I believe I've referenced her employment, if obliquely, on the blog. :)

    My passion and pumping of Mado, however, did pre-date said stage-ship :wink:

    PS
    Thanks for reading the blog
  • Post #79 - December 15th, 2008, 10:37 am
    Post #79 - December 15th, 2008, 10:37 am Post #79 - December 15th, 2008, 10:37 am
    Great posts / pics everyone. Mado is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago right now. I'm taking my sister there Wednesday. She used to cook at Chez Panisse - I think she will like Mado's focus on ingredients and warm atmosphere. Definitely agree with your comments, Vital.

    Have they gotten their liquor license yet? Does anyone know what the status is with it?
  • Post #80 - January 4th, 2009, 11:22 am
    Post #80 - January 4th, 2009, 11:22 am Post #80 - January 4th, 2009, 11:22 am
    It's my feeling, though both husband and wife's culinary CV are impressive, Mado, at less than a year in operation, is but the beginning of their culinary accomplishments.


    Perhaps this thought was in my head last night but I felt like a dinner for six last night lifted my experiences here to a new level. Probably what it is is that I'm getting better at ordering the things they do best, but it was a consistently outstanding meal for a total price not far above what we paid per person at both Avenues and Boka in the last couple of months (in part, of course, because it's BYO), and if that doesn't make Mado a restaurant you need to know in this coming year of thinner prosperity, I don't know what would. More to the point, I think each of us there felt like it was the kind of restaurant we really relate to these days-- no frouf, no fusion excess, just simple and excellent preparation of impeccably well-chosen ingredients.

    The charcuterie board's highlights included a duck pate (of the formerly contraband variety) that we guessed was cured in a salt mix including lavender; we also got to try some goose prosciutto (weird but interesting) and a terrific lamb prosciutto. Beets are a must among the antipasti, but we also very much enjoyed sunchokes, a tuna salad and a kind of quiche-like thing using a red squash. We were offered a little off-menu surprise of lamb bits which included a taste of the loin on the menu, some offal (frankly I'm not even sure which bits I ate-- liver, probably), and kidneys in a spicy breadcrumb coating which were tender and brightly hot. Entrees included a simple but beautifully prepared skate in brown butter, crespelle (a chestnut pasta which sort of made an enchilada with braised lamb inside; interesting but better shared than your whole meal), and cotechino, introducing a Germanic note with housemade sauerkraut and apple mostarda (that'd be applesauce mixed with whole grain mustard to you). Finally, I was especially impressed by an almond cake and a ginger-stout cake among the desserts.

    Mado was mostly full on a Saturday night but there was still room for you. You should have been there!
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  • Post #81 - January 9th, 2009, 12:10 pm
    Post #81 - January 9th, 2009, 12:10 pm Post #81 - January 9th, 2009, 12:10 pm
    Had a very fine meal here last night with a few quibbles. We started with the tuscan chicken liver pate, that Jman said was delicious and well seasoned. I am not a fan, so I didn't venture to that plate, but he ventured over to mine on the bruschetta with fresh egg and spicy marinara sauce, it was fantastic. I will be stealing this idea and using it at home. The bread was soaked in something to make it moist,maybe olive oil, maybe sauce, then the egg was baked perfectly on top, and just enough red pepper flakes and basil in the sauce, it was fabulous. We both had the arugula, fennel, and grapefruit salad, that melded perfectly with the sour and sweet. Then we decided to share a pasta, and this is where we went off course a bit. We ordered the pasta with veal marrow and bread crumbs. It was so dry, we had to ask for some olive oil to finish the half order. I would not order this again, but I did enjoy the fresh pasta and it was cooked perfectly.
    We both had the hanger steak with gorgonzola polenta, and it was prepared a little too rare for my tastes, as I ordered it medium and blood was running all over the plate, but the taste was very good, and the meat tender enought that I could cut it (which is why I usuaully don't order medium rare) . The polenta was good for me, Jman could have had more gorgonzola in his. This dish need something green on it. I would have liked to have had some baby bok choy or spinach, anything really. The plate looked dull. We finished up with espresso and shortbread cookies and we were happy we tried a new place. We will be back.
    My only other quibble was with the smoky restaurant. To the point, my eyes started watering, and a couple left, because it was just too much. Our clothes reeked of wood smoke when we left, I asked about the obvious problem, as our server was trying to ignore the problem I guess, and she said that it's a bit smoky in there, but this was worse than usual. Really, so much smoke, things were hazy when looking from the front of the restaurant to the back.
  • Post #82 - January 26th, 2009, 11:43 am
    Post #82 - January 26th, 2009, 11:43 am Post #82 - January 26th, 2009, 11:43 am
    Last night, RAB, my mother and I attended the Slagel Farm pig dinner at Mado. An amazing family-style meal and a surprising value, even at $65 per person. We were initially surprised by not spotting any LTHers at our long communal table, but Vital Information was across the room enjoying the meal as much as we were. Jason Vincent (of Lula and soon to be the head chef at Lula's Pilsen venture) worked with Rob at Mado to prepare the dinner. Both Rob and Jason circled the room, answering questions about the various dishes.

    SLAGEL FAMILY FARM


    We were lucky enough to sit next to the farmers who'd raised the 181-pound pig we'd enjoy for dinner - - Louis John and Leslie Slagel, along with Louis John's younger brother. The Slagel Family Farm raises Duroc-Yorkshire pigs, as well as beef. Louis John's farm is about two hours south of Chicago in Fairbury, Illinois. They raise and process their own meat, and are very conscious about raising their animals in a humane and healthy way. Their pork is delivered fresh, not frozen (something you can't get, for example, at Green City). They are currently delivering their products to Chicago, including to some of LTHer's favorite locally-focused restaurants. But, they are looking to expand to other restaurants and welcome consumer orders.

    I felt compelled to share information about the Slagel Family Farm for two reasons. First, the pork was delicious. And, second, Louis John is just a really nice guy. He cares about his animals, learning the latest about animal science. He also clearly cares that his customers get what they want, and by having their own processing plant, they are in a good position to make sure that happens.

    The Slagel Family Farm is happy to ship orders - - but they also make frequent deliveries to Chicagoland. If anyone's interested, here's how to contact Louis John Slagel: 815-848-9385 or slagelmeats@live.com. Their website is a work-in-progress, and until it's completed, they encourage folks to call or email for information.

    THE FOOD

    As great as it was to talk to the Slagel family, it was also great to enjoy the pig they'd raised. Here is last night's menu, nearly everything served family style and in abundant quantities:

    Charcuterie - mortadella, rolled pig's head, rillettes, and apple mostarda. RAB and mom favored the mortadella. The rillettes were my favorite. The rolled pig's head was a bit too gelatinous for my tastes and too mildly flavored. The apple mostarda was also a winner. It seemed to be a simple blend of Mado's house made apple butter and seedy mustard. It worked.

    Antipasti - frito misto of heart, liver, kidney, and sage; and cured sardines stuffed with chorizo, date, and parmesan mousse with aioli. This was probably the weakest course. The frito misto wasn't hot by the time I tasted it - - just small bits of chewy, fried parts. Nothing special. On the other hand, I really enjoy sardines, and unlike pretty much everyone sitting near me, liked this dish. They were large fried sardines with a bit of cheese inside and sitting in aioli. I didn't taste the chorizo or the dates, but there were unidentified green leaves inside the sardines.

    Pasta - pork sugo agnolotti, braised cabbage, with pork liver and semolina dumplings
    . This was one of the highlights of the night. Tender, tasty, juicy pork inside the pasta with wonderful slightly sour cabbage. The dumplings were nice and light, but they lacked any hint of liver flavor, despite containing a small amount of liver.

    Salad - warm lentils and chicories with pickled pork tongue and bacon. This was also a winner and quite creative. The flavor combination was unique and wonderful. The lentils stuck to the lettuce. The bacon was chopped into nice chunks. And, the pork tongue was sliced thin and to me, was the highlight of the dish.

    Entree - polpette with sauerkraut, roast pork shoulder with cured olives, and greens with braised pork belly. The polette were almost amazing - a little heavy handed on the salt. The sauerkraut, though, was a nice balance to the meatballs and quite good. I thought the shoulder was good, but not something I'll be dreaming about tomorrow. The greens, though, were pretty great, with a ton of pork belly mixed in.

    Desserts - shaker lemon pie, buckwheat cookies, and sour cherry jam tarts.The shaker lemon pie was another highlight of the evening. Entire lemons were used, skin, pith and all. And, it worked. Of course, the pig also made its way into the amazingly light and flaky pie crust. RAB managed to snag and devour a second slice. It was that good. The cherry tarts were also punchy and delicious, but took a backseat to the wonderful lemon pie. Didn't try the cookies, as I was way too full by then.

    Altogether, a great, memorable meal with great company. I will definitely echo Vital Information's many comments about what a special place Mado is. I can't wait to hear what the next family dinner is going to be.

    Now I just need to work on getting hungry again so that I'm ready to enjoy tonight's dinner at Sun Wah!

    Ronna

    [edited to correct grammar and keep RAB happy]
  • Post #83 - February 14th, 2009, 10:43 pm
    Post #83 - February 14th, 2009, 10:43 pm Post #83 - February 14th, 2009, 10:43 pm
    Had a nice Valentine's dinner at Mado. Started a few blocks away at Violet Hour, and made it to Mado a few minutes early for our 7;30 reservation. Seated immediately, and asked what type of wine we'd brought. Glasses were out moments later, along with an opener operated by the host.

    My wife opted for a number of small courses. A hearty onion soup with cheese croutons to start, and then an appetizer size portion of rigatoni napolenta (? something like that..tomato sauce with pork jus and pork pieces). I went for a few options from the meat selection, the country pate, the terrine dish, and the accompaniments (bread, mustard, and pickled vegetable - in this case, fennel). In hind sight I think the accompaniments ought to be included, as they really tied things together. For my entree I went with the cassuela which consisted of lamb, pork meatballs, a bit of tripe, and chickpeas. We added a side of rosemary potatoes, and finished with a molded caramel dessert with little cocoa-puff like balls on top and along side. There were three entrees-for-two offered as Valentine's specials (a steak, a whole bass, and something else) but we didn't partake.

    Overall we thought the food very good, although much of the meats seemed over-salted to our taste. The wait staff was efficient, but a bit quirky. I don't have a better way to describe it. I'd read a review on metromix about how smokey the interior is, and I'd agree. We've been home close to an hour, and still smell like smoke. It's kitchen smoke, not cigarette, but still not something I'm used to.

    I don't know the status of their liquor license, but they reminded me they were BYO when I called to confirm. For the group of 15 next to us, that meant bottles of wine and a case of Coors Light. To each their own.
  • Post #84 - February 17th, 2009, 10:13 pm
    Post #84 - February 17th, 2009, 10:13 pm Post #84 - February 17th, 2009, 10:13 pm
    Mado always has some kind of trout dish on the menu, and always has some kind(s) of charcuterie. I've tried many of their preparations of these standards, and tonight's renditions were the best of them all. Trout was filleted, split and stuffed with sauteed swiss chard and a modest amount of shredded pork belly. Served homestyle: whole fish with the head on, still tied with butcher string, and a wedge of lemon on the side. It was just a perfectly moist, fresh piece of fish with a crisp skin and ingredients that did nothing but complement it. Charcuterie preparation was a rolled pigs head. A whole head with the skeleton removed is cured then slow-poached (maybe sous vide) with plenty of herbs and spices and pork belly stuffed through the snout, then sliced thin with a deli slicer. On the plate you get several slices of unctuous meat with lots of beautiful, richly flavored fat.

    Red wine risotto was also very good, and incredibly rich from what I am sure were copious amounts of butter. I thought it was even better with a squeeze of the lemon from the trout plate to cut through the richness.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #85 - February 18th, 2009, 11:22 am
    Post #85 - February 18th, 2009, 11:22 am Post #85 - February 18th, 2009, 11:22 am
    Kenny- I saw you at the bar, but was too entranced by my date to say hi.
    It was my first crack at Mado. I dug the relaxed vibe, maybe kind of a spare turn out on a Tuesday night. Staff was well informed- the busboy gave me the run down on the charcuterie, pretty cool. I also appreciated the attentive, well paced service, each dish arriving in appropriate sequential order without interruption. I kept likening the grub to Avec- my benchmark for lovingly prepared, Mediterranean influenced bricolage. Charcuterie as Kenny highlights above was stellar- and particularly the rolled pork head- redolent of fresh sage and ethereally fatty. The chicken liver pate was somewhat unorthodox- more of a light mousse, even a bit wet. It had a underlying blue cheese- like funky tang that by the end of the dish I believed was indeed, some kind of blue. The country pate was a hodgepodge of savory porky bits in livery suspension. My gripe with this course- and a moment of Avec comparison, was the accoutrement plate. Pickled fennel tickled my fancy and it was perfectly fine stone ground mustard. The bread, though- not just pulled from a woodfired oven- was stale and subpar. This detail could be easily overlooked if not for the $4 upcharge. The arugula salad did not quite come together- the leaves lacking that particular punch that I cherish in arugula (but hey, its February). It had bright moments- I enjoyed the heavy hand with the shaved fennel and the toasted almonds played their part. I found an overabundance of orange slices at the bottom of the plate to be another chinsy move, though. More orange than arugula- about fifty cents worth of ingredients for $7. All was redeemed by the "casuela" entree. Served piping hot from the oven in a mini casuela dish, this Spanish rendition of cassoulet really delivered- chock full of excellent meaty bits. Pork meatballs were garlicky and sausage-like. The tender braised lamb achieved a confit- like quality where it had been high heat roasted to a crisp. Toothsome garbanzos made for a hearty and texturally brilliant improvement on the French classic. All in all, I most definitely enjoyed our meal- they for sure have a way with meats. My few nitpicks may be attributed to the sluggish patronage in the dead of winter- I am sure that the bread, when in brisker rotation is more up to par and salad courses sing in the warm months. And despite my few problems with pricing, the BYOB aspect kept the bill way manageable. I will return!
  • Post #86 - February 18th, 2009, 12:38 pm
    Post #86 - February 18th, 2009, 12:38 pm Post #86 - February 18th, 2009, 12:38 pm
    Jefe,

    Sorry we didn't get a chance to meet, but I completely understand your priorities :wink:

    Mado is one of my favorite places in the city, but I still share some of your less positive sentiments. I wish the bread were better, and sometimes the salad, fruit and vegetable preparations seem a little sloppy. In the summer, when produce is at its best, what I now call sloppiness often comes across as delicious, homestyle cooking.

    Nonetheless, the varied charcuterie, trout, chicken, and other meat preparations are always outstanding and will bring me back again and again. My wife is a pescatarian and a good sport for joining me at Mado so often, because while she can always find something to eat, I don't think the kitchen's best pitches are aimed at her gustatory sweet spot.

    Kenny
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #87 - March 20th, 2009, 8:31 pm
    Post #87 - March 20th, 2009, 8:31 pm Post #87 - March 20th, 2009, 8:31 pm
    LTHers abound at Mado, where tonight I had the pleasure of meeting nicinchic and groom. I also had a delicious meal that subtracted an estimated 1.7 months from my life expectancy. Beef suet bruschetta, a new menu item that melted a half tub of pure cow fat into grilled bread, was served with charred red onions that had enough crunchy carbon bits to worry even a liberal American Cancer Society member. Unfortunately for artery and cell lovers out there, this dish is good and tempting enough to eat every day. It did have some parsley to cut the richness and provide an antioxidant or two. I also had the arista, a marinated pork loin roasted with plenty of fat and skin still attached. As expected, the crunchy skin was easily the best part, and I apologized to Rob, because even I had to return my nearly-cleaned plate to the kitchen with a few chunks of fat remaining. Delicious as it was, I had my future great grandkids to think about. A few posts up, REB waxes justifiably poetic about Slagel farm, which supplied a whole pig that Rob butchered this week for tonight's arista. That is one hell of a flavorful pig. You could probably nuke the thing for 12 minutes and have it come out tasting great, but when a talented chef's touch adds another dimension, as it did tonight, you eat pig that you won't soon forget. There was no way I could eat dessert after this meal, and I said so. Then I had some yogurt pudding with grapefruit in front of me, and ate the whole damn thing. It was light, not-too-sweet, and a perfect end to a very rich meal.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #88 - March 22nd, 2009, 2:57 pm
    Post #88 - March 22nd, 2009, 2:57 pm Post #88 - March 22nd, 2009, 2:57 pm
    I had the good fortune to meet up with Vital Information and attend last Sunday's "Ides of March" family dinner at Mado, which had a Roman theme. The meal was delicious and typical of Mado's distinctive style, in that it showcased excellent, rarely-used ingredients in dishes that you don't see very often around town. The meal was served family-style, in 6 courses . . .

    nibbles
    Image
    Marinated Mixed Olives


    Image
    Spiced Nuts

    Sourdough bread (not pictured)

    antipasti
    Image
    Fried Fennel with Lemon


    Image
    Duck Apicius - Galantine of Duck with dried fruit, nuts and spices


    Image
    Bacala en Saor - sweet and sour marinated cod with currants and pine nuts


    fifth quarter
    Image
    Confit Pork Kidneys with grilled bread, hard-cooked egg and mustard


    Image
    Trippa a la Romana - Tripe cooked with tomato, pecorino and mint


    salad
    Image
    Puntarella en Salsa - bitter greens dressed with anchovies, lemon and pecorino


    entree
    Image
    Coda alla Vaccianara - oxtail braised with tomato and celery served over Polent al forno


    Image
    Braised Greens


    dessert
    Image
    Fritters with Farm Honey


    Image
    Apician-spiced dates with ricotta

    Overall, I really liked the meal. The olives, galantine, bacala, tripe, salad, oxtail over polenta and fritters were all sensational. The other dishes were tasty, too but not quite at the same level for me. But there was nothing served that I didn't enjoy. I think that what prevented me from loving the meal instead of merely liking it a lot and appreciating it had more to with how the pieces fit together than the pieces themselves. I'm certainly no expert on Roman cuisine, so this may very well have been an authentic progression. That said, I thought that between the nuts, olives, bacala and anchovies in the salad (which were fresh), there was a lot of salt. Even discounting my personal sensitivity to sodium, I would have appreciated a bit more diversity. But again, this may be quite typical of a Roman meal, so I'm only talking about my personal take on the experience.

    The other issue for me was the fifth quarter course. Both dishes were delicious and I especially enjoyed the tangy, rich tripe, which was perfectly al dente. But I'm not used to having these types of foods served family-style. I'm a fairly adventurous eater but those were some huge serving bowls, so even after eating what I considered a decent amount of each of these tasty items (and taking seconds of the tripe), I hit a wall. It wasn't just fullness -- these were both extremely rich dishes -- but an emotional stopping point. I'm used to small portions of offal and typically finish them. Here, based on the portion size and serving method, I felt like I was stopping too soon. There was so much left. So, I'm not sure if there was anything wrong here, as much as I couldn't get over my internal cultural barrier. There was enough of the tripe and kidneys served to have been an entire meal. But even if that was all we'd been served, I'm not sure I could have eaten more of them than I did. I like liver (including foie gras) and sweetbreads, and I eat tongue, jowls and trotters, I so I don't think of myself as squeamish but in this case, I found my personal limits. Looking at that bowl of kidneys, paired perfectly with bread cubes, hard-boiled eggs and mustard, I couldn't eat more than 3 or 4 little pieces of kidney.

    Still, though, Mado shines via both its unique mission and the skillful execution of the mission. Not only is their philosophy distinctive but so too are their ingredients, which are also extremely high in quality. I think I could identify their food if I were blindfolded. There are only a handful of restaurants about which I can say that and they are each definitive destinations and favorites of mine. I will certainly attend another event like this at Mado in the future but even more so, I look forward to eating there again soon on a 'regular' night which, at Mado, is actually anything but regular.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #89 - March 23rd, 2009, 9:52 am
    Post #89 - March 23rd, 2009, 9:52 am Post #89 - March 23rd, 2009, 9:52 am
    Stunning pics and report, Ronnie! We had the same feeling about salt at the Slagel Farms whole pig dinner. There were a few dishes that would have greatly benefited from being less salty and I really like salt.

    From what I can tell, Mado has been inconsistent in advertising their monthly dinners here. For example, the pig dinner was posted, while this last one wasn't. I talked to Rob about it during brunch yesterday. He suggests either joining their email list or friending them on Facebook to learn about future events. Their next monthly dinner is still in the works.

    RAB, my mom, and I went to Mado for brunch yesterday morning. Wow was it empty. I just don't get it. There were only three other tables occupied, when I'm sure the Bongo Room a few blocks away had a wait list. Mado isn't any more expensive and is plenty delicious.

    Yesterday's brunch highlight was clearly the charcuterie platter, which we almost didn't order, thinking that egg dishes would suffice. Pork rillettes, duck terrine, chicken liver pate, and salami. All four were delicious. We asked and quickly received additional bread to enjoy every last bit of meat.

    We each had an egg dish, too. I enjoyed my eggs in purgatory - - lovely eggs, spicy sauce, great green olives. RAB had the chicken hash, while mom had the egg, fontina, and chili aioli sandwich. Both seemed happy with their meals, and the tastes I sampled were quite good. We ordered ham and roasted potatoes as side dishes. They both were pretty mediocre and weren't finished. I made the mistake of ordering a side of sourdough, wrongly thinking that the mains wouldn't come with bread. It turned out, though, not to be a mistake because the blueberry jam that accompanied the bread was a highlight of the meal and made for a sweet ending (no room for one of Allison's wonderful desserts, unfortunately).

    I've now been to Mado three times - - for a regular dinner, for a monthly dinner, and for brunch. While everything isn't incredible, what Mado does well, it does very well. I appreciate Rob and Allison's passion to creating wonderful food and their commitment to using as much of an animal as possible. For example, I inquired about the beef suet bruschetta on the dinner menu and was told that during the last monthly dinner, when breaking down the cow, there was such wonderful fat that they had to come up with a dish to showcase it, and not throw it away. Hence the suet dish. I like knowing that when I go there, there's always going to be something new on the menu. I don't expect everything to be a hit and think the way to ensure a good meal is to try a bunch of different dishes. And, I like the fact that the owners and servers will stop to talk to you, to explain how they conceived of the dishes. Oh, and the BYO policy doesn't hurt, either.

    Already looking forward to my next visit,
    Ronna
  • Post #90 - March 23rd, 2009, 2:58 pm
    Post #90 - March 23rd, 2009, 2:58 pm Post #90 - March 23rd, 2009, 2:58 pm
    Friday night, after Kennyz told us what he had to eat, and watching Jman eat the chicken liver pate, I couldn't get all that fat out of mind and I had the chicken. My God this was cooked to perfection, crispy skin, juicy meat. The juices and maybe a bit of sauce were delectable on the rosemary potatoes. I am still thinking about that chicken. Jman had the hangar steak, again... We both had the fennel salad again, because its just that good, that we can't pass it up. I had the truffled egg sald on cornbread, and it was just ok, I wouldn't order it again, but nothing at all wrong with it, just really rich. We drank wine for dessert, no room left (our red wine tasted bland after Kennyz gave us a glass of his burgundy, that was really good wine-thanks).

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