CHICAGO —Jimmy Papadopoulos, last seen doing modern riffs on Czech food at Bohemian House, now heads the contemporary restaurant Bellemore, which opened in November in the West Loop.
The dining room looks like an updated grand mansion, where retro touches like half-circle leather booths meet modern elements such as bold murals and a sleek bar.
The signature dish is the oyster pie, and it costs $65 dollars, but it sells like crazy; a flaky crust supports oyster custard, a perfect Beaujolais oyster, lots of osetra caviar and diced apple. It's pricey, but it serves two and includes a glass of vintage champagne.
More modest, and equally memorable, are the Hawaiian rolls, baked in-house. They're terrific, but what makes the dish is the butter, infused with country ham and topped with toasted sesame and crispy ham bits.
A lot of simple-sounding dishes turn out to be rather complex. Venison tartare has coarsely diced venison mixed with toasted pumpernickel, but the tartare sits on aoili flavored with bonito flakes, and the venison is topped by thin-sliced turnips and finger lime. Fried veal sweetbreads are coated in molasses butter and served over fermented cabbage. The sauce is veal demiglace, and that little island is an apple-date mustard that's way more powerful than it looks.
What's billed simply as black bass is really a seafood assortment; besides the crispy-skinned bass, there are mussels, bits of orange uni and lobster sauce. Even better is the duck, served as a trio of fennel-dusted breast, leg confit formed into a dark croquette and a plump crepinette stuffed with duck heart. It's a wonderful dish.
Desserts match the savory courses in terms of complexity. What's merely termed chocolate pudding includes a covering of banana mousse, chocolate curls, malt tuile and banana crisps, and you have to work through all the layers to fully appreciate the dish. The presentation of the chestnut brioche is more horizontal, and easier to take in in a single glance; the pieces of brioche frame pear sorbet, chestnut chips and other goodies.
I give Bellemore, 564 West Randolph Street, three stars. This is the most impressive new restaurant that Chicago has seen in awhile.