Serious Eats: Chicago
Knockout Noodles: Telegraph
After a couple of false starts, spring finally feels like it's here to stay. You know, for its usual fleeting couple of weeks or so. In the spirit of celebrating the sublime yet slippery season at hand, I headed to Telegraph to augment my weekly noodle intake with some springtime produce; the Logan Square wine bar's current pasta offerings just so happen to feature spring peas and spring onions.
Lit by gourd-sized Edison bulbs and outfitted in dark, distressed woods, Telegraph certainly feels of a piece with the owners' other Chicago dining and drinking destinations, Webster's Wine Bar and The Bluebird. I dig the vibe this trio is putting out: airy, relaxed, youthful, and unvarnished, but all the while serious about their beverages. And judging by the pastas I tried, Telegraph's culinary bona fides are deliciously on par with its liquid cred.
To this hopeless noodle romantic, the following reads like poetry: housemade/handcut squid ink pasta, sepia chorizo, spring peas, tomato concasse, white wine, shallot ($20). Cribbed straight from Telegraph's menu, the seemingly benign description for some reason had my imagination swooning; it carried just the right amount of imagery (ooo, 'handcut"!) and intrigue ("sepia chorizo," say what?). Obviously, by the time the plate arrived, expectations had gotten feverishly high.
While not an overwhelming success, Telegraph's squid ink pasta proved delicious. The fresh spring peas were taut and tasty, with a lively pop to their skin that suggested the kitchen had taken care not to overcook them. The sepia chorizo amounted to finely chopped squid, dusted in a piquant blend of spices. The pieces were tender and flavorful, adding welcome hints of the sea, but since the meat didn't clump together into larger morsels the way ground sausage would, the sepia chorizo got somewhat lost in the overall thrust of the dish. The tomato concasse (aka peeled, seeded, and chopped), white wine, and shallot all contributed nicely to the dish's bright, springy, fresh presentation. Had the pasta noodles been cooked just a bit longer, I think this could have been a knockout. Slightly underdone, the ribbons of inky-black pasta seemed to lack a lusciousness or starchiness that could have made the whole dish more collected and comforting. But that said, there's no faulting its flavors, nor its drop-dead beauty.
Surprisingly, it was Telegraph's other (cheaper) pasta dish, featuring commercially made noodles, that won me over: housemade bratwurst, orecchiette, smoked spring onion, golden raisins ($10). Who knew that bratwurst and pasta would be such an inspired combination? The sausage was juicy without being greasy, and well-seasoned with onion and pepper. Occasional bursts of juicy sweetness—both from the raisins and the spring onions—helped offset the meat's saltiness for a superb balance of flavors. The orecchiette were perfectly plump and tender, while a generous sprinkling of breadcrumbs lent a gentle crunch to the textural spectrum. Even with a creamy sauce dressing the noodles, this dish never feels heavy. Chalk that up to the magic of the season. Long live spring.