A couple of month's ago I profiled husband and wife chefs Allison and Rob Levitt's new restaurant Mado. While I've definitely eaten Rob's food in the past and sampled various morsels, I hadn't actually dined at the restaurant until a couple of weeks ago when my folks and my grandmother came to town.
When I heard my grandmother was coming, I was a bit nervous. She's not the ultimate version of the cautious soft food-chewing, earlybird special-loving cheapskate, but she's pretty close. I was concerned that Mado, with its house cured meats and olive oil cooked octopus with Calabrian chilis, might throw her for a loop.
Normally, as a food writer, chicken would be the last thing I'd order at a restaurant. Chicken is pretty much now in the "yawn" category along with crab cakes, steaks as big as Shaquille O' Neal's head, and caprese salad. That's not to say I don't love a great roast bird, but I tend to make my own a few times a month. In the name of research, I'm naturally drawn to the craziest looking stuff on a restaurant menu. You can bet that if a restaurant has braised and then deep fried bear claw coated with crunchy grasshoppers and sauced with the bile of an antelope, I'm there. But, in order to appeal to grandma's sensibility, I ordered up the roast chicken with pistachios.
It almost went unnoticed as I greedily made my way through the excellent house-made and cured charcuterie plate. My grandmother too showed a surprising voracity for antipasti like roast beets topped with blue cheese, spring onions glazed in agrodolce, as well as salty sweet spiced guanciale. We both scarfed down the testa or delicate head cheese kissed with cinnamon, the grapefruit scallop crudo, and the toothsome homemade papardelle, finally getting around to the chicken.
A relatively rustic preparation, it could have been my home bird, a golden skinned half portion spread eagled over the plate riddled with herbs. That's the conceit of Rob and Alli's food—it looks like and sounds like you could do it at home. And you could, if you were culinary trained at some of Chicago's and New York's best restaurant like the Levitt's, or you had a beautiful rotisserie, or you had the foresight to brine your bird. But you don't. The Mado bird was plump and oozy with salty, moist skin and melt-in-your mouth cracklin' skin. It was frankly the best bird I've ever had in Chicago. Even my father, who hates roast chicken, scarfed it down. Thank god for grandma.
1647 N Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 (map) 773-342-2340