Some people may snicker when they hear that there's a restaurant named Wood (3335 N. Halsted St.; WoodChicago.com) in the city's Boystown/Northalsted neighborhoodand there is even a currently discontinued Sunday brunch menu called "Morning Wood."
However, make no mistake: Although there is some humor to be had, this place takes its food seriously. (By the way, the place features distressed, lovely dark woodan homage to owner Franco Gianni's father, who was a woodworker for more than a half-century.)
New Executive Chef Devin Kreller brings a fine-dining background, having worked at Chicago restaurants such as North Pond, Sixteen and Bellemore as well as spots in Philadelphia and New York City.
Wood has returned with some tempting small platesat least on paper. Just some of the items include house-made sourdough (with cinnamon honey butter), smoked king-salmon rillette, steak tartare, roasted sweet potatoes, and cheese and charcuterie boards. My dining companion went with salads; she had the endive while I had the salad Lyonnaise. She loved her selection, a mix of endive, winter citrus, shaved fennel and radish, with citrus vinaigrette. As for me, maybe it's because I have very sensitive taste buds, but my salad (with arugula instead of the traditional frisee) was almost unpalatably saltyalthough I could've eaten the crispy potatoes all night.
But then, the most satisfying part of the evening happenedand it involved something we didn't order, but was brought out as a surprise: the smoked beet salad. Not only was it lovingly presented, but the slight smokiness enhanced the individual ingredients (toasted hazelnut, chive, ricotta mousse, balsamic, mushroom crumb and, of course, beets), providing a delicious combination of tastes and textures. This was possibly my favorite singular dish in at least a year.
The large plates didn't quite match the beet salad in terms of satisfaction, but they were pretty impressive. My friend raved about her pan-seared salmon with vegetables, and the presentation involved the server pouring the Thai red coconut curry at the table (adding taste and just a hint of drama). As for my entree, the pan-seared center cut pork loinwith sweet potato pave, cognac-poached prunes and ginger sweet potato pureewas nicely cooked, with just the right amount of flavor and tenderness. (Other selections include bucatini carbonara, hand-rolled pappardelle, wood oven-roasted leg of lamb, Slagel Farms chicken breast, and even a double cheeseburger and frites.)
Dessert was … unique, in a good way. There aren't too many places where one can get cardamom beignets, so we thought we'd try themand, I must admit, they were delicious. Certain spices can be tricky to use (especially with desserts), but Wood scored with this item. The poached pear, honey ice cream and oat granola rounded the offering nicely.
Also, be sure to check out the drinks, which were knockouts. My friend had the Seersucker, a mezcal-based cocktail with organic beet juice, pressed lemon juice and sugar, with a rosemary sprig. I hadwhat else?the Letter to the Editor, an especially tasty concoction with Venezuelan rum, mango brandy, sherry, pressed lime juice, sugar and angostura.
COVID SAFETY PROTOCOLS: They include socially distant dining, a mask requirement when entering, the cleaning of tables after patrons leave, bottles of hand sanitizers on tables, masked waitstaff and host, reduced diner capacity and a bar-code menu.
Note: Because of the limited capacity, Wood is requesting that parties be at the bar and tables for no longer than 90 minutes.