what Phil Vettel said...
May 02, 2013 | Phil Vettel | Food critic
A host stand made from a Marshall amplifier. Devotional candles dedicated to "saints" Johnny Cash, Lou Reed, Anthony Bourdain, Charlie Trotter and many more. A cocktail named for Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah. Background tunes recognizable by their bass lines — which is good, because when the restaurant is full, subwoofer sound is all one can discern.
It's fair to say that G.E.B. revels in its rockin' inclinations.
The monogram stands for Graham Elliot Bistro, and by all appearances it's the casual counterpart to Graham Elliot's eponymous two-Michelin-star restaurant in River North. In reality, G.E.B. is the restaurant the chef had in mind in 2008, when he opened Graham Elliot after leaving Avenues, at the time one of Chicago's most experimental restaurants.
That place, originally, had loud music and jeans-clad waiters and very playful food. But as Elliot's fine-dining fame grew (thanks in large part to his TV presence as cooking-competition judge), Graham Elliot grew into a more serious restaurant with, in Elliot's words, "tweezer food."
But the casual-concept dream was reborn in a narrow space in the middle of Randolph Street's restaurant row, a space "where the rent was so ridiculously cheap — with a patio/courtyard area — that we couldn't pass it up," Elliot says.
The chef is Jacob Saben, who was part of Graham Elliot's opening team, and he oversees a menu in which few dishes ever exceed three ingredients. This works quite well, especially with pasta and seafood dishes — the seared scallops with sweet-potato-filled pasta packets and lemon-grass broth, crisp-breaded whitefish over sunchokes and thickened citrus coulis and pappardelle noodles with wild-boar ragu are all terrific. Ditto for the rabbit composition, a confit leg and bacon-wrapped loin medallions over a rich broth accented with house-made ranch sauce.
If you're eating lighter, the "GE" Caesar is a less-fussy version of the Caesar that opened Graham Elliot five years ago, the lightly spiced pakoras (Indian fritters) with apricot chutney are agreeably fun finger food, and whatever the day's flatbread pizza might be, chances are it'll be worth your attention.
Desserts continue in the laid-back vein with an upright banana split (in a Mason jar), a tall stack of fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies with milk, and gianduja-stuffed beignets.
Staffers provide professional attentiveness amid the dining room's sonic chaos. Jennifer Trotter, onetime sister-in-law of you-know-who, is the perpetual-motion general manager on the floor; beverage manager Ryan Brignole oversees a small but focused assortment of wines, beers and cocktails so interesting I'd come here just to drink. And I probably wouldn't be alone, especially when the courtyard in back opens.