Glamorous Booth One mixes the old and the new, mostly delivering classics

Glamorous Booth One mixes the old and the new, mostly delivering classics

Chicago Tribune |
Phil Vettel |
Feb 5, 2018
Original Article: "Glamorous Booth One mixes the old and the new, mostly delivering classics"

“How many opportunities come up to do something like this?” asked executive chef Doug Psaltis, rhetorically. “There are only so many iconic dining rooms. This has to be one of the top-25 historic rooms in America.”

By “this,” Psaltis meant the venerable Pump Room, under his watch after Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and Rich Melman (who ran the Pump Room for 22 of its nearly 80 years) signed a deal to manage the restaurant last year.

When word of the deal was announced, there was plenty of speculation whether this project would be a resurrection or a reinvention. Would Melman bring back the tuxedoed waiters? The original decor? Baked Alaska?

Booth One, as it’s now called (there was some uncertainty as to the rights to the Pump Room name), opened in November. Besides Psaltis and Melman pere, the managing partners include Molly Melman (daughter of Rich, and partner in several other Lettuce restaurants) and Sue Kim-Drohomyrecky (a veteran restaurateur perhaps best known for creating Spring restaurant).

To answer one question, no, the tuxedos have not returned; instead, waiters move about in tailored jackets with popped collars. The decor that Ian Shrager introduced when he reopened the Pump Room back in 2011 — especially that galaxy of planet-shaped ceiling lights — is largely intact, though Melman dialed down the wattage some and softened the look with a white-and-cream palette, floor-to-ceiling sheer drapes and dignified dark-wood tables (replacing Shrager’s bleached-oak tables). And there still is an official Booth One (the Pump Room table reserved for top celebrities), unoccupied on my visits but VIP-ready, equipped with its famed ivory rotary-dial phone and comically long cord that functions, I assume, as more of a figurative conversation piece (“You see that phone over there? Well, back in the day …”) than a literal one.

And of course, framed black-and-white photos of bygone to relatively recent celebs, all dining at the Pump Room, adorn the pillars that separate the dining room’s upper and lower levels. It’s the rare party that can walk past these groupings without stopping to play a little “Name that Star.” I know I can’t resist.

This blending of the old and new is also evident in Psaltis’ menu, which was developed in collaboration with former Trio and Tru chef Rick Tramonto (who has since moved on to other Lettuce projects). It’s a pretty hefty menu, offering a dozen starters/salads and another dozen entrees, plus three sized-for-two (or more) options.

Scan through the pages, and you’ll find such nods to the past as steak Diane, seven-vegetable salad, salmon asiatique and curried chicken brochette. But you’ll also spot dishes the old Pump Room never would have touched — snapper ceviche and tuna sashimi, for instance — and modern updates (the crab Louie salad is now a lobster Louie and comes with jalapeno crema) that might have been viewed as sacrilege years ago.

Mostly, though, what you see are classics, dishes that have been on fine-dining menus for 50 years or more. Chicken paillard. Beef Wellington. Rack of lamb. Dover sole. And plenty of luxury, including formal caviar service ($105), a glorious seafood platter ($75) and a 36-ounce cote de boeuf ($105) with black-truffle bearnaise.

Start with the Japanese snapper ceviche, served in tight, curled pieces, several of which are adorned with sea urchin, all gathered above a gentle aji amarillo that doesn’t fight the fish. Considering the richness that is to follow, this pristine composition tastes like innocence.

Move on to a pair of chef inspirations. Lobster cappuccino traces its roots to a like-named dish that Rick Tramonto offered at Trio and Tru; its highlight was the ethereal foam that conveyed an impossible amount of lobster flavor. The Booth One version is a bit more down to earth, more of a creamy and satisfying veloute that, bolstered with tomato, cognac and cream, and finished with espelette pepper powder, is immensely satisfying.

Caesar Salad a la Sir Graham is a nod to chef Graham Elliot, whose eponymous and bygone restaurant featured a GE Caesar highlighted by “Twinkie croutons,” toasted brioche cuboids injected with Parmesan cheese. The Sir Graham version employs a three-cheese blend of mascarpone, pecorino and Parmesan, but the concept remains the same.

I’d make room for the black-truffle scrambled eggs. Making perfectly soft, scrambled eggs is trickier than most people think, and these eggs, with decadent touches of black truffle and shredded king crabmeat, have a mouthfeel that rivals pommes puree. On the other end of the textural spectrum, there’s a fine salad of golden beets, quinoa and watercress, piled high over whipped yogurt.

Among entrees, Psaltis shows nice restraint with the salmon asiatique, which could have been bombarded with ginger and lemongrass but instead is a good-size fillet seasoned judiciously with sesame, white miso, mirin and lime. Thickly sliced tuna au poivre is irresistible, its charred, peppered edges giving way to raw centers, served with airy pommes souffles and a shallot-heavy bearnaise sauce. Beef Wellington, abetted by a rich mushroom bordelaise sauce, is without flaw.

One intended menu signature is the crispy duck a la Booth One. It checks in at a daunting $33.95 and consists of two duck legs with seasonal fruits and vegetables. But before you rise in outrage, these are massive duck drumsticks (the reassembled duck might frighten me) with perfectly crispy exteriors and fork-tender insides. Matched to a mustard-laced apple sauce, with root vegetables and diced apples, the dish carries an appealing earthiness that seems ideal for winter weather.

One dish I liked very much was the stripped-down roast chicken frites. Three pieces of well-cooked chicken stand vertically on a large white platter, accompanied only by golden-brown Kennebec-potato fries, plus some roasting jus and bearnaise sauce on the side. Perfect, let’s say, for those looking to under-indulge.

Pastry chef Andrea Coté, whose resume includes work at Per Se and GT Fish & Oyster, offers a lineup of simple-sounding desserts that wow you with execution. Profiteroles benefit from spiced Seckel pear and hot fudge. (The side pitcher of extra sauce is a perfect service touch.) The Original Cheesecake Circa 1954 might not really be from the original recipe (even Melman’s long career doesn’t go back that far), but it’s a fine cheesecake, especially with the accompanying sour-cherry compote.

Mrs. Hsing’s Wonderful Lemon Meringue Napoleon is a nod to Psaltis’ wife, Hsing Chen, who suggested this layered interpretation of a lemon-meringue pie (with a torched meringue topping that recalls the Pump Room’s baked Alaska), and it’s as beautiful as it tastes. The orange creme caramel, accented with burnt-orange confit, is a keeper, and the chocolate-coconut cake, layering coconut mousse with devil’s food cake and shredded coconut, is gorgeous.

Booth One has a fine wine list (with Kim-Drohomyrecky as general manager, I expected no less) and a very attractive cocktail program, devised by Brandon Phillips and Derek Alexander. Like the rest of Booth One, the cocktails span generations, embracing classic drinks, nods to celebrities (a Sophia Loren prosecco cocktail, a bourbon-based Burt Reynolds), modern pours (the gin-and-rum Her Majesty’s Holiday leaves me stirred but unshaken) and the reanimated corpses of such post-prandial confections as the Grasshopper and Banana Banshee.

Booth One is no place for bargain hunters, but the Pump Room never was. Attentive and personal service, beautiful surroundings and the undeniable aura of history, however, do a fine job of meeting expectations.

pvettel@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @philvettel

Booth One

1301 N. State Parkway

312-649-0535.

boothone.com

Tribune rating: Three stars

Open: Dinner daily, lunch Monday to Friday, brunch to come

Prices: Entrees $21.95-$42.95

Noise: Conversation-friendly

Other: Valet parking

Ratings key: Four stars, outstanding; three stars, excellent; two stars, very good; one star, good; no stars, unsatisfactory. The reviewer makes every effort to remain anonymous. Meals are paid for by the Tribune.

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-878-7340

You May Also Like...

In The Restaurants
Thanksgiving 2018
Nov 19, 2018

Thanksgiving is a time for friends, family and everyone in-between. To celebrate this special…

read more >
How To
A Guide to Selecting the Perfect Thanksgiving Wines
Nov 15, 2018

Fact: wine stores are intimidating. More truth: we're here to help! We've tapped the minds of our…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Sip Your Way Through History with Booth One’s New Cocktail Menu
Nov 7, 2018

Booth One is a restaurant that sits in one of the most iconic locations in hospitality history; a…

read more >
In The Restaurants
$5 Happy Hour is Now in Session at Booth One’s Library Bar
Nov 4, 2018

There's a new happy hour in town! Booth One is offering $5 (yes just $5!) select beers, wines and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Here’s Where to Happy Hour
Nov 1, 2018

It's 5 o'clock somewhere! Here are all the happy hour deals at select Lettuce Entertain You…

read more >
How To
Spend Your Scratch Off Reward $$$
Oct 14, 2018

You’ve worked hard all summer playing and earning points during Scratch Off, and now you’ve got…

read more >
How To
All the Ways to Rosé this Summer
Aug 6, 2018

Let’s face it, rosé is welcome all day, every day. We’re here to help you navigate your way…

read more >
How To
Try a Chicago Dog with Beaujolais for National Hot Dog Day
Jul 18, 2018

Say Oui to National Hot Dog Day! Today we celebrate the best hot dog variation in existence, Chicago…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Somm Picks: Top Bottles Under $50
Jun 26, 2018

Searching through wine lists can be a daunting task. Thumbing through dozens of pages filled with…

read more >
In The Restaurants
What’s New at Booth One: Bar Menu
Jun 7, 2018

Booth One has rolled out a new bar menu, featuring sharable snacks and bites and fully composed…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Your Guide to the 26 Best Burgers to Try During National Burger Month
Apr 30, 2018

Burgers deserve a full month of celebrations which is why May has been declared National Burger…

read more >
In The Restaurants
James Beard Eats Week 2018
Apr 17, 2018

James Beard Eats Week is back! From April 27-May 7 show your support of aspiring Chicago culinary…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Kentucky Derby, it’s Mint Julep Time!
Apr 12, 2018

It's that time of the year again to break out the mint juleps and don your Derby hat for the…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Dishes and Drinks with the Color of the Year: Ultra Violet
Mar 30, 2018

Every year, Pantone, the creator of colors, announces their choice in what the Color of the Year is…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Luck of the Irish: St. Patrick’s Day Treats
Mar 14, 2018

St. Patrick's Day is Saturday, March 17 and our restaurants are striking gold with special…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Meet the Women Behind Some of Your Favorite Desserts
Mar 7, 2018

In honor of International Women's Day on March 8 (and every day) we want to give a shout out and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
5 New Dishes to Try with Your $25 Holiday Bonus
Feb 12, 2018

If you received a $25 Holiday Bonus during the Lettuce Entertain You Gift Card Promotion, pick a…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Presidents Day 2018
Feb 8, 2018

Enjoy your long weekend on Presidents Day (Monday, February 19) by staying up late, sleeping in and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to go on Valentine’s Day 2018
Feb 4, 2018

Have you made your Valentine's Day plans yet? It's right around the corner and there's lots of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Grab a Seat at the Bar and Sip on Booth One’s New Cocktails
Jan 19, 2018

Come cozy up to the bar at Booth One , and let us tell you a story about the brand new cocktail…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Our Chef’s Predictions and Resolutions for 2018
Jan 2, 2018

Our chefs aren't psychic but they do have a finger on the pulse of what's on the horizon for the New…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Welcome Our 2017 Newcomers
Dec 5, 2017

2017 is coming to a close, but we opened lots of new doors this year! Lettuce has welcomed newcomers…

read more >
Openings
Been to Booth One Yet? Here Are 5 Reasons Why You Must Go
Nov 27, 2017

It's the return of an icon, a classic Chicago restaurant reinvented, one of the most storied dining…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Christmas Eve 2018: Chicagoland
Nov 6, 2012

If you are looking to dine out this Christmas Eve, we have restaurants that are open on Monday,…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Restaurants Open on Christmas Day 2018
Mar 14, 2012

The most wonderful time of the year is here, but this Christmas skip the stress and let us do the…

read more >

Recent Posts

In The Restaurants
Case of the Mondays? How About Half Price Sushi and Wine at Di Pescara
Nov 19, 2018

Di Pescara, located in Northbrook Court, is now offering half price sushi and wine EVERY MONDAY…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Thanksgiving 2018
Nov 19, 2018

Thanksgiving is a time for friends, family and everyone in-between. To celebrate this special…

read more >
In The Restaurants
A Gift Guide for the Food Lover in Your Life
Nov 18, 2018

Whether a birthday, graduation or any other of the countless holidays, we're here to make selecting…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Thanksgiving Eve and Black Friday Specials 2018
Nov 18, 2018

Do you have friends and family in town for the Thanksgiving weekend? Beyond Turkey Day, our…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Wildfire’s Sweet Potato Casserole
Nov 17, 2018

Embrace all of the fall flavors in Wildfire's Sweet Potato Casserole. Ginger and cinnamon warm up…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Classic Turkey Stuffing from Wildfire
Nov 17, 2018

Stuffing, the most ideal starch for Thanksgiving dinner, is always a high point of the meal. Great…

read more >
How To
The Perfect Party Appetizers
Nov 15, 2018

A well-crafted appetizer is the perfect way to make sure your guests won't go hungry so you can…

read more >
How To
A Guide to Selecting the Perfect Thanksgiving Wines
Nov 15, 2018

Fact: wine stores are intimidating. More truth: we're here to help! We've tapped the minds of our…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Your Thanksgiving Recipe Guide
Nov 15, 2018

Thanksgiving is the time to gather 'round the table and gobble up some scrumptious food. If you love…

read more >
In The Restaurants
$12 Burgers and Brews Wednesdays at Tokio Pub
Nov 14, 2018

Wednesdays just got a whole lot tastier with Tokio Pub's new Burgers & Brews! For just $12,…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Wildfire’s Cornbread Stuffing
Nov 14, 2018

This Thanksgiving, give your stuffing some southern influence with Wildfire's Cornbread Stuffing. To…

read more >
Openings
The Newest Wow Bao Location at 46 E. Chicago
Nov 14, 2018

Getting tired of your same old carry-out order? You're in luck! Wow Bao's newest, fully-automated…

read more >
Lettuce Consulting Group

Grow Your Business

Learn More
Career Opportunities

Join Our Team

Search Jobs
Latest Articles

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign Up Now

Lettuce on Instagram

Checkout our feed @lettuceentertainyou!