Home Cooking

By
September 2019 View more

Chef Bill Kim

I’ve often walked into a cool new restaurant and marveled that the decor looks like a page out of a chic furniture catalog. At Oakbrook Center, that’s literally the case, now that Crate & Barrel has opened its own restaurant.

The Table at Crate (35 Oakbrook Center, 630.590.9444, tableatcrate.com) is located right inside the two-story home store and is filled with its merchandise, from the silverware in your hand to the velvet upholstered chair beneath your bum. What looks like a sleek art installation next to the open kitchen is actually, upon closer inspection, dozens of clustered plates, including teacups, saucers, and even deviled egg platters that look like soft sunbursts hanging on the wall.

My server kindly informed me that pretty much everything is available for purchase. But let’s be honest: I already know Crate & Barrel has stylish decor. The question is, can they cook? 

Interior

VEG OUT

Crate & Barrel teamed up with Cornerstone Restaurant Group (which also runs nearby Michael Jordan’s Restaurant) and partner Bill Kim (shown at left) designed the menu. Though Kim is most known for awesome Asian fare at treasured Chicago eatery Urbanbelly, he says he’s thrilled to break out of that box here. “I feel like a bird that’s been let out of my cage,” he says.

The menu is full of light, leafy options, such as a kale Caesar and a watermelon salad—which is just as pretty as the surrounding dining room, with magenta watermelon cubes, bright green snow peas, radish matchsticks, and briny shrimp on a bed of jet black forbidden rice. It lacked some punch, but asking for more of the savory agave-Dijon dressing did the trick.

Deep-dish cauliflower lasagna is Kim’s gluten-free spin on the Italian classic that was served at his childhood Sunday dinners. “My mom used to make lasagna. … It was one of her go-to dishes,” he says. Baked in the cutest porcelain casserole dish, layers of thinly sliced cauliflower with ricotta, pecorino, and mozzarella are punctuated with just enough basil and oregano. It’s definitely delicious, but at $28, feels a little steep for a vegetarian entrée.

Kim himself avoids eating lactose, so he’s used dairy alternatives in a number of dishes, including the mushroom fricassee, which features white corn grits from Kankakee-based Three Sisters Garden, tender mushrooms and Brussels sprout leaves in a pool of truffle-laced herb butter. Kim uses coconut milk in the grits to achieve a silky texture, but it leaves a tropical flavor that I found at odds with the truffle.

Though Kim doesn’t have children, he says he had fun creating the kids’ menu, which includes choices such as a meatball pot pie: a cup of meatballs and marinara topped with a puffed pastry square. It’s a tasty DIY meatball sandwich that will make a flaky, saucy mess and keep your kiddo occupied while you nosh. (Brownie points for the cute colorable menu and triangle-shaped crayons, which ingeniously don’t roll off the table.)

Hey, Hi, Hello signature cocktail

SIPPING TIPS

If the weather’s agreeable, dine under black-and-white-striped umbrellas lining the perimeter of the store, or take a drink up to the second-floor terrace. For an Instagram-worthy cocktail, try the Delicate Airs: a mix of gin, kumquat marmalade, fino sherry, and orange flower water served in a coupe garnished with a violet bloom. Nonalcoholic options, such as the spiced strawberry-inflected Berry Bliss, are balanced and nuanced—a welcome change from your stereotypical sugar-sweet mocktail.

As of press time, tea service—which will feature Rishi tea, sparkling wines and a tea tower of bite-size treats—was set to debut soon. The walkup bar serving housemade pastries and coffee from Metric, a roastery located near Cornerstone’s office in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, is also a welcome alternative to the mall Starbucks just a few paces away. 

Photos by Amy Sullivan