Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Oct 2, 2003 11:48 PM

Recent notes: Pili.Pili, Ilidanka, Blue Angel

  • m

Don't have vast amounts to say but a couple of recent meals have been waiting to be seated for a while here:

Pili.Pili-- the silliest punctuation of any restaurant in town and an excess of typefaces (one of the hardest to read menus after La Quebrada, which is truly in a class of its own) should not deter you from a very nice bistroish meal. The writeups prepared me for something more Marseillish in atmosphere, possibly even cartoonishly-faux so, when in fact it's very art gallery-spare and suggests an Asian fusion place more than a French one. But the food was very nicely done.

An amuse-bouche was, oddly, the single best thing of the night-- stewed duck on toast with a hint of liquor it had been stewed in, subtle, clean, very nice. An artichoke tart was more successful than a vegetable terrine, seemed dictionary-perfect for that sort of thing. Salads a bit more ordinary, a few beet slices didn't compare well to the mound of them I had gathered at RJ Grunt's a day or two before. But entrees-- roast duck and pan-fried sturgeon, both with different veggie sides which included root vegetables and sweet potatoes (do they have those in Marseille?)-- were bright and flavorful. (Though I question turnips as a side vegetable, when you're already getting a very minimalist artful portion having one of them be a veg. that many would consider inedible might feel like a ripoff to some.) Desserts were all right, one certainly shouldn't be ungreateful, but not extraordinary or terribly imaginative.

We went a little early and the room went from very quiet to very loud while we were there, but service managed to keep up pretty well. Clearly this is a hot place at the moment, and largely deservedly.

Ilidanka-- Has even RST, that vagabond of Lawrence Ave., tried this Bosnian spot in a strip mall just west of where the alleged Colombian drug dealer disco (since demolished) stood? It looked a little friendlier than the usual dark and smoky E. European place-- it was light and smoky. I went in, a waiter who was a dead ringer for the actor Joss Ackland (South African bad guy in Lethal Weapon 2, etc.) warned me it was Bosnian food, I said okay, he took away my foreign-language menu and brought me what seemed like a much shorter English-language one. I couldn't face sausage that day, though that would have been the best test of the place, so I ordered veal kabobs. They came inside a big piece of microwaved, but not entirely unrespectable, homemade bread, with a side of some kind of yogurty-cottage cheesey like spread that would have been a lot better if it had some feta-like tang to it. A decent meal, but not very interesting or accomplished, this is another one of those Eastern European places where serving food seems secondary to the entire staff sitting with its customers smoking and arguing loudly.

Amusingly, whilst there I leafed through a Bosnian-American magazine, which had an article on food in Chicago, and how Chicago's diversity of ethnic cuisine gave Bosnians an opportunity to discover the products of other cultures like deep dish pizza and Italian beef....

Blue Angel-- I went looking for breakfast at GWiv's Edgebrook Diner but missed it (even though I think I know where it is) and eventually wound up heading back on Milwaukee. You'd think there'd be diners by the score up there but it took me a while before I found one called Blue Angel, near American Science and Surplus. Ought to have had a decent crowd of old guys shooting the breeze but it was so large it didn't seem like they achieved critical mass like at Jack's on Touhy or somewhere.

Breakfast was totally standard, okay, only noteworthy part is that I think the guy who seated me was-- here's a name from Chicago's dining past-- Mel Markon, whose eponymous restaurant was at one time a Lincoln Park standard and who later (somewhat oddly for a Greek or Lebanese or whatever he is restaurateur) had Dixie-Q at Fullerton and Damen, which was an Ed Debevicish, inauthentic but not-bad-for-the-north-side BBQ place.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hmm. I did a search for Mel Markon after posting that and found he had a deli on the South Side in the 60s. The guy I saw at Blue Angel could just barely be such a person without having started a deli at age 12, but one tends to doubt it. I think he's someone I saw managing Dixie Q, but I think my assumption back then that he was Mel Markon (who did own Dixie Q) may not have been true.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Mike G

      Not that I want to just have a conversation by myself here, but it has been pointed out to me that it's Ilidzanka, so I've corrected that for the sake of future searchers...

      1. re: Mike G

        Meaning: "from Ilidza" (???) or something like that.

        Ilidza = town? village? in Bosnia.

        Or maybe the name means "the girl from Ilidza"?

        This is a curious little strip mall. Amir (?) meat market is next door. And also a kafeneio: Leukos Purgos, where you can sit and play board games and drink ouzo with all the old Greek men. Around the corner is Chapin (Guatemalan). More Greek places on the next block (inlcg 2 bakeries, more kafeneoi etc). Sliven Bulgarian is also on this next block. Then comes the block of Harvesttime and El Rondador Ecuadorian and a completely new Mexican place in the old Klok Cafe space.

    2. That place and the Greek kefenio next door are more like social clubs than resaturants. I posted on the Greek place, which was bare-bones and mediocre at best. Kudos for sitting down in the Bosnian place. I got the big cold shoulder and left.

      1. Duck and turnips is classic pairing: in French country cooking as well as haute cuisine. When he started here in Chicago, Sandro Gamba had a foie gras and turnips dish that sent shock waves through the local food community. Remember that at that time (circa 2000-1), all the cooks in town were tripping over each other trying to see who can make sweeter and fruitier foie gras preparations (foie with stewed blueberries etc). That was the period of outrageous ideas such as a chocolate-banana foie gras. Sandro shaped his turnips into medallions and arranged these in an overlapping pattern on top of the foie to form the petals of a flower. Turnip has its distinctive "sweetness" but it also brings a rich earthiness. I love turnips.

        1 Reply
        1. re: RST

          RST--I love turnips too--paired with duck is indeed very wonderful although I've never had the pleasure of turnips with foie gras. The guy at 312 on Randolph and Lasalle does a turnip side dish that's the best turnip thing I've ever had eating out. At home I often make a turnip egg concoction from Richard Olney. Simply delicious. Yesterday I had some amazing pickled turnips at Sayat Nova on Ohio. And then there's that turnip cake thing that you get with dim sum.

        2. I believe a little clarification is needed.

          No, I did not seat you and I have never been to the Blue Angel. No, I am not Greek or Lebanese, having been born in Chicago.

          Yes, I did own Mel Markons, having sold it in 1985. I also owned Zanadu and Dixie Que. I am currently working on a new concept due to open next year.

          1. I believe a little clarification is needed.

            No, I did not seat you and I have never been to the Blue Angel. No, I am not Greek or Lebanese, having been born in Chicago.

            Yes, I did own Mel Markons, having sold it in 1985. I also owned Zanadu and Dixie Que. I am currently working on a new concept due to open next year.