A trip to Wicker Park’s tastiest “eco-chic” restaurant

A few weeks ago when it was snowing terribly in Chicago, a friend took me to dinner at a place called Prasino.

I was in the mood for some cheap Thai food, so before we went I asked her what kind of food they serve. She stumbled around too long for an answer and I got short-tempered. Chinese? Greek? Vegan? Jesus Christ, is it really so difficult to categorize food?!

(It should be noted that similar to those people in Snickers commercials, I’m just not myself when I get hungry. This friend is very patient with me.)

The description she came up with was one word: good. I thought, okay.

We walked in, and being the monstrous hungry person that I can be, I winced. The decor consisted of smooth, modern surfaces with a chic vibe to it. The lighting was dim, the music was low, and everyone was dressed professionally.

Ugh, I thought. I imagined everything would be overpriced and the portions would be tiny and the food would be plain ol’ American food, just fancied up a bit. I envisioned a plate of four little truffle fries with one leaf of parsley on top for $25. My stomach growled and my hunger fueled bad mood grew even stronger.

I didn’t say anything to my friend. She could read the emotions on my face clear as deer.

We sat. We ordered. We waited. We talked. I tapped my nails on the table. 

The food came, and soon I was unexpectedly lost in it like a blissful dream. The kind you can half remember when you wake up in the morning. The kind that leaves a hint of happiness on your lips in the form of a faint smile.

Everyone who goes to Prasino needs to order what I got: the braised beef short ribs, which comes with cauliflower gratin, swiss chard, and truffle-mushroom cabernet sauce.

I am not a ribs girl, but these were boneless and slow-cooked several hours to perfection. The middle was pinkish colored and soft. I didn’t even have to use my knife–my fork was enough to crumble open these heavenly chunks of beef.

That’s not all. The side of swiss chard cook with the truffle-mushroom cabernet sauce perfectly pair with the ribs–a delicate blend in my mouth of salty flavor, chewy texture, and health legumes.

And then: the CAULIFLOWER GRATIN. Everyone needs to head to Prasino right now and order this baby. It’s placed on your place like a little pillar. (I found out later that you can order this as a stand alone side, as well.) It is basically cauliflower with a bechamel sauce and a sharp cheese of some sort–tasted like parmesan. Bechamel is one of the mother sauces. It is roux based, consisting of milk, flour, and butter. Sounds like you can’t go wrong with those ingredients, but oddly enough it’s one of the few sauces I wouldn’t try to cook myself and would only trust a profesh gourmet chef to whip up. To get it right you really have to know what you’re doing.

At the end of my meal I was about ready to run to the kitchen and kiss the chef, but I suppressed the urge as to not embarrass my friend. Instead, I gave profuse praise to our server, who recommended dessert, which, even though we were both so full, we had to try.

Okay, so here’s the other thing everyone who goes to Prasino should get: MAPLE CHOMEUR. It is THE BEST DESSERT EVER IN THE WHOLE WORLD. As of right now, at least to me. It’s basically like a squared, thickened, sweetened hot French pancake (our server said it was invented during a war when food was rationed) with maple/caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Purr-fect-ion, I tell you! I’ve since gone back and ordered it again and again. It’s so good that it just doesn’t get old.

Lesson of my life: try new places out. Always. And don’t be wary of your friend when she wants to take you to a new restaurant and can’t categorize the food. And quit being so mean when you’re hungry.

The end!

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