Longman & Eagle soars on second night open

January 22, 2010

longman-final

pork belly confit with pumpkin
risotto and chestnuts

I could barely find the front door, let alone grab a place to park. I should have just taken the Blue Line, since the entrance to the new Longman & Eagle is directly across the street from the Logan Square stop. A friend went on Wednesday night - the first official night open - and said it reminded her of a joint in Portland, OR. I concur. Hipsters in chunky, black-rimmed glasses sipping esoteric and hard-to-source bourbons looked around the room, bobbing their heads to the country/alt-rock soundtrack, while their trixie dates nibbled on silky brandade and scooped up the salt cod-garlic-cream trifecta with the thinnest, crispiest potato chips that had the benefit of a brief fry in rendered duck fat.

The wild boar Sloppy Joe reminded me of an earthy ragú, the kind you'd find at Cafe Spiaggia; this one had some unlikely partners: crispy sage leaves and even crispier onion strings, while a whole, lonely, pickled jalapeno sat off to the side. Fried Ipswich clam bellies were draped over some toasted brioche, the homemade tartar sauce just perky enough to balance against the fried sea treats (one note: the chef has a way with breading and frying that can only be the result of extensive East Coast summer noshing or New Orleans binging. Nearly every item we tasted that had to be fried was greaseless - a sign they're keeping the temperature above 350, if not 375 when they submerge vegetables and proteins).

The pork belly confit is tender, almost to the point where I could have spread it on toast points, but this Gibraltar-sized wedge sat upright in the middle of a shallow bowl. The mound of pumpkin risotto, roasted chestnuts and apples played off of each other so nicely - crunch, earth, fruit - that the soy-caramel broth was the real surprise. I could have sworn it was clover honey of some kind, but that earthy sweetness made just a stellar counterpoint to that rich, fatty belly confit.

The owners are opening a six-room inn above the restaurant in March. Rooms will be priced around $100 a night. Guess where my out-of-town friends and relatives are going to be staying from now on?