Seeing Green

Salum says he was trying to execute a play on a wintry, country dish. Perhaps the country part got the better of him. The progeny of Italian and Lebanese parents who was born and raised in Mexico City, Salum speaks four languages: Spanish, French, English and Portuguese. "I'm a mutt," he says. His portfolio includes a degree from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. Internships in Provence and Brussels followed. His inroad into restaurateuring follows his departure as chef/partner at Parigi on Oak Lawn Avenue.

The impressive element in this squared-off block of casual elegance is how it handles the shimmer of sunlight. The "L" in the logo seems greener. The light wood in the chairs and on the trim seems blonder. The bar is cleaner on account of all of those martini glasses being stabled. Salum is serving Sunday brunch. Instead of a disciplined column of glasses, the soft "pop" of champagne bottles rifles through the dining room. Mimosas are unleashed.

The food seems better too. Fried green tomatoes are as innovative as they are tasty. One slice is propped up against the other while a pair of candied pecans balances on their apex. Rémoulade runs down the crisp-battered vertical face like spilt paint. But these aren't slices. They're little green tomato sandwiches with crab meat pressed between the slices. They're greaseless. The marine sweetness effectively contrasts with the little burst of tomato pungency--an ingenious composite.

Pretty in beige: Salum reeks of charisma despite its muted color scheme.
Tom Jenkins
Pretty in beige: Salum reeks of charisma despite its muted color scheme.

Not so with spinach, goat cheese and sun-dried tomato strata (a dish fashioned in layers) with scrambled eggs. Arriving in a small baking dish, the strata is overcooked, hard and dry. The components are welded together and are difficult to tine apart. Yet a side of hash browns, essentially a batch of diced potatoes perfectly browned and threaded with caramelized onion filaments, is delicious.

But perhaps this isn't surprising given this Salum jewel: gnocchi. Perfect beads of potato dumpling rest in a Parmesan cream lagoon snarled with spinach strips. Resting over this bumpy mesh is a grilled chicken breast scaloppine, striped deep with grill bar scorches and slapped with salt and pepper dashes. The breast is juicy, clean and reeking of savory flavor. Gnocchi is bull's-eye firm: not too mushy from overcooking, not too chewy from exuberant amounts of flour.

So we end up with this: a restaurant that is blindingly beige yet still reeks of charisma; a kitchen that produces food that is mostly good but is still open to a platoon of tweaks. That's fine though. The gold caryatids will officiate. 4152 Cole Ave., No. 103, 214-252-9604. Open for lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Open for dinner 6 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Open for brunch 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. $$$

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