Jump in as young chef Stephanie Izard fearlessly swims the perilous channel between desire and sensory overload, balancing flavors with abandon and poise in her new restaurant where Mediterranean foods are informed by French technique. Scylla is a Davy Jone’s locker of desire for those seeking one glamorous, clamorous, over-the-top seafood sensation after another. With pastry chef Jessica Oloroso, Izard thumbs her nose at the gussied-up middle ground. These two are swimming a far more dangerous channel, where the stakes, if you win, are pleasures to the max.
Scylla was a six-headed monster who bit off the heads of sailors passing her abode. Opposite Scylla dwelled the destructive whirlpool, Charybdis. Talk about two untenable poles in one of those “if the left one don’t get you, the right one will” ancient myths. Still, the dangers at Scylla, the restaurant, are hard to plumb. Depression for seafood deniers, perhaps?
Right out of the box, the olive bread explodes with rosemary, the butter with coriander. Grilled baby octopus twines you in its arms, plying you with soft butter beans, surprising you with fresh mint, arousing you with arugula. Succulent seared-tuna appetizer, softer than butter and ineffably sumptuous, alone merits a full-out “food faint” with its shimmery yellow quail egg and lovely olive/caramel sauce. Main-course anglers will find sturgeon, scallops, Hawaiian hebi and blue-nose grouper with lump crab. Warm cherries explode in crisp skate wing set atop a chewy calamari salad with feisty chickpeas, sweet caramelized onions and the tingle of capers. Izard pairs roasted amberjack with braised short ribs. There are a few choices for non-fish eaters, including quail atop creamy polenta in a brown-ale sauce, and beef tenderloin.we have also listed people who will be Running Chicago’s top kitchens of the future
Oloroso shows herself a worthy counterpart to Izard in the refined art of balance and surprise. Bundt-shaped warm chocolate cake with its semisweet ganache, allspice ice cream and brand-soaked cherries could induce “food coma.” (That’s how our charming waitress put it.) And the ice-cream tasting, too – with the tangy glow of chocolate/ginger, the offbeat, tingly sesame oil/fig, the poignant balsamic and the sweetly forbidden cherry maudite – underlines, once again the surefooted bravado and complementary daring of two gifted chefs.
“A precocious success
Stephanie Izard, 28, Owner/Executive Chef, Scylla
With the opening of Scylla this February, Stephanie Izard is already living her dream – as owner and executive chef of the restaurant located in the trendy Bucktown area. While Mediterranean-inspired seafood dishes are its main theme, Scylla also includes more exotic fish options than presently found on the menus of other Chicago-area eateries.
Izard’s career choice most likely stems from growing up on the steady diet of gourmet meals expertly prepared by her mother: the experience exposed her to the concept of using quality ingredients. After attending and graduation from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, she returned to her state of birth to live and work in the city of Chicago. Working at mainstays such as Andersonville’s La Tache, Spring and Vong indoctrinated her to an array of cooking styles, which proved useful when the opportunity arose to venture out on her own.
As Izard explains it, the concept of her restaurant originates from her desire to present a well-balanced blend of tastes for those who love seafood and for those who simply enjoy quality food. Accordingly, Scylla’s menu reflects a great variety of options such as dishes using rare fish like blue marlin, Tasmanian Honolulu trout and amberjack. Izard calls it “fine, healthful dining without the pretense.”