One of Chicago’s culinary stars is opening a new restaurant – and this time it’s central. Alpana, the site of the Gold Coast from the sommelier and the former Check it out, please! Alpana Singh’s host, opens this month, and she showcases both the type of food she wants to eat and the types of women she admires.
This isn’t Singh’s first restaurant – she previously ran two Chicago restaurants, Boarding House and Seven Lions, and one Evanston restaurant, Terra and Vine – and she takes everything she learned from that experience and combines into Alpana. In part, that means she decided not to have a chef. “In the past, when I worked with the chef, you hired them, they had their own artistic vision … and you feel like you have to do what they want,” says Singh. “I’ve been studying food for 20 years and I love to cook.” That doesn’t mean you’ll see Singh in the kitchen on the lineup – she has no illusions about her ability to set plates – but she creates and perfects the entire menu herself. The food will be strongly influenced by Mediterranean and Asian flavors that match Singh’s preferences.
She started to develop the menu for “Alpana” partly with her audience. “I live in the area; I understand how people eat. People eat a lot in this area. They are not afraid to ask for what they want. ” For Singh, this meant a menu with great flexibility to take into account dietary preferences, as well as dishes that were healthy enough to be eaten regularly. “A lot of my friends are getting doctors fast,” laughs Singh. That is, for example, salmon is served in a light broth of sherry vinegar, combos and mushrooms. “I call it sweet and sour juice infused with minds.” It’s a dish with many flavors, but it’s dairy and gluten-free, and definitely not heavy.
In addition to inspiration in the neighborhood, Singh had another great source of ideas: wine. “Wine was my muse,” she says. “I worked back: what great flavors go with the wines I wanted to serve?” Thus, a special Pinot Noir game from New Zealand that Singh loves is paired with burrata served with honey-roasted pears and onion mustard. Her goal at Alpana is to introduce visitors to new interesting wines that they may not have encountered before, which meant a lot of training for its staff. “80 percent of waiters and bartenders are interested in a winemaking career; I have a duty and a duty to make sure that the wine program arouses their interest. ” She is also counting on her reputation among Chicago visitors to make them a little more open to experimentation. “Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of confidence – whatever I pour into a glass, it will take into account the opinion.”
The angular location of the Alpana (former Lyfe kitchen) will be imbued with “wild feminine energy,” Singh says. She was inspired by the biblical figure of Lilith, who, depending on who you ask, is either “a monster eating a child or a strong feminist icon,” says Singh. She mimicked a traditional wall of celebrity photos, but here it is entirely made up of portraits of strong women she admires.
The restaurant will open later this month for lunch in order to offer lunch and brunch seven days a week when things are going smoothly. The number one message that Singh wants visitors to hear is that Alpana will be reliable, consistent and comfortable. “The lesson I’ve learned now while running my fourth restaurant is that you’re not going to teach people to eat,” she says. “They already know what they want – they want good service and a good atmosphere.”