The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Review: Kith & Kin

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 12, 2010 5:00PM

Often the food we eat as adults is informed by what we ate at home growing up. Coming from a family with deep Southern roots, this is a great time to be a Chicagoan who loves to dine out. Southern cooking and cocktails are everywhere. After many false heralds, this is the new bacon meme, really.

Spearheading the rise of the South is Lincoln Park's Kith & Kin. Located in the old La Canasta space on Webster, the dining room has the comfortable feel of family-style restaurants I love to frequent in Nashville, Memphis and the Carolinas, with a menu to match of simple dishes that are, for the most part, impeccably prepared. Ash Taleb of catering giant Zig Zag Kitchen partnered with chef David Carrier on kith & Kin and the forthcoming Table. Carrier's resume includes stints at Trio and French Laundry, and a lot of the early press on Kith & Kin centered on the degrees of separation between Grant Achatz and both Carrier and chef de cuisine Andrew Brochu (Alinea, Pops for Champagne). But the spiritual inspiration for Kith & Kin's menu, in flavor and presentation, is Thomas Keller, the highest regarded and most respected of American chefs.

Exhibit A in the Carrier-Keller connection is Kith & Kin's chicken thighs. Cooked first as a confit, then pan-seared to give the skin a wonderful crispness and color, three of them are set atop a bed of caramelized greens, gnocchi and brown butter, with a liberal garnish of crispy sage. The presentation of the dish is straight out of The French Laundry Cookbook; the flavors in perfect harmony. It's a fine art version of the meat-and-three. If mom cooked this, the sides would surround the thighs.

Any of the crocks on the menu are also works of art, as well as meals unto themselves. Kith & Kin's chicken liver pâté has a texture not unlike mousse, hiding under a solid cap of clarified butter, and served with cornichons, Dijon mustard and crostini. Creamed spinach, served with rich toasted shallots, will make you think twice about this abused dish. Kith & Kin's pimento cheese made me think twice about a dish I swore off as a ten-year-old, given my bad experiences with the spread. Desserts also score highly, like a banana pudding with homemade vanilla wafers.

The secret of Kith & Kin is its outstanding cocktails. The Sazerac, made with rye, cognac and given a rinse of Herbsaint, is the best in the city not made by the Violet Hour or myself. Kith & Kin's Moscow mule, made with North Shore vodka and garnished with a thick slice of cucumber, will make even the biggest cocktail snobs forget to bitch that it wasn't served in a copper mug. There are some misses, like seared rapini and pickled garlic. Loved the concept, but rapini is one of those greens that is better served steamed or broiled. their take on a Boston cream pie, as a brioche doughnut with a dusting of powdered sugar and chocolate syrup, turned out to be drier than Death valley. Overall, Kith & Kin's walks the walk and their early success only raises the expectations for Table, when it opens.

Kith & Kin, 1119 W Webster Ave, 773-472-7070. 5pm-midnight daily.