You might expect Otom chef Daryl Nash, a former sous chef at Moto, Otom’s sister restaurant, to break out the lasers and liquid nitrogen as he did in Homaro Cantu’s culinary laboratory. But he exercises restraint, only occasionally injecting his tried-and-true, seasonally focused comfort foods with a twist. Crispy wontons stand in for corn tortillas in salmon ceviche; smoked oyster mushrooms channel the missing bacon in a veggie-based riff on wilted spinach salad. And he transforms a banana split into a kabobsicle of frozen banana puree, drizzled caramel and roasted pineapple.
Nash, who grew up on a central Illinois farm, is especially interested in the relationship between the garden and the table. He hopes to introduce to his menus at Otom, an old-school regimen of pickling, smoking, canning and curing as the seasons change.
Q. What do you wish you could change or pickle and preserve about the Chicago food scene?
A. Chicago is rapidly becoming the epicenter for food innovation in the United States. At every young chef’s disposal are the kitchens of some of the world’s top thinkers in food. My hope is that we continue to reach beyond the plausible, grab and filter new ideas, and insist on exciting new ways to create.
Q. What would your last meal be?
A. My absolute favorite late summer sandwich: heirloom tomato, butter lettuce and double-smoked bacon BLT; lots of mayo, great crunchy bread and a ton of cracked black pepper, and fat, salty french fries and a really hoppy beer.
Q. Where do you eat or drink before or after a shift?
A. Richard’s Bar [491 N. Milwaukee] has a great deal on beer, rowdy music and bunches of neighborhood locals. I meet friends after a shift to relax and for certainly the best hard-boiled egg in the city. It’s only 75 cents.
Q. What’s the can’t-miss dish at Otom?
A. Glazed pork belly, with coriander-red beet puree, turnip and puffed barley hash. Simple and delicious, it’ll warm you on these ever-cooling evenings.
Q. What should we know about Otom that we probably don’t?
A. A lot has been said about the “mirror image” connection between ourselves and our sister restaurant Moto. Otom is merely a “reflection” of what is going on next door. We provide the same top-notch service and tasty food, on a more accessible level. We complement each other.
Otom; 951 W. Fulton Market, Chicago (312) 491-5804