With Rural Society's new location opening earlier this month in the Loews Chicago hotel, Chef Jose Garces, founder of the eponymous multi-concept Garces Group, returns to his hometown.
"With the number of steakhouses we have in Chicago, Jose wanted to give everyone his version of what a steakhouse could be," says Chef de Cuisine Cory Morris, who joins Rural Society after seven years at Mercat a la Planxa, also a Jose Garces concept.
Rural Society's first location opened in the Loews Madison hotel in Washington, D.C., last summer. Its sequel in Chicago will follow the same pattern of high-end, authentic Argentine cuisine, including wood-fired meats and fish prepared desde la parilla, or on a grill that uses of charcoal and an Argentine hardwood called quebracho. The beverage program also stays true to its roots with a wine list that is 80 percent South American, while the cocktail program harkens to traditional Argentine and South American sips.
FSR spoke with Chef Morris during Rural Society’s second week of operation to learn what guests can expect from the new location, how the Garces Group may localize the restaurant to support Chicago's tastes, and how it is handling sourcing.
Chef Morris says the menu in Chicago is the same as the D.C. location, but he expects that to change slightly with Rural Society's first seasonal menu change, which will cater a bit more to the Chicago market.
"We have these conversations with the chefs in the Garces group a lot,” Chef Morris says when asked how the restaurant might localize its offerings to Chicago tastes. “We talk about some of the dishes that are hits and some that are misses. I think Chicago has a very experimental palate. And with Rural Society and our approach, we'll be able to have some unique combinations."
Argentine cuisine is heavily based in meat and cheese, so Chef Morris says guests can expect plays on classics such as the Matambre, which traditionally is a skirt steak served with carrot and boiled egg. "We gave it a more modern update with poached quail egg and carrot chimichuri, and we use a really nice imported filet for the herb crusted beef tenderloin."
Most of the meats and cheese, in fact, are imported to retain the restaurant's authenticity. "I haven't come across a restaurant that's executing [sourcing] on the level that we are right now," Chef Morris says.
Stateside, Rural Society sources from trusted suppliers, including one in Philadelphia, and is beginning to build relationships with local purveyors. "For one of our sections of the menu, the Picada section [a Charcuterie plate that includes a selection of Argentine cured meats and hams], I'm working with a local producer and good friend who is executing high-level charcuterie for us here,” Chef Morris says.
He also hopes to use the connections with local farmers that be built during his seven years at Mercat a la Planxa.
Complementing the dishes on the menu are the myriad Argentine and South American wines, which make up 80 percent of the wine list. They're easy to pair with the dishes because "they're big and bold, just like our food," Chef Morris says.
By Sonya Chudgar