When you hear "mall food," I bet visions of pizza slices sitting under heat lamps, sugar-thick smoothies and stir-fried vegetables of uncertain freshness come to mind.
A new restaurant in Rosemont's Fashion Outlets of Chicago wipes those images clean away. With its organically grown, sustainably harvested and locally sourced (when available) ingredients, the crew at prasino has redefined how shoppers refuel.
prasino5220 Fashion Outlet Way (second level)
Rosemont, (847) 278-9900, prasino
Cuisine: Globally influenced fare with focus on organic, local ingredients
Setting: Wood-tones and soft lighting
Entrees: $10 to $39
Hours: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
The restaurant -- the name means "green" in Greek and, yes, the "p" is lowercase -- made its first appearance in the suburbs in 2010. Its inaugural LaGrange location still thrives, but its St. Charles outpost was short lived (yet a location in St. Charles, Mo., opened earlier this year). With chef Jared Case at the helm, prasino started service in August at Rosemont's new indoor mall, Fashion Outlets of Chicago.
The restaurant seats 200, but it doesn't feel cavernous. Tables are arranged in three distinct areas: a patio of sorts in the mall (with a view of the Le Creuset store), a bar area with high-topped tables and comfy banquettes (the perfect spot to tip back a farm-to-glass cocktail in celebration of that clearance rack find at DKNY) and the main dining room accented with soft lighting and rich wood and earthen tones.
Case's menu is so far removed from typical mall pretzels and frozen yogurt that dining at prasino need not be connected to a shopping trip. While you might just find yourself at the outlet on Black Friday or at some point during the holidays, it's not unthinkable to make prasino your primary destination and window shopping a secondary activity.
After you've worked up an appetite drooling over the patent leather purses at Coach or sparkly holiday dresses at Barneys New York Warehouse, you'll be ready for prasino's edible, and affordable, luxuries.
The menu is set up for tapas-style communal dining or traditional three-course dinners. On a recent visit we skipped over the small-plate section -- as tempting as the lobster avocado with mango salsa and Mediterranean chicken skewers were -- and opted for chorizo seitan tacos as a starter. The menu designates this as a vegan option; vegetarian and gluten-free menu items also are duly noted.
The soy-based chorizo had all the flavor of the normally porky Mexican sausage, without the grease. Pork belly, short rib and shrimp versions also are available.
Salads listed are priced for entree-sized portions, but half orders are available. We found the roasted beet salad with greens, goat cheese and candied nuts a nice segue to braised short ribs (more on those in a bit). The house salad uses the same lettuce mix, orange segments and goat cheese, but swaps in red onion, sunflower seeds and a mild vinaigrette. Frankly, I expected a little more from the signature salad.
The braised short ribs have been a favorite since prasino's inception, and it was nice to find the dish on the menu. The beef ribs simmer several hours in red wine and spices and are served with an equally hearty mushroom sauce. A gratin of cauliflower and Parmesan and cheddar cheeses makes the perfect accompaniment.
Speaking of perfect, it doesn't get much more so than the black cod. I was on the fence between the wood-grilled halibut and the cod when the server talked me into trying what he called one of the restaurant's premier dishes. Two seared planks of mild fish sat in a shallow bowl of Japanese-style soup called dashi. Buckwheat noodles, bok-choy and shiitakes joined the umami party and lotus root chips provided a complementary crunch.
A number of craft beers and wines are available by the glass and bottle, but we never got past the handcrafted cocktails. The generous pours on the signature Green (basil-infused vodka with strawberries) and No. 10, (gin, rose hip liqueur and cucumber) had us enjoying the last sips of summer throughout our meal.
When it came to dessert we were less adventurous, but no less impressed with the chocolate mousse cake, served chilled in a robe of dark chocolate. Dessert portions are certainly shareable.
Shoppers who don't have time for a leisurely meal would do well to stop at Go by prasino on the mall's first level. The same high quality ingredients and care go into crafting an array of sweets, salads, soups and sandwiches.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not review restaurants it cannot recommend.