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House chicken wings with Buddha dust and dried shrimp in a sweet and sour glaze

Swept Away

by Michael Wren | Photography by Neil Burger | NS magazine | July 1, 2013

You should select your dining partners carefully when making reservations for E+O, the new 6,300-square-foot food mecca at Randhurst Mall in Mount Prospect. Everything on chef Rodelio Aglibot’s melting pot of a menu—a 70-item list so exhaustive it can only be called a food catalog—is sharable. So avoid the timorous at all costs.

What you need is a group willing to embrace the unknown, whether it’s sushi served on buttered fried rice patties or a fillet of Malay-style sea bass spruced up with so much miso it practically glows in the dark. Inviting those enamored with bone marrow is also a plus, as E+O’s marrow tacos are arguably the best in the northern burbs.

They are served Cro-Magnon style. A huge bone is cleaved in half, lined with marrow and filled with tender chunks of carne asada, a rich marriage buoyed by a slightly sweet tomato jam. It is, in a word, evolutionary—as is the concept for E+O, which supplements a usual array of chops, salads and pastas with contemporary multicultural creations, like Filipino-style pork belly adobo and shanks smothered in a chicken-liver paté sauce. 

E+O stands for Earth and Ocean, a theme manifested in the restaurant’s undulating acoustic ceiling, silver stone sculptures and odes to grass on the walls. It’s never kitschy—The Little Mermaid, thankfully, has no dominion here—but serves as an appropriate backdrop for Aglibot’s bold menu.

For Aglibot, who’s best known for working at Sunda downtown and starring in the TLC show Food Buddha, the theme is an excuse to unleash a tidal wave of flavors on suburban diners. The results can be thrilling. His crispy kale and Brussels sprout salad, tossed tableside with minced shrimp and a sweet chile vinaigrette, has crunch and bite, evoking the crispness and smoky flavors of early autumn.

The delicious smoked pea hummous is like split-pea soup in spreadable form. And his Malay-style sea bass, a dish Aglibot has showcased once at James Beard dinners in New York, is the ultimate expression of sweetness and spice, a tutorial for how to use lemongrass, coriander and carrots to dazzling effect.

If there’s an overriding complaint, it’s with the pasta selections, including a salty corn linguine and a tepid garlic noodle creation. But what’s most exciting about E+O is partners Aeron Lancero and Paul Lee’s dedication to making it a contemporary alternative to the legion of chain restaurants in the area, the sort of place willing to serve cucumber-infused vodka in pressurized CO2 canisters.

Take a sip of that beauty with your eyes closed and you’ll feel like you’re being whisked away to a four-star spa somewhere off the coast of Majorca. The best part? When you open your eyes, you’ll find you’re in an equally exotic locale just a stone’s throw from the North Shore that is well worth the trip.

E+O Food and Drink
125 Randhurst Village Drive Mount Prospect

Sun.-Thu. 11am-10pm, Fri.-Sat. 11am-midnight

Snacks $2-$9, small plates and appetizers $5-$15, pizzas and pastas $11-$16, entrees and signature dishes $12-$34, desserts $8

What to Eat
Bone marrow and carne asada tacos with pickled onion relish and tomato jam; crispy Brussels sprouts and kale with minced shrimp, sweet chile vinaigrette, peppers and shallots; smoked pea hummous with fried cauliflower and toasted almonds; Malay-style sea bass with cauliflower-potato puree and roasted tomato; carrot-pineapple cake with cream-cheese glaze and cherry compote

A Space for All Seasons
E+O was designed to offer four distinct dining spaces: a lofty and boisterous bar, a serene alfresco dining patio, a quieter main dining space and a secluded private dining space. Make reservations accordingly. 

Worth a Sip

Partner Aeron Lancero oversees an invigorating cocktail menu that offers subtle twists on classic tipples, including a signature Purity Cu vodka cocktail with cucumber, St. Germaine and fresh lime as well as a watermelon riff on a dark and stormy topped with ginger beer.and served in a mason jar.