The new decor at Found Kitchen and Social House, the 5-year-old Evanston favorite, might best be described as eclectic. Large tropical plants subdivide the softly lit space, working nicely with the reds and burnt oranges around the room. There are lamps of various sorts. The exposed brick is still exposed. In the cozy back room, a wall of books is turned so the pages, not the spines, face out.
As for the dishes new chef Bradford Phillips puts out—derived from an ever-evolving menu—everything has a pleasing balance. An increased focus on vegetable offerings means ingredients like cashew butter and green harissa bring flavor and texture to dishes.
Sometimes the combinations of ingredients are quirky, but they work beautifully. The Tip Toe Through the Tulips cocktail—gin, aquavit and Lillet blanc—ought to succeed, and it does. The Intuition, though, seems more ambitious: A well-shaken mix of tequila blanco, crème de cassis, lime juice, egg white and activated charcoal, the drink came with a warning from our server that it “tastes a lot prettier than it looks.” We did not object to its appearance, a murky purple topped with a light violet band of foam, and the drink itself was terrific. Black currant and lime notes danced around the agave without hiding its pleasures.
Before that cocktail arrived, a server brought us a Tang Tang in error. A mélange of turmeric-infused vodka, carrot juice, honey, lemon juice and bitters, it looked tantalizingly pretty, but we did not try it.
Unchanged at Found is its casual service style and shareable-plates concept. It’s best to confer with your group and order your whole meal at once, letting the kitchen course it out for you. Bread and cultured butter, a standby at the original Found, remains an ever-changing treat on the menu. The ginger-braised beet salad was a shareable pile of perfectly cooked beets served in large cubes, just the right amount of bite still on them, tossed around with treviso (a mild radicchio), whipped tofu and crunchy puffed quinoa. The ginger vinaigrette was light, letting the vegetables shine.
A smallish ramekin of house-pickled vegetables packed a lot of vinegary funk in a small package; especially good in a recent batch were crisp pea pods, their sweetness in harmony with the tartness. Again, balance.
We were informed that the grilled farm steak would be a baseball cut, a spherical piece from the top of the top sirloin. Served sliced, the round cut has the shape of a large filet but more flavor—and here, perched on roasted baby turnips and fingerling potatoes, and drizzled with a bright chimichurri, it’s a flavorful steal for $18.
A pan-roasted sapphire salmon was perfectly executed, with its skin side crackling-crisp and the flesh juicy. It arrives laid atop a small bed of kohlrabi and cucumber, dressed with a cool Greek yogurt vinaigrette and flecked with an occasional spicy pepper. The elements shone on their own, but adding all of them together showed what the kitchen is really up to: shareable, sensibly sized dishes, thoughtfully imagined and harmonious.
The little bumps that can come with team service are washed away by all the little things done well: Atop the delicious lemon pot de creme dessert, for instance, was a superb whipped creme fraiche. When the bill arrived with the errant cocktail still in the total, the server apologized congenially. “I’m a Libra,” he announced, by way of explanation. Ah, yes—balance. Seems about right.
1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847.868.8945
HOURS Tue.-Sat., lunch and dinner; Sun., brunch and dinner
PRICES Plates, $8-$18; caviar, $25-$55; desserts, $8; cocktails, $10