Last year, James Beard-nominated chef Erling Wu-Bower stepped down from One Off Hospitality’s Nico Osteria to fulfill a lifelong dream: opening his own restaurant. But he didn’t cut ties totally. The new spot, which opened late last month and is dubbed Pacific Standard Time as a nod to its wood-oven-driven California cuisine — is a partnership between Terry Alexander, Donnie Madia Gianfrancisco and Paul Kahan of One Off and Wu-Bower and partner Joshua Tilden’s new Underscore Hospitality. And it certainly boasts the best of both worlds.
Here’s what to expect:
Take a seat: The 4,750-square-foot space designed by New York firm Parts and Labor Design is airy and surprisingly intimate. There are a variety of seating options, including a central bar and a chef’s counter that offers a prime view of the dual hearths.
Team effort: Wu-Bower brought Ben Truesdell from The Publican as executive sous chef — “he has [such] energy and creative prowess” Wu-Bower says — and pastry chef Natalie Saben from recently shuttered Grace. Her huckleberry sundae ($11) is a refreshing end to the meal.
Feel the heat: The biggest difference between what he was doing at Nico and what he’s doing at PST, Wu-Bowers says, is the presence of fire. “The [wood-fired] oven permeates every single aspect of the meal.” The pita bread starter (with eggplant, ahi tuna or beef tartare, $14-$17), pizzas ($16-$18) and roasted black cod ($35) are obvious uses, but Wu-Bower takes the technique one step further: For instance, he uses the burnt edges from oven-roasted onions to give the Dungeness crab pasta ($19) a charred flavor.
Something for everyone: The menu boasts a handful of health-conscious vegetarian and vegan options, plus gluten-free pastas and a delicious gluten-free pizza dough made in-house. And, “we actually did a chicken finger tasting [last week],” Wu-Bower laughs about the coming-soon kids menu.
Final sip: Cocktails like the Spring Market Paloma ($10) made with snap pea-infused tequila and Cel-Ray soda feel like summer in a glass, making them the ideal choice for sipping while the sun sets the room aglow through extra wide windows.
141 W. Erie, (312) 736-1778; Pstchicago.com