Alpana Singh will open the eponymous River North restaurant in early spring

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Alpana Singh was initially going to call his new restaurant, which was due to open in early spring in River North, Tallulah. But the name did not suit him. She asked her friends for advice. They suggested she write whatever she wanted the spirit of the restaurant to be. When she was done, she realized, “That’s me on a page. So she decided to give it her name: Alpana.

It is the fourth restaurant of the sommelier and former Please check! host after the Boarding House and Seven Lions, now both closed, and Terra & Vine in Evanston. It’s self-funded, so she’s not beholden to investors, and since resigning her master sommelier title in 2020 to protest allegations of sexual abuse and assault in the Court of Masters sommeliers, it is no longer limited by the requirements of the Court. She plays an active role in all aspects of Alpana, from construction and design – she and Matt Fisher are co-owners of AMT Hospitality and have built not only Singh’s own restaurants, but also several others, including Kasama and Tzuco – to the design of the dishes that appear on the menu and, of course, the wine.

“Things are so different from when I opened the boarding house 10 years ago,” she says. “I’m amazed at the difference in attitude. Ten years ago, a city publication ran an article interviewing a sommelier opening a restaurant. Now, because of the pandemic and other changes, there’s so much more openness and willingness to accept other stories. As someone who grew up with immigrant parents and an uncommon name, Singh finds it gratifying that people are finally learning to pronounce his name correctly.

Traditionally, sommeliers aren’t expected to go into a restaurant kitchen at all, but as Singh points out, sommeliers taste things for a living and have a highly developed sense of texture, balance, and flavor. During the pandemic, when Terra & Vine was temporarily closed, she began spending more time in her own kitchen and developing new recipes, which she shared on her blog.

For Alpana, she had a clear idea of ​​how she wanted the food to taste: “I’m looking for umami, texture, acidity, hints of sweetness, so ultimately when you have it with a glass of wine strikes and sparkles in many ways. She wanted it to reflect her life and taste memory. Juan Chavez, a chef who has worked with her for 10 years, has helped her realize this vision. Dishes include starters, pastas, and mains, such as roast chicken with aji verde and seared sea bass with a bouillabaisse reduction.

Singh also has a precise vision of the wine list. She foresees a list of around 75 bottles, “according to my enthusiasm”, and she wants to highlight producers who are fighting climate change, using grapes grown at higher altitudes and using less water. “Wine is a liquid recorder of climate change,” she says. “[Climate change] is so overwhelming to me, it’s too big of a deal. But there’s something about being able to internalize how it affects little things like our wine. He speaks of hope. There are tangible changes that can be made to get us through this.

The restaurant itself, which will take over the former LYFE Kitchen, will be large: 4,000 square feet, with 90 seats in the dining room and another 15 at the bar, plus another 90 on the heated terrace outside. The design, she says, “is built around the idea of ​​wild feminine energy. There’s a Garden of Eden energy to it, except Eve wouldn’t have to leave. The room will be bathed in light gilded, an ivy trellis will hang overhead (ceiling installations are something of a Singh trademark), and the walls will be covered in jungle-print wallpaper and framed photos of women who inspired Singh – Tina Turner, Bette Midler, Sophia Loren — and single man Keanu Reeves, who Singh, a fan since seventh grade, jokingly calls “the male patron saint of restaurants.”

In order to counter the toxic effects of the Court of Master Sommeliers and the many other transgressions that have been exposed in the restaurant industry by the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, Singh plans to work at Alpana as part of his training program. She proudly notes that each of the servers who opened the guesthouse currently run restaurants or wine programs or work in the wine industry, and she wants this line of success to continue with the next generation of servers she hires.

“I want to make the next generation of wine,” she says. “I am responsible for my own quadrant of the world. And this one has my name on it, so my serve better be good.

Alpana831 N. State Street, slated to open in early spring.

1701 Maple Ave, Evanston, IL 60201

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