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Restaurants & Bars 11

Steamed scrambled eggs at Kopi

Harry V. | Jun 6, 200204:36 PM

Kopi (“A Traveler’s Cafe”) is a nice little independent cafe on Clark Street north of Foster, south of Bryn Mawr. It serves good coffee in a nice place to enjoy it, plus a light menu of pleasant but undistinguished, not-quite-entirely vegetarian fare (I think there’s some tuna salad in there) as well as a number of commonplace baked goods, not made in-house. The paucity of meat on the menu may be no more than a reflection of necessity; the tiny kitchen does not have an oven or grill, and maybe not even a single cooking burner. Nor do I recall there being a microwave on the premises.

Despite this lack of facilities, Kopi serves several dishes with scrambled eggs, and these eggs are different from any other I’ve had in Chicago. That’s what I want to talk about.

I believe it is a cooking truism that, with the exception of omelettes, eggs are best when they are cooked as gently, and therefore usually as slowly as possible. I remember MFK Fisher writing (in How to Cook a Wolf, I think) about trying to cook scrambled eggs for the longest possible amount of time - 45 minutes at least, better still for an hour or longer. Truly, first-class scrambled eggs are one dish that can only be made at home, and never enjoyed at a commercial establishment; restaurants just won’t spend 45 minutes carefully attending to a dish that *can* be made in two. (I can rarely hold out past 25 minutes or so myself.)

David Rosengarten, wishing to cook eggs both gently and quickly, presented in one of his books a method for cooking scrambled eggs with steam, using the steam nozzle of an espresso machine! Perhaps this technique is familiar, but it was new to me. Anyway, I think it is more than likely that Kopi uses this same technique to produce a variety of scrambled egg that is a little mild but very clean in flavor, and the texture of which has a moistness, lightness and fluffiness that is not quite like any other egg I’ve tasted - like puffy clouds of egg.

I mention all this as a preface to asking about possible sources for similarly prepared eggs elsewhere in Chicago. The recent breakfast thread prompted me to reflect on how few places give eggs anything more than the old short-order treatment on the griddle. I bet there are at least some other coffeehouses that steam eggs in a similar fashion.

I haven’t been to Kopi in a couple of months, and, just my luck, in the meantime they’ll have installed a mammoth griddle and begun frying up bacon-and-eggs like it’s going out of style. But if they haven’t, and you happen to be nearby, I recommend that you give the eggs at Kopi a try, if only for their novelty.

5317 N. Clark St.

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