Tag Archives: restaurant

Restaurant Review: More Chicago

Sun Wah BBQ
5039 N Broadway, Chicago, IL
(773) 769-1254

A Chicago classic that gets shut down periodically by health inspectors (and reopens quickly), Sun Wah is way uptown but usually worth the trip. Bring a group and share a whole duck or two. They’re delicious and well above average. The menu also features usual Chinese fare, but if you’ve made it this far, stick to the duck. Service is solid and it’s cheap enough for the quality. Make sure they’re open when you go and don’t think about cockroaches. BYOB.

Highly recommended.

Piece Pizza
1927 W North Ave, Chicago, IL
(773) 772-4422

Near my old Wicker park apartment, Peace Pizza is a brewpub worth going to but not necessarily a regular haunt. At its best, the pizza is delicious, but not all of them are that good. The white pizza in particular is disappointing, while the red is very good across the board. The beer selection isn’t extensive but it’s very good, especially the Golden Arm (Kolsch), the Anniversary Ale (IPA), and Dysfunctionale (pale ale).


Restaurant Review: Las Vegas Restaurants

Following up my review of the Las Vegas lunch places, here are the dinner spots (excluding In ‘N out from the road trip). These are obviously pricy places.

Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina (inside Crystal’s next to Aria)

Located in what is basically a mall, Wolfgang Puck’s Vegas venture packs a quality menu. I recommend sharing because you’ll want to try as many of these as possible. The butter lettuce salad and the veal ravioli are probably the best items we tried. The veal ravioli is understated in its seasoning, and the salad is well-composed.

We also had two of the pizzas, including the wild mushroom and the eggplant. I preferred the mushroom version (the eggplant is too starchy to make a good topping), though the crust is well-executed on both. The pizzas are made in a wood-fired oven and the flavor is solid, and the tomato sauce lacks the overpowering salt and sugar that chain pizzas are prone to.

For dessert, the zeppoli are perfect for sharing. One additional bonus: the beer selection is very good, with a Schonramer Pils that is classic German and a Reutberger Dunkel that is also very good.12503

Recommended, and more casual than most in the area. I might be back just for the beer.

Mastro’s Ocean Club (inside Crystal’s next to Aria)

A standard upscale seafood and steak place, Mastro’s has a pretty good wine selection and very good service – I should mention that up front.

The appetizer and sides are fine but the real stars of the dinner were the entrees. The grilled lemon sole with butter sauce is excellent, as is the rack of lamb. The filet mignon is very good, though not particularly different from any fine filet mignon. The grilled swordfish was well prepared but could probably benefit from a better sauce or seasoning, as the fish itself ends up somewhat bland.

The chocolate cake we had for desert was fantastic as well. I recommend going lightly on appetizers and saving up for entrees and desert.

A fine dinner, though I doubt I’ll be back – too many new places to try in Las Vegas.

Comme Ca (at The Cosmopolitan)

A French-inspired place that somehow manages to capture the atmosphere of an upscale Chili’s, Comme Ca surprised me with a wide seafood selection. The wine list is also good – highly recommend the Wild Horse Pinot Noir.

The salmon tartare and bone marrow appetizers were both very good, though I’d bet the salmon had been frozen for a while. As far as entrees, two of us had the prix fix menu with three goose-based pieces, each fairly well executed, though it would have benefited from something to offset the goose’s fattiness. The duck salad that came with this meal was very good, however. In addition, we had the glazed short ribs, which were excellent, and a Skuna Bay salmon, which was good but again suffered from the lower-quality salmon. (As you know, I claim a bit of an expertise in the area.)

Enjoyable meal, but I doubt I’ll be back to Las Vegas enough to return here.

Restaurant Review: Las Vegas Cheaper Eats

I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas, with a side trip to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. The meals were split between relatively cheap places off-strip for lunch and expensive resort restaurants for dinner. I’ll go over the lunch places here and do dinner places in a separate post.

Firefly Tapas (westside)

Firefly has a couple of locations in Las Vegas, one near the strip and one out west on Sahara. We went to the latter, which eliminated the crowds and dropped the prices a bit.

Artichoke ToastThis place came highly recommended and it held up big time. The four of us shared several dishes, and none really disappointed. The highlight of the meal for me were the Boquerones – french bread with anchovies and peppers. I’m not usually an anchovies guy but these were delicious and, at $5.50, a great deal. Other standouts were the spicy beef salad, patatas bravas, and the tinga empanada. The table also liked the pulpo asado (grilled squid) and the lamb chops. We also had the baked tetilla and artichoke toast, and they were very good but faded in direct comparison to the boquerones. The desert platter, in particular the tres leches cake, is also worthwhile.

Highly recommended if you’re there.

Lotus of Siam

A Thai place on Sahara just east of the strip, Lotus of Siam is stuck in an unassuming strip mall but it features some excellent dishes. I’m not a great judge of Thai authenticity, so I’ll stick to saying it’s very good rather than authentic.

The chicken dumplings appetizer is excellent, and the most popular entree we had was the duck curry. The drunken noodles with chicken were also excellent, and both are highly recommended. The tom kah kai and spicy vegetables soup were spiced just right, and the pad thai was probably the best I’ve had (although again, my experience is limited). The nua nam tok beef was good, though as far as quickly cooked meats go, it didn’t stand out in any particular way.

Recommended and reasonably affordable, considering how close to the strip it is.

Restaurant Review: More Chicago Food & Drink

A few quick reviews of places from the last several weeks, in the approximate order in which I’d recommend them.

Panes Bread Cafe
3002 N Sheffield Ave Chicago, IL 60657‎
(773) 665-0972

Located in West Lakeview near Southport, Panes Bread Cafe rounds out a solid breakfast/lunch scene that’s developing there. The place is small (maybe room for 25 people) and cash only, but the service is good and the food is very good. The grilled cheese and tomato soup are delicious and I imagine I’ll revisit them several times this winter. The weekend brunch omelets are very good, too, though some of the Mexican dishes are milder than we would have liked. I haven’t had desert there, though it’s highly recommended, so I’m recommending this place on the sandwiches and eggs alone, even before mentioning that the prices are quite low for the area.

Lula Cafe
2437 N Kedzie, Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-9554

Located in Lincoln Square, Lula is a small two-room farm-to-table place with a decent wine selection. It might serve well as a date place (not really suited for groups) though it’s inconvenient to get to from where I live. The sweet corn soup and scallop appetizers were very good, with subtle flavors and a noticeable lack of overwhelming salt or fat. In fact, the entire menu was like that, and it showed of the quality of ingredients for a few dishes. The duck breast, in particular, was delightful, and I also recommend the vegetarian tasting menu. I didn’t try their seasonal prix fix, but fellow diners liked it, too.

RM Champagne Salon
116 N. Green St., Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 243-1199

A speakeasy-style place tucked in a dark alley in the West Loop, RM serves a solid wine and cocktail list, and an average menu. The appetizer flatbreads are very good, and the trout entree was solid as well, but none of the dishes pop in any real memorable way. Recommended for the ambiance and cocktails.

Ruby of Siam
170 W Washington, Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 609-0000

I normally don’t bother reviewing places in touristy areas where I have no expectations, but Ruby of Siam pleasantly surprised me. Their Loop location (the original is in Skokie) is a somewhat upscale version of Asian dining, but the quality is probably superior to most competitors in the area (that aren’t holes-in-the-wall takeout places for locals). For a place serving many tourists, the food is above average, and considering the generous portion, even relatively affordable.

DOC Wine Bar
2602 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 883-5101

Another item I don’t normally review, but DOC impressed me on one hand with a good selection of European wines, including the rarely available German and Austrian whites. On the other hand, the staff wasn’t particularly interested in answering questions about the wines, so it was more difficult than necessary to take advantage of the selection. The ambiance is darker and quiet, so it might make a fun date place – if you already know what you want.

Restaurant Review: More Lakeview

Renaldi’s Pizza
2827 N. Broadway Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 248-2445

While Renaldi’s bar has become my regular after work and Sunday night hangout, the restaurant it’s attached to is excellent on other grounds. A traditional Chicago pizza place, it features quality pizza and a good wine selection. Also recommended is the regular-crust pizza, as Renaldi’s toppings are pretty good across the board. Recommended, though it’s not noticeably superior to other Chicago pizza mainstays.

Itto Sushi
2616 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 871-1800

Hidden in an unassuming location, Itto packs some really good sushi at what passes for reasonable prices in Lakeview. The selection is excellent, and the ingredients are as fresh as can be expected in a midwestern city nowhere near salmon or tuna fisheries. This shows especially in the simpler “staple” rolls. Also recommended is the Jamaican bar next door, where you can drink some quality pilsner.

Torajiro Sushi
432 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 477-5000

Discovered just today as part of my ongoing efforts to get to know the neighborhood places. It’s a cozy basement place, with room for maybe 25 people when it’s full, which, on this Saturday night, it was the exact opposite of. The sushi at Torajiro is above average (not unlike Itto), though it shines more when it comes to the specialty rolls – we had the Red Bill, which was intriguing. The best item at Torajiro, though, are the Gyoza, which seem to be transitioning from the specials to the regular menu. Gyoza are Japanese meat & vegetable dumplings, made to order. They’re highly recommended, and at $7.50 for 8, probably the best deal in the house.

Restaurant Review: Lakeview Eats

More reviews as I eat my way through my new neighborhood.

Chilam Balam
3023 N Broadway, Chicago, IL  60657
(773) 296 6901

A tapas-style Mexican restaurant (also BYOB) that serves a rotating menu of excellent small dishes. A dinner four two should probably mean four to six of these. The fish tacos in particular are excellent. The flank steak, too, did not disappoint. The sauces are authentic, and the dishes are easy on fat and sugar. The place is casual enough, and worth a visit. Recommended.

Cafe Vienna
2523 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 244-9922

A German-style cafe that specializes in breakfast and brunch. Decent brunch foods, with the breads disappointing but the sweet items generally being good. Nothing stunning, but also doesn’t disappoint.

Frances’ Deli
2552 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 248 4580

Frances’ Deli would not be out of place among New York’s delis, and serves satisfying, if calorie-rich food. After several visits, would recommend all sandwiches if you have sufficient appetite. If not, the salmon & onion scrambled eggs top my list. Will most likely join my permanent rotation as a Sunday morning spot. Highly recommended, for what it is.

Bombay Bliss
3108 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 883-2500

A new Indian place on Broadway, I’ll have to revisit Bombay Bliss and may have to update my review. Our first visit was so marred by slow service that it may taint my view of the food. Given that the long wait also upped my appetite, I’ll consider those offsetting penalties for now. The food seemed to be much stronger on the vegetarian dishes than meat, but they did nail the level of spiciness that the three of us requested. It’s not particularly outstanding in any regard, but it’s a decent addition to the neighborhood.

Restaurant Review: Del Seoul (Chicago)

My new neighborhood in Chicago is a place brimming with eateries that have potential: diversity, competition, and lack of tourism. The first place we’ve tried is Del Seoul, a Korean street food and barbecue place. It’s listed as a local favorite, and it doesn’t disappoint. It has a fast food feel to it, but you don’t go here for the ambiance. You go for the very good food.

We ordered the dumplings, the shrimp taco, a stone bowl, and a bento box. The shrimp taco is their signature dish and it doesn’t disappoint. Whatever sauce they bathe it in is delicious, and this is the item to get on your first visit, if you only get one. The bento box is an excellent meal in an of itself (I had the beef), with both the salad and the rice, usually afterthoughts, holding their own in the trio. I highly recommend reusing the peanut-ginger dressing left over in your salad bowl for some of your beef. The stone bowl has a spicy kick to it, though it was my least favorite of the dishes. Speaks more to the character of the competition than to the meal itself, and if you’re after a spicier kick you wouldn’t go wrong here. The dumplings are excellent, especially in the various available sauces, but I consider them a must-side here rather than a main dish.

It’s not the cheapest place, but it’s worth it, and the service is good. Even at rush-hour on a Saturday, you’ll get seated and served quickly.

Highly recommended, and I anticipate it becoming part of my regular rotation.



Restaurant Reviews: Westchester

Attended a lovely wedding in the Bronx Botanical Garden this weekend, and stayed in Tarrytown near White Plains.

Taj Palace, White Plains – Above average Indian cuisine. Definitely try the onion chutney – the condiments are good across the board – and the chicken (Makhani) was very good. Service was solid – trust the staff’s guidance on how spicy you want your meal. Also would recommend the appetizers and sides, though the samosas don’t stand out in a good or bad way. Priced a bit high for the quality, but the menu is varied (includes southern Indian dishes) and has an extensive vegetarian section.

Tyrynda Thai, Tarrytown – Shared an excellent Massaman curry and a somewhat boring Ginger curry. Definitely held up after a couple of days in the hotel fridge, too. Curry puffs appetizer stood out as well, and the sauces were less sweet than is now common in American Thai food (this is a good thing). Can’t comment on the service, as we were literally the only people in the restaurant at the time (2 pm on a holiday Saturday).

Sweetgrass Grill, Tarrytown – Downtown Tarrytown has a lovely northeastern village-type look, and this farm-to-table place seemed like a nice local choice for lunch (mostly because nearby Bella’s Restaurant had a long wait). It was ultimately very disappointing. The service was terrible – they made substitutions to an order without telling us, failed to deliver our soup, and omitted a bunch of things from the third item we ordered. The food quality wasn’t good enough to make up for it: the burger was fresh but incredibly bland, as was the carrot soup. The crab cakes with poached eggs (which came with fried eggs instead without warning) were okay, but not spectacular. I can usually put up with bad service – in fact, it can be a signal of good food – but it wasn’t remotely worth it here. Certainly not at those prices.