Monday, June 9, 2014

Cicchetti

Location: 671 N St. Clair
Cost: Probably around $30-$40 per person

Speaking of Italian restaurants in Streeterville, there's one that just moved into the vacant spot on the first floor of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. My senior resident, Sonam, and I were going to get lunch when our coworkers Joel and Geoff honed in on the action. What was meant to be a quick Chick-fil-a run was sideswiped into a more formal affair (although we didn't bother to change out of scrubs). That's how we ended up trying Cicchetti.

Logistics
Cicchetti is right on St. Claire to the side of the NMH entrance. It has this nice internal connection so we don't even have to walk outside to get there. The interior design is really cool with these high rafters and plenty of wood. It's pretty popular right now, and you'll probably need a reservation for dinner. Lunch was no problem to walk in to. The cost is a bit up there for lunch. They've got a few sandwiches at $13 but otherwise the substantial dishes are between $15 and $30. Our waitress was very attentive and was able to get us back to work in a timely fashion.

The Food
Everyone was pretty hungry and we got a few appetizers to start with. Nonna's Meatballs had this chunky sauce with bits of pancetta strewn throughout, making for a complex starter. The roasted mushroom pizza was also spot on. There was plenty of caramelized onion, and the crust was perfectly chewy with a snap to the first bite. The Anjou Pear Salad was well balanced and has had me hooked on pears for a while since.

The Meatballs

The Roasted Mushroom Pizza

For the "main course" we split the Braised Short Rib Ravioli and the Braised Pork Shoulder and Provolone Panino. The ravioli were delicate with these hearty shavings of parmesan over the top. The panini was my favorite item. The fried egg on top was perfectly runny and the giardiniera added a ton of flavor. The bread soaked up the oil from the pork and giardiniera along with the egg yolk to make for a fantastic bite.

The Braised Pork Shoulder Pannini 

 The Braised Short Rib Ravioli

Overall
I'm well versed in hotel lobby restaurants, but hospital lobby restaurants are a whole other ballgame. I barely scraped the surface of this menu, and despite being open for lunch, this seems like a restaurant built for dinner. I've also heard the cocktails are fantastic. The panini and the meatballs were my favorite items. I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Pearls and hope to get back for dinner before skipping town.


Cicchetti on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tre Soldi

Location: 212 E Ohio
Cost: Probably around $35 per person

If you're a resident or medical student at Northwestern, you've probably noticed a decrease in the amount of free lunches entailing big slices of greasy rectangular pizza. That's because Pompei closed. I'm sure there are a few mourning the loss, but the other day my senior resident, Danielle, recommended I try out the new place that moved into the empty space, Tre Soldi. My Aunt and Uncle were in town on a business trip, so Jenny, my parents, and I met up with them to check it out.

Logistics
Just a few steps up off the curb, Tre Soldi did a decent job of turning what was once an Italian cafeteria into a moderately classy joint. They've got a room full of flat tops, and we sat right in the middle. We had a reservation but could've gotten by without one. Parking in the area is a pain so I suggest you take public transit if you can. The cost is reasonable with pasta dishes in the $15 range and protein based entrees sitting in the low $20's. The wine list has plenty of reasonably priced and moderate quality options. My uncle and the waiter became good friends, and our service was spectacular.

The Food
We got the ball rolling with a selection of their meats and cheeses, lamb meatballs, and stuffed zucchini blossoms. The accouterments pulled the meats and cheeses together nicely. The meatballs had plenty of acid but were a bit oily. I've never been one for zucchini blossoms but as far as they come these seemed good.

 The Zucchini Blossoms

The Cheese Platter

For the main course we got a bunch of things but what stood out was the Salmon and the Cacio E Pepe. The fish was very mildly overdone but came across a chickpea puree that gave a nice textural balance to the dish. The pasta had a good chew with plenty of creamy, unctuous cheese.

The Cacio E Pepe

 The Salmon

 The Halibut

For dessert we had some Gelato and the Fruit Crostata. Both were a refreshing end to the meal on what turned out to be a rather warm summer's night.

The Fruit Crostata

The Gelato

Overall
In case you haven't caught onto the hints, Tre Soldi is definitely an upgrade from Pompei. It's a good, reasonable option for Streeterville, which definitely could use more quality, casual go to's. I'm giving them 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.

Tre Soldi on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bavette's Bar & Boeuf

Location: 218 W Kinzie
Cost: About $70 per person

Many of you may not know this, but I am not long for this city (more to come on the future of JEC). One of the reasons I've had less frequency of posting is because I've been going back to my favorite places that I've already written about. There are still some places on a bucket list of sorts though. My friend Ashley and I were in the mood for a good steak. She was finishing up a rotation of overnight shifts, and I was closing out my second month on the Transplant service, making a celebratory meal even more appropriate. So we ended up checking out Bavette's Bar & Boeuf.

Logistics
Bavette's is off Kinzie just West of the Merchandise Mart. If you weren't looking for it, you'd walk right by. It's got a very dark and classy vibe with plenty of hard wood inside. They've got a lengthy bar where I enjoyed an old fashioned while waiting for Ashley to get off work. Getting a reservation is key and can be a bit tough during popular time slots. They also don't take parties larger than 6. Our service was spot on, although I don't know if our waiter picked up on Ashley's "limited" tastes when making recommendations. As with many steakhouses, the price depends on what you're going for, but they've got plenty of entrees around $30.

The Food
We got the meal started with the Smoked Whitefish Ceasar Salad and the Peppered Duck and Goat Cheese Terrine. Both dishes were great. The salad was heavy on the fish and had the right amount of thick, savory dressing. The terrine had a smooth texture that went well with the toast points when topped with the apricot preserves on the side. The goat cheese added more texture than flavor and was a bit lost in the dish to me though.

 The Peppered Duck and Goat Cheese Terrine

The Smoked Whitefish Ceasar Salad

From there Ashley got the Filet, and I got the Classic Ribeye. My steak had a simple salt rub. There was a sear on the top and a solid medium rare center. Like many of their steaks it came with a side of creamy bearnaise. For our sides we got the Elote Style Corn and the Buttery Mashed Potatoes. The corn had a spicy and creamy kick while the potatoes had plenty of garlic and this chicken gravy that put them just over the edge.

The Ribeye

 The Filet

 The Elote Corn

 The Mashed Potatoes

Overall
Bavette's just has that right steakhouse feel down. There's a classy yet trendy environment, a variety of price points, and a bunch of little twists on steakhouse standards. The only dish I would replace in my experience was the Terrine. I'm giving them 4.5 out of 5 Pearls and wish I had the time to go back before skipping town.

Bavette's Bar and Boeuf on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dinner Lab

Location: TBD
Cost: Annual membership for $175, individual events from $50-$95

I got to check out a pretty interesting concept the other day when Dinner Lab invited me out. The way it works is that you sign up for an annual membership and then they have occasional dining events that you can join. Events happen every few weeks and are at an undisclosed location until the day prior. The setup is very communal and inviting, and the meals always have a cool theme.
 
 
A few weeks ago, Jenny and I went to check out their collaboration dinner with Brooklyn Brewery.

The Food
Our menu was broken down into five courses:

1) Citrus Marinated Cobia



2) Smoked Melon Soup

Clearly I was too eager for this one and forgot to take a pic.

3) Egg in a Jar



4) Grilled Lamb Chops


5) Dark Berry Shortcake


Overall
The whole idea is a lot of fun. There's this big communal vibe and we made friends with some interesting folks. The food was intriguing, tasty, and went well with the diverse beer pairings. I suggest you check it out for yourself at one of their upcoming events.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Blue Door Farm Stand

Location: 843 W Armitage
Cost: About $15 per person

This new place opened up down the block on Armitage from Jenny's apartment a little while back. We'd walked by it a bunch of times, and she'd been with a few friends, but it wasn't until the other weekend that I finally got to try out Blue Door Farm Stand.

Logistics
Blue Door has an order at the counter and take a number for your table kind of operation. We plopped down on the edge of this communal table. They were pretty crowded for weekend lunch, but we were able to squeeze in. It probably took 10 minutes for our food to come out which I thought was reasonable. The cost isn't bad with plenty of sandwiches and salads around $10.


The Food
Blue Door makes it clear that they locally source all of their ingredients. They even have this cool map in the corner that shows all of the farms they buy from. We split a French Tuna Salad Sandwich and the Couscous Salad. The tuna came on this great thick hoagie and was topped with red pepper, artichoke hearts, basil, and green beans. It was one of the better tuna sandwiches I've had in a while. It wasn't as good as Capt'n Nemo's, but still. It came with a crispy kale chip covered in parmesan as a side. It was interesting and tasty, but significantly unfilling for a side. The salad was some special they were running. It was a huge portion of greens, sprouts, apple slices, nuts, cranberries, and couscous. There were too many sprouts to the point that the dish was difficult to eat/navigate. Also, Jenny got a cookie that was delicious.

 The French Tuna Sandwich

The Couscous Salad

 The Chocolate Chip Cookie

Overall
The concept of Blue Door is pretty cool and there's a very relaxed vibe to the whole place. Our food was hearty, tasty, and a good deal. As far as a weekend brunch goes, this was as quick and easy an option as any. I'm giving them
3.5 out of 5 Pearls.


Blue Door Farm Stand on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tanta

Location: 118 W Grand
Cost: Probably around $50 per person

With summer just around the corner, Tanta invited me out to take a peek at their new rooftop bar. They were generous enough to feed me while I was stopping by. So Jenny and I met up after work for a bite.

Logistics
Tanta was packed when we rolled in on a weeknight around 7:30. They've got a somewhat tight dining area and a bar that's probably your only hope without a reservation. We had seats at the end of the bar and got to watch a bunch of the apps being made.

Our waiter was very helpful, which was important since the menu is pretty diverse and takes some navigating. The service was efficient. The cost is relatively within your control. The entrees are mostly in the $25-$35 range. They have a wide variety of small plates in the low teens too.

As far as the rooftop goes, they have a second floor opening with a lengthy bar. It opens within the next few weeks as the weather warms up. The wood laden patio gives a classy feel.

The Food
We started off with a bunch of small plates. The Nikei Cebiche was a plate of ahi tuna and avocado in a tamarind broth. The acid of the broth gave the dish a strong and savory bite. The Chalaco was a bay scallop sashimi plate with sweet potatoes and a very creamy aji amarillo sauce. The creamy sauce went well with the texture of the scallops. The Pobre was a simple bite of skirt steak topped with a quail egg and ponzu sauce. Despite the short time it lasted, the taste lingered for a while. After a quick breather they brought out the Pulpo (grilled octopus skewers) and the Causita Clasica. The causitas were unlike anything I'd had before. They make this whipped potato served at room temperature, and this one was topped with crab.

The Nikei Cebiche

The Chalaco

The Pobre

The Causita Clasica

 The Pulpo

As if we had any room left, they brought out the Pescado a lo Macho and the Chaufa Aeropuerto for a main course. The pescado was a grilled salmon and calamari with spicy potatoes in a creamy aji sauce. The Chaufa Aeropuerto was my favorite dish of the night. It was a pork fried rice (we had them sub in chicken) served in a hot stone bowl so that the exterior rice would get nice and crispy. It had a spicy garlic flavor and was probably the best fried rice I've had in years.

 The Pescado a lo Macho

The Chaufo Aeropuerto

Overall
I'll have to be sure and get back to Tanta in a few weeks when the patio opens up. The fried rice, the fish, and the cebiche were my favorites. I suggest you head out there and try to eat through this diverse menu.

Tanta on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 28, 2014

Chef's Burger Bistro

Location: 164 E Grand
Cost: About $20 per person
After a long day on the transplant surgery service, the team decided to go grab a meal and a drink. A bunch of us had been to Jake Melnick's so many times recently that we started looking for other nearby options. Then my senior resident reminded me how that armpit of a restaurant on Grand and St. Clair was bought out and remodeled. That's how we ended up at Chef's Burger Bistro.
Logistics
That restaurant I was talking about used to be a Boston Blackie's and the majority of the lot seemed to be taken up by the broken up parking lot in front. The remodeled Chef's Burger Bistro has this impressive front patio and a clean interior. They had plenty of TVs and a long bar. We plopped down at one of their larger high tops in the corner. Our waiter was friendly, the service was quick, but the food took a really long time to come out. The cost is so so with burgers in the $12 range that don't include fries. I was annoyed because I'd looked at an old version of the menu online before showing up that had lower prices, but I don't think I can really hold that against them.
The Food
We split a bunch of appetizers to get the ball rolling. The Fried Pickles were served in spears and had a great crunch. The Beet and Candied Walnut Flatbread had good topping coverage but the crust was mushy. Joel ordered the Deviled Eggs which were probably more cost than they were worth but had a good tang and creamy texture.

 The Fried Pickles

 The Beet Flatbread

 The Deviled Eggs
For the main course I went with the Paris Burger topped with onion jam, mushrooms, candied tomatoes, and brie cheese. The meat was an as ordered medium rare, and the topping made for a delicious mess. The brie got a bit oily, but the soft bun soaked everything up nicely. The table split some onion rings, regular, and sweet potatoe fries as well. Of the three, the wings were my favorite by far.
 The Paris Burger

 The Onion Rings

 The Brussel Sprout Salad

 The Regular and Sweet Potato Fries
Overall
Chef's Burger Bistro takes a good stab at taking the burger menu up a level. I really liked the Paris Burger, but I thought everything else was somewhat unimpressive. I'm glad it replaced the prior tennants though. I'm giving them 3 out of 5 Pearls.


Chef's Burger Bistro on Urbanspoon