Food & Drink » Restaurant Reviews

Restaurants: New Too, April 2, 2009

Ten more recent openings


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New Too

Annette's Broasters to Go1433 W. Montrose | 773-477-8646

$American | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11 | Reservations not accepted

This strip-mall take-out and delivery spot is the latest and most out-loud outpost for the Wisconsin-based Broaster Company, which trademarked and began marketing its pressure-frying system in the early 50s. Today there are more than 80 licensees in the Chicago area, including hospitals, gas stations, groceries, and buffets. The idea that broasting renders the premarinated and breaded poultry juicier, crispier, less greasy, and less damaging to the human form than typical deep-frying is the key selling point of the method, but though Annette's chicken might indeed leave a smaller stain behind, its minimally seasoned recipe is no juicier or tastier than dozens of well-fried birds available at places from Harold's Chicken Shack to Laschet's Inn. Wings, fried seafood, and an array of corporate-approved sides are available, but the crispy broasted items have no more of a half-life than their deep-fried analogs and, like them, should be removed from their cardboard containers and consumed as quickly as possible. —Mike Sula

Antica Pizzeria5663 N. Clark | 773-944-1492

$$Italian, Pizza | Dinner: seven days | BYO

I'm all for the pandemic of serious pizza we've been blessed by in recent years. Every block deserves a wood burner, every neighborhood rates an experienced pizzaiolo. But Andersonville is already home to one significant pie shop, Great Lake, and there's another newcomer, Monticchio, farther south on Clark. Here's hoping that in the future people like Antica chef-owner Mario Rapisarda (a Spiaggia vet) will target areas that desperately need earnestly pie-focused professionals in their midst. At Antica the pies are of the Neapolitan species, thin, charred, blistered crusts that get a bit swampy toward the center. They're as pricey as the ones at Ravenswood's Spacca Napoli, but topped less lovingly: I was happy with the quality of the olives on the quattro stagioni, but the prosciutto could have been better. The balance of the menu is composed of a few antipasti—including calamari, tender but overbattered—and salads, including a particularly well-composed arugula-radicchio-frisee trio with diced black olive and some crumbles of goat cheese. There are also a handful of pastas and a few fish and poultry entrees, all delivered with supreme haste. Their house-made desserts include profiteroles, tiramisu, and a wonderfully creamy panna cotta in a martini glass. —Mike Sula

Antojitos!4645 N. Kedzie | 773-267-0723

$Mexican | Lunch: seven days; Dinner: Monday-Saturday | Reservations not accepted

This new Mexican snack shop may be the best possible use for the tiny spot directly across from the Kedzie Brown Line station, a site that has housed a succession of failed coffee shops. All items—from coffee to cinnamon tea, sopes, quesadillas (with processed turkey), corn in a cup, bunuelos, licuados, and tamales—are priced at a Depression-friendly $2 or less. Nothing here would make Diana Kennedy sit up and take notice, but for a cheap precommute snack it ought to do the trick. It's BYO on weekends. —Mike Sula

Bananas Foster Cafe1147 W. Granville | 773-262-9855

$$American, english/irish/scottish | Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Reservations not accepted

Housed in a small corner space by the Granville Red Line stop, Bananas Foster Cafe seems to be filling a much-needed niche in Edgewater, drawing droves that are routinely lined out the door. And I can certainly see why it's a popular neighborhood spot for brunch: though the place was packed, service was smooth, and our food—eggs Benedict with Irish back bacon and standout ham and eggs with potatoes and baked beans—was well prepared and came out promptly. But I found the lunch and dinner menus even more intriguing. Lunch is a deal, with next to nothing over $10 and items like a pan-seared salmon salad with field greens for $4.50. An English influence shows up in the offerings, which include not just shepherd's pie but also fisherman's pie, chicken potpie, bangers and mash, and steak, mushrooms, and ale pie (good thing the restaurant serves beer and wine). The more eclectic dinner menu features everything from ginger-seared tofu to French classics such as onion soup, lamb stew, beef bourguignon, and bouillabaisse to . . . chicken tikka masala? Here again, prices are kept in check, with entrees topping out at $18 for the bouillabaisse. I wouldn't exactly call this fine dining—it's a former coffee shop with a garish yellow awning. But so much the better these days. —Kate Schmidt

Chicago Curry House899 S. Plymouth | 312-362-9999

$$Indian/Pakistani | Lunch, dinner: seven days

The folks behind Highwood's Curry Hut didn't do themselves any favors by hiding Chicago Curry House, a white table-paper Nepalese-Indian spot, on the ground floor of a South Loop building surrounded by residential permit parking. But the menu is virtually identical to the mothership's—that is, a huge selection of familiar northern Indian dishes and a handful of Nepalese specialties, which emphasize ginger and garlic over the chiles and dairy of the more southerly regions. As far as I know, this is currently the only place offering Nepalese dishes within the city limits. Notable appetizers include the lamb choela, tender chunks of marinated meat with strips of nearly raw ginger, and spicy ground chicken- or vegetable-stuffed momo, which resemble Chinese soup dumplings and are served with a thick, powerfully tasty achaar made from pureed almonds, coriander, sesame, mustard, and cardamom seeds. An efficient way to sample the rest of the Nepalese offerings is by way of two thali samplers, one vegetarian, the other featuring bone-in goat and chicken curries. Both curries give off some admirable radiant heat above the milder vegetables and legumes—excepting the potato, black-eyed pea, and bamboo shoot aloo tama bodi, which eclipses the milder but still flavorful yellow lentil dal, gingery potatoes, cuminy spinach, and cauliflower. The thali come with sweet rice pudding, rice, raita, and a basket of hot roti to deliver it all from plate to puss. From the northern Indian menu, give one of the paneer dishes a try—the cheese is house-made. There's a daily lunch buffet for $10.95. —Mike Sula

Chutney Joe's511 S. State | 312-341-9755

$Indian/Pakistani | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Reservations not accepted

Chutney Joe's has a good backstory—according to its Web site, co-owner Vijay Puniani was thrown in a New Delhi hoosegow in the 70s for refusing to bribe inspectors to keep his restaurant open, prompting his emigration to the States, and eventually the opening of this new fast-food "Indian diner" in the South Loop. But if the concept sounds prosaic—and the posted instructions for eating naan seem unnecessarily hand-holding—Puniani and son should be given credit for not dumbing down the food for potentially timid Loop lunchgoers. The scalable offerings of "slow-cooked" meat and vegetarian dishes (including several vegan options)—all with a relatively impressive level of intensity, complexity, and variety—are available in variable combos with naan and/or rice, accompanied by a half dozen complimentary chutneys. While the lamb rogan josh may not seem tender enough to have been cooked as low and slow as claimed, its curry sauce, thickened with ground almond, is certainly tasty, as is the red bean rajma, which unleashes a sharp, spicy yogurt tang—certainly they're better than they have to be for the captive downtown crowd. —Mike Sula

iCream1537 N. Milwaukee | 773-342-2834

$Ice Cream | Sunday-thursday 1-10 PM, friday-saturday 1 PM-midnight | Reservations not accepted

This much ballyhooed liquid nitrogen ice cream shop opened briefly and flopped colossally back in August, when its machines tried to go all HAL 9000 on the crew. Now Wicker Park's iCream has reopened, and it's certainly a good show—you can gasp to your heart's content when the fog blooms from the bowl. The model enables customers to chose their own liquid base—BGH-free ice cream, yogurt, or soy milk (with low- and no-fat options), then add one of 32 flavors via syringe, then up to three toppings and add-ins, a choice of sweeteners, and finally food coloring as garishly unnatural as you like (purple peach or pink green tea, anyone?). Texturally I've found the ice cream far less creamy and smooth than a typical old-fashioned gelato, and the flavors are very much in the background, despite not being overwhelmingly sweet. The yogurt has the pleasant tang of the real thing, though it shouldn't be paired with every flavor—i.e., chocolate. Surprisingly, the vegan-friendly soy milk seems best suited to the liquid nitrogen treatment, resulting in bright flavors that can stand up to their dense, creamy delivery system. —Mike Sula

Oh Fusion3911 N. Sheridan | 773-880-5340

$$Asian, Japanese | Lunch: Friday-sunday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till 4 | BYO

Oh Fusion, in the former Katachi space across the street from the Sheridan Red Line stop, is a sushi restaurant targeted to revelers who want an alternative to greasy pizza or tacos. Their late-night dinner menu starts at 11 PM and runs till 4 AM, offering soup, an appetizer, and an entree like tempura donburi or yakisoba for a recession-friendly $7; sushi entrees are just a few bucks more. As a prime-time dinner destination, though, there's little to make it stand out from dozens of other neighborhood sushi joints—it's BYOB and reasonably priced, but the supposed "fusion" cuisine emerges in the form of oddball dishes like lackluster bacon-and-garlic-wrapped bread sticks and, anomalously, New England clam chowder and "pizza canapes." The restaurant itself is cozy and intimate, with a chic, minimalist black-and-white decor and tables set with tiny dishes, cups, and chopstick holders that wouldn't seem out of place in a child's dollhouse. Japanese basics like salmon sashimi and yaki gyoza were uninspiring; true fusion dishes like a tuna and avocado roll with a spicy pollack roe mayonnaise were more successful. —Bianca Jarvis

Palette Bistro2834 N. Southport | 773-477-2565

$$$American Contemporary/Regional, Italian| Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Monday | sunday brunch | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

Palette Bistro, in the former Lucca's space, has an ace in the hole once the warm weather comes: large arched glass doors that will open onto sidewalk seating. But I wonder about the fate of a neighborhood restaurant operating at this price point—even when the neighborhood's Lakeview. With most appetizers in the $9-$15 range, soups and salads between $6-$9, and most entrees in the $19-$29 range, this isn't likely to be a regular destination for most. But that's not to say there aren't some worthwhile options. My friend's martini, shaken tableside, was generous, and our server accommodated his request by having the olives stuffed with anchovies. I was completely taken with the antipasto plate, particularly the delicious marinated eggplant and artichokes that accompanied the olives, sopressata, prosciutto, and coppa, all drizzled with balsamic. Chef Salvatore Traina is a native of Italy, and I couldn't resist his Sicilian lasagna. Filled with ground beef, sliced eggs, peas, ricotta, and mozzarella, it's baked with a savory tomato sauce with distinct notes of cinnamon and oregano and rustically served plopped on the plate in a heap. (I wouldn't have minded receiving the garlic bread promised with it.) Braised short ribs were effectively paired with horseradish mashed potatoes and sweet brussels sprouts that managed to win me, no fan of them, over. In all, a perfectly nice meal—for about 100 bucks despite ordering the less-expensive dishes. Brunch begins Sunday, April 5, and on Tuesday, April 7, from 6 to 8 PM there's an opening cocktail reception for the restaurant's photography exhibit by Kieffer. —Kate Schmidt

Zahrat al Madaa'en4503 N. Kedzie | 773-279-7200

$Middle Eastern | Breakfast: Monday-Saturday; Lunch, dinner: seven days | BYO

This small joint several blocks south of the main cluster of Kedzie Avenue's Middle Eastern row hasn't yet drawn enough attention to ensure a proper turnover of fresh grilled meats and mezes. Case in point: the aged shawarma that on several occasions has been sliced and reheated in the skillet (though lack of turnover certainly doesn't excuse undercooked falafel fired up in the idle kitchen). The owner is frequently missing in action, forcing his Latino cook to occasionally punt on orders not yet in his repertoire. That's a shame, since there are a few uncommon offerings, including shakshuka, diced tomato and onions sauteed with eggs; fatah, deep bowls of tahini, chickpeas, and bread mush, sprinkled with parsley, slivered almond, and sumac and accompanied by grilled lamb; and a selection of casseroles and kalayas (like skillets) such as kifta bissineya, minced spiced lamb and beef topped with sliced potato in either tomato or tahini sauce. —Mike Sula

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