Prix Fixe | Restaurant Review | Chicago Reader
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Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge

1324 N. Milwaukee | 773-292-0585

$$$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES, GLOBAL/FUSION/ECLECTIC | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

Between opened in 2007 offering creative Indian fusion small plates by Radhika Desai, who went on to make a splash on Top Chef. Since last year, though, the restaurant's been focusing on a different but equally creative fusion: Peruvian-Asian dishes dreamed up by chef Jose Victorio. On one visit tilapia ceviche got a traditional Peruvian preparation: the fish, lightly "cooked" in a citrusy marinade, was topped with kernels of Andean corn and served alongside slices of sweet potato. The Asian influence comes out more strongly in plates like an ahi tuna flatbread with mango, scallion, chopped tomato, and wasabi aioli or the "mantou burgers," two spicy minipatties on Chinese steamed buns, served with fries and adobo. The sleeper on our visit was a twist on the coastal Peruvian dish causa: lime-infused mashed potato balls topped with smoked salmon, avocado confit, onion, tomato, and a sprig of Chinese parsley and served with jalapeño aioli—kind of like a bagel with lox with an ethereal potato dumpling in place of the bagel. On Tuesdays a four-course menu is $25 and bottles of wine are half off. —Kate Schmidt

Blue 13

416 W. Ontario | 312-787-1400

$$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | closed monday | OPEN LATE: thursday-saturday till 2, TUESDAY-wednesDAY TILL MIDNIGHT

Tattoos! On the wall! Oh my stars! But even if badass fine dining already seems so last year, I wouldn't write off this little spot. In the earlier dinner hours the vibe is dialed down, putting the focus on the food, and the kitchen's ratio of hits to misses is not discouraging, starting on my last visit with "fish and chips," a glass of ahi tuna tartare, taro chips, and wasabi foam—finally there's a way to enjoy foam. I have to reserve highest praise for chef Chris Curren's signature "steak and eggs on acid"—beef tenderloin layered over pierogi and topped with a quail egg. A smear of wasabi between the steak and dumplings was a simple but inspired riff on horseradish that took this far beyond the realm of mere meat and potatoes. On Sunday evenings a meal served family-style is $20. —Mike Sula

Browntrout

4111 N. Lincoln | 773-472-4111

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SUNDAY-MONDAY, WEDNESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED TUESDAY | sunday brunch

The most unfortunate name, Browntrout (see urbandictionary.com), in fact commemorates a simply prepared rod-and-reel-caught fish that sustained chef Sean Sanders and his wife while they honeymooned in remote New Zealand. Sanders, a Bin 36 vet, doesn't have that particular species on his menu, but his signature golden trout is done "New Zealand style," a crispy crushed-walnut armor protecting the luscious fillet, pan-seared in brown butter and served with fresh peas and mint. It's an incredibly satisfying piece of fish, and emblematic of nearly everything I've sampled on Sanders's simple and easily navigable menu, which you can expect to change with some frequency. A seemingly bottomless ramekin of light and fluffy brandade studded with sweet corn could have used a bit of salt, but for $5 it's hard to complain. Simple salads, like one of superfresh pea shoots and pea leaves gilded with an outstanding house-made ricotta, were as refreshing as morels and ramps with French breakfast cheese and potato gaufrettes were rich and intense. We're at a point in time where these notions, like claims about the locality and seasonality of one's menu, are so common among new restaurants that a place like Browntrout runs the risk of getting lost in the stream. But it would be a shame to let that happen. On Wednesday your choice of a "small plate," a "big plate," and dessert is $35. —Mike Sula

C-House

166 E. Superior | 312-523-0923

$$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, SEAFOOD | BREAKFAST: monday-friday; LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | saturday & sunday brunch

Changes at C-House, Marcus Samuelsson's Chicago outpost in the Affinia Hotel, have been subtle but significant since executive chef Nicole Pederson (a former sous chef at Lula Cafe) took over the open kitchen last fall. The chef's selection of three, five, or seven C-Bar tastes has been trimmed to a taste of three, but we liked them all: lively pickled herring topped with tomato-cabbage relish, buttery-mild ribbons of cured steelhead salmon with fingerling potatoes, and the signature mini tacos, crispy shells filled with yellowtail ceviche and avocado. Another winner was octopus terrine complemented by refreshing fennel-satsuma salad and slightly smoky bacon aioli. Whole grilled trout, deboned and moistened by brown butter, came smothered in lardons, wilted Bordeaux spinach, chopped almonds, and both roasted pear slices and julienne raw pear. It vied for favorite entree with the hearty persimmon-glazed Gunthorp Farms pork chop with cubes of brown bread, roasted shallots, and baby spinach. Toni Roberts remains the pastry chef, and her meltingly good Meyer lemon pudding cake was brilliantly set off by segments of blood orange and a blood orange granita. On Wednesday a three-course prix fixe in honor of Top Chef Masters is $39. —Anne Spiselman

Cafe Matou

1846 N. Milwaukee | 773-384-8911

$$$

FRENCH | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11 | CLOSED MONDAY

This Bucktown storefront has its little airs—witness the untranslated French preamble on the cover of the wine list. But it also has its comforts: woody decor, pressed-tile ceilings, and chairs right out of your grandfather's office. Chef Charlie Socher terms his food "cuisine bourgeoisie"—which is to say French, but for the most part without the usual accompanying presumption. The house salad is served simply with a light oil, the liver paté is buttery smooth, and a seafood bourride sings with tarragon. Still, bourgeois or no, it's all about the sauces, and on this evening (the menu changes daily) rich duck came with a classic pinot noir-green peppercorn number handily sopped up with a Jerusalem artichoke puree. For the month of May the restaurant is offering a $35 Beajoulais prix fixe menu with choices on Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday, and every fourth Wednesday is a "cellar raid" with select bottles of wine for $17. —Ted Cox

Deleece

4004 N. Southport | 773-325-1710

$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAl | LUNCH: TUESDAY-FRIDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

Under chef Brandon Canfield, Deleece is family friendly, the kind of neighborhood place where you can take your children and they will miraculously behave. Thankfully, that doesn't condemn you to chicken fingers (though they are on the children's menu). Instead there's sophisticated comfort food—for instance, crab cakes with an almond crust and avocado yogurt. Some old favorites never grow old, like a succulent pan-roasted salmon fillet served with Chinese sticky black rice, spinach, and leeks in a pear-ginger sauce. There's a three-course prix fixe dinner for $20 every Monday and Tuesday that gives Canfield a chance to mix things up a bit. —Mara Tapp

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