Prix Fixe | Restaurant Review | Chicago Reader

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

1 comment

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

The Dining Room at Kendall College

900 N. North Branch | 312-752-2328

$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, GLOBAL/FUSION/ECLECTIC | LUNCH: MONDAY-FRIDAY; DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY | BYO

With a prix fixe option ($29 for a three-course dinner Tuesday through Thursday, $18 for lunch Monday through Friday) and a BYO policy a corkage fee of $5 at lunch, $10 at dinner, the Dining Room at Kendall College is one of the best fine-dining deals in town. A teaching restaurant for advanced students in the school's culinary and hospitality programs, the Dining Room offers a changing seasonal menu evenly between "surf" and "turf" preparations, with a few veggie options thrown in. Monday nights are given over to the Kendall College Dining Series, a five-course dinner for $38 by reservation only. The next one, due up Monday, May 10, will focus on northern Italian cuisine. —Martha Bayne

Duchamp

2118 N. Damen | 773-235-6434

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | closed monday | SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

"Aesthetic delectation is the danger to be avoided," declared Marcel Duchamp. So he'd have to scoff at Michael Taus, whose chummy Bucktown spot Duchamp is aesthetically delectable in a couple ways. Unlike the chef's pricier Zealous, main courses here run between $12 and $21, and for that kind of money they're a lot more satisfying than might be expected. We approached a crispy fried skate wing "fish-and-chips" with tartar sauce with some unease, but the dense pieces of fish held up well to the oil under the bread-crumb batter (though the garlic spuds on the side didn't). Small plates were a little more expensive, relatively speaking, but mostly gratifying: a white pizza with sweet lobster offset by some beefy trumpet mushrooms; an off-menu tempura rock shrimp toast afloat in a thick, rich lobster bisque; smoked salmon tartare blinis like little turbans ornamented with dollops of creme fraiche; duck rillettes set atop swabs of cauliflower puree. This is a comfortable, enjoyable spot the neighborhood's lucky to have. On Tuesdays a three-course prix fixe dinner with choices is $25. —Mike Sula

Erwin

2925 N. Halsted | 773-528-7200

$$$

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

Mark Bittman, the New York Times's minimalist, would approve of Erwin, the namesake restaurant of chef Erwin Drechsler. The emphasis is on seasonal food prepared simply, to bring out the freshness of the ingredients. Appealing appetizers include an onion tart with Danish blue cheese and walnuts and a spicy crab cake with carrot-daikon salad. Roasted beets paired nicely with a thin crisp of ricotta salata and a red onion marmalade; toasted almonds add texture. Entrees that make the most of that wood grill (you can smell the smoke from down the street) include flank steak, a pork chop with green tomato jam, and a hamburger, served with a heap of fries and house-made pickles and worth every bit of its $13 price. Desserts keep up the homey simplicity—for example a fruit crisp with pears and dried cranberries served with French vanilla ice cream. A three-course prix fixe with a choice of soup or salad, an entree, and dessert is $18. —Kate Schmidt

Eve

840 N. Wabash | 312-266-3383

$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | LUNCH: tuesDAY-friday; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | saturday & sunday brunch | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

With Eve chef Troy Graves is bringing some relief to the Viagra Triangle. The food reflects the chef's predilections for serious meat as well as his generosity in portioning. In some cases that's overgenerous—a grilled lobster sausage sprawled across the plate atop cold chanterelles and hot bacon dice, garnished with a large branch of thyme someone forgot to string with Christmas lights. For all Graves's intriguing combinations he has a tendency to sabotage himself: some attractive-sounding sheep's milk ricotta dumplings turned out to be dense, dry concussion grenades mining an otherwise enjoyable lamb ragout with Swiss chard. Still, there's enough to like here to consider Eve a relatively progressive provocation to the neighborhood's Axis of Mediocrity. A three-course meal with choices is $29 on Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 7 PM. —Mike Sula

Quince

1625 Hinman, Evanston | 847-570-8400

$$$$

AMERICAN, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY

Executive chef Andy Motto lives up to his impressive pedigree (Le Français, Les Nomades, the French Laundry, Tru, Charlie Trotter's, Le Lan, Old Town Brasserie). Dishes like a starter of liquid cauliflower encased in squid-ink ravioli and topped with apple compote and a tiny squib of smoked salmon combine what might seem like ill-compatible elements in a way that's completely transporting and refreshingly gimmick-free. (Your implement for this? A spoon.) Motto's interest in southeast Asian flavors is showcased in offerings like crispy pork rolls in a serrano vinaigrette dotted with thinly sliced chiles and French breakfast radishes. A halibut fillet served over barley in a heavenly coconut-lemongrass broth and topped with crunchy shallots was mind-blowing, one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life. Little touches—like the scallion-walnut rolls included in the bread service, or the finger-size chard-and-Parmesan-stuffed cannelloni served with a combo of sliced duck breast and duck thigh confit—make a big impact, as did a stellar dessert wine, Australia's Noble One. Complimentary thimble-size red velvet cupcakes finished the meal. On Sundays a three-course prix fixe is $35. —Kate Schmidt

Sabor Saveur

2013 W. Division | 773-235-7310

$$$

FRENCH, MEXICAN, GLOBAL/FUSION/ECLECTIC | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11 | BYO

This Ukie Village restaurant is going for the kind of Mexican-French fusion you may have enjoyed at Mexique. Delicate lettuce cream soup is much tastier than you'd think such a thing could be. Bocoles are small, crisp masa-black bean cakes used as pedestals to present delicious combinations like chorizo and shrimp in a saffron beurre blanc, and the fruit "tamale" is a creative blend of ground beef and pork with watermelon and purslane, all enfolded in phyllo. Sea bass, marinated and drizzled with an achiote-based sauce, is highlighted with xoconotzle, or cactus flower fruit, a complementary flavor and visual accent. Desserts, like a cream-cheese Napoleon of crisped flour tortillas and cinnamon with chicharron sauce, continue the cultural fusion. Chef Yanitzin Sanchez avoids the overwhelming richness sometimes found in both French and Mexican traditions but preserves flavor. A three-course prix fixe is $35 between 5 and 7 PM. —David Hammond

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

 

Add a comment