465 E. Illinois
If you can get past the aggressive hipness of the new hot spot DeLaCosta, with its icky-sweet signature "poptails" (fruity cocktails garnished with boozy popsicles), loungey see-and-be-seen "solarium," and curtained cabanas for private dining, you'll find a very good restaurant. For his first Chicago venture, celebrated chef and James Beard award winner Douglas Rodriguez combines Spanish, South American, Caribbean, and occasionally Asian flavors that inject new life into the nuevo Latino trend. For me, the most intriguing dish was an appetizer of rum-cured marlin tacos, which somehow tricked my taste buds into sensing cocoa flavors, an unusual but not unwelcome sensation. A half-dozen different types of seviche, a house specialty, feature sashimilike pieces of superfresh fish lolling among such exotic ingredients as Thai chile, Kaffir, and galangal leche. While you could happily make a meal from various tapas and appetizers, we couldn't resist the bone-in rib eye, which proved that under chef de cuisine Adam Schop the kitchen handles meat as deftly as seafood. --Heather Kenny
3332 N. Broadway
Adesso is a return to his Italian roots for owner Franco Gianni, who's also behind Tank Sushi and Sushi Wabi. The southern Italian cooking in this 32-seat space is meant to be unfussy and accessible, in an atmosphere of festive neighborliness (no kidding--parties are seated together at communal tables). Simple ingredients stood out in a bruschetta of thick rustic bread, ricotta, and slightly roasted tomatoes topped with honey--the ricotta was the type of fresh that makes you wonder if you've ever truly tasted a food before. Other starters include the requisite calamari fritti, an antipasto plate, and a generous bowl of meaty mussels in a white wine and herb broth with nicely browned toast, Sicilian style. Zuppe di cipolle e sidro, onion-and-cider soup with a provolone crust, was salty-sweet without being too much of either. But the knockout dish was carbonata di costine di manzo, slow-braised beef short ribs over shallot-studded polenta in a deep, dark pool of the beef's cooking broth--we passed the plate back and forth till it shone clean. Adesso is currently BYO, and as it's across the street from a church, it's likely to remain so. --Tasneem Paghdiwala
Broadway Cellars, the Napa-style restaurant opened in the former South space, specializes in wine, which is a good thing considering how flat and flavorless the food was on a recent visit. The menu looks tempting enough--coffee-roasted pork loin, duck lasagna--but on the night I went, the ahi tuna and grilled beef tenderloin were cooked to within micromillimeters of their lives. Their accompaniments, a lovely risotto and herbed mashed potatoes, were better but by then disappointment had already set in. And it had all started so well, with a nicely selected wine flight of Argentinean reds for $10; you can also mix and match your own flight from an extensive and reasonably priced list. Service and decor were well above par, and clearly the owners are eager to please. With a few more months under its belt and a lighter touch at the grill, Broadway Cellars could become a destination in a neighborhood not rich with culinary options. --Chip Dudley
OTHER RECENT OPENINGS
Fiddlehead Cafe, 4600 N. Lincoln, 773-751-1500
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Bob Warner.