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Vettel Gives Ria Four Stars; Arun's Disappoints Shouse; Sula Enjoys Lure Izakaya Pub

Phil Vettel calls executive chef Danny Grant a “taste master” and gives Ria a coveted four stars, making it only the eleventh extant restaurant to receive such an honor from Vettel. He believes Grant “creates dishes that are marvelously complex but not overwhelming,” reminding us of the “joys of nuance.” The “gorgeous rabbit terrine is worthy of a magazine cover," with "forcemeat and pave separated by an elegant mosaic ribbon of carrot, potato and turnip.” In fact, being “such a labor-intensive dish,” Vettel felt “mildly guilty for the speed in which I devoured it.” He finds pastry chef Stephanie Prida’s desserts to be “mercifully light on the palate” and sommelier Dan Pilkey's wine selections “absolutely fearless” with flavor matches that are "unerring, and explained in vivid detail." Service is an “exquisite, unflappable, serene experience that one scarcely notices any work is taking place at all.” [Tribune]

Heather Shouse thinks highly acclaimed Arun’s has lost its magic. She believes the original intent of owner Arun Sampanthavivat was to provide "classic Thai cooking" rather than the “haute, progressive or elevated” food as "the media and public insisted." Today we compare Arun’s to either “ other upscale experiences" or "those found at the brigade of solid storefronts throughout Chicago." In both cases, Arun’s, "unfortunately, does not emerge the victor.” Shouse thinks the food is a “poorly executed” version of “Thai-in-America greatest hits” with “flavors that fall flat, and proteins overcooked.” “The once-famed golden baskets” are gone as are the praised lobster medallions and veal in ginger-lemongrass sauce. Overall Shouse has “no doubt that at one time Arun’s was deserving of the honor, but each night that its kitchen continues on autopilot will further dismantle that reputation, eventually into obscurity.” [TOC]

Mike Sula enjoys the small bites at Lure Izakaya Pub in Chinatown, but he would like to see a better drink selection to accompany the snacks. Although it is “loud” and “laid out with all the abstract geometric animation of an early 80s arcade game,” the food is “so compelling you might find you've eaten and spent a lot more than you expected.” Favorites include the “luxuriously fat little frenched lamb chops” and "fresh, fat black mussels bathing in a terrifically full-bodied miso-butter-coconut broth.” Sula recommends skipping the “overstuffed tuna and bone marrow spring roll” and the “overwhipped deep-fried potato croquettes.” He thinks Lure Izakaya Pub is the “most enjoyable” among the recent “izakaya-ish restaurants.” “Add some shochu and whiskeys from the nearby Chinatown Place Liquor City and it's a party." [Reader]

Ria

11 East Walton Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611

Arun's

4156 N Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, IL 773 539 1909

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