Highly anticipated La Sirena Clandestina is off to a hot start with John Manion's "straight-forward, honest flavors." Kate Bernot suggests that you'll want to start with cocktails that are "unlike anything else you can sip in the West Loop" and "riff on the South American inspiration." The "fresh" swordfish ceviche is full of "large, rustic chunks" of mild fish that soak up tangy citrus, and a whole branzino is "moist" and "simply seasoned." A chicken empanada evokes memories of chicken pot pie from the Southern Hemisphere while a "sweet-and-starchy" coconut risotto "beautifully toes the line between summer and fall." For dessert, alfajores have a "shortbread quality" that hits Bernot's stomach in a "nostalgic place." [RedEye]
Despite some questionable offerings, Embeya is off to a good start according to David Tamarkin. The "baby dinosaur bones" ribs manage to "hit every texture" and be "glazed with every flavor" while "crisp and punchy" papaya mingles with "earthy" beef jerky in the papaya salad. Mussels are "creamy" and a "satisfying" chicken is "juicy, hearty and easy to like." Desserts like rice pudding with soft bites of mango, and a cone of choux pastry don't fascinate but are "nice" enough, which Tamarkin assures is not a slight.
Julia Kramer writes that Jellyfish is all style and no substance. The shrimp is "chewy" and "off-putting" while a blunt cut of tuna is "watery-tasting." An eel-omelette-tuna roll is "pretty but sorrowful" and "lacks the textural contrasts that make maki so delightful." Even the non-sushi dishes miss the mark—the Signature Sour cocktail "lacks body" and tastes like "soupy egg whites;" a tuna appetizer is "dominated by punishing jalapeno heat;" and for dessert the flan is "dense" and "disastrous." [TOC]
Michael Nagrant thinks the flavors at BellyQ are "assertive" and "delightfully original," and calls the restaurant "fantastic." The double-smoked bacon and kim chi pankcakes are "custardy and piled high with tangy bitter greens, bright pungent pickled cabbage and thick, juicy, smoky lardons" while the almond Caesar salad with "cracklin" fried chickpeas reminds him of a "better version of the drugstore Corn Nut." Olive-oil poached shrimp in a curry sauce cooled by a bed of papaya salad is a "nice mash-up of a Thai Som Tam and a light Mediterranean tapas treat," and the pork ribs come with a "dripping, luscious, pine-scented rosemary hoisin barbecue sauce." Service miscues aside, Nagrant says "the balance is right at BellyQ." [Sun-Times]
Andy's Thai Kitchen makes Thai food accessible to all eaters. Mike Sula dismisses a deep fried papaya salad that has "funnel cake" texture and consistency as a "goofy, gimmicky riff" but the tom sab Issan soup is a sweet-and-sour brew in which the fish works at "balancing the sweetness with a depth of flavor." The raw blue crab salad is a "deeply animalistic way to eat" and the kapi fried rice is a "deconstructed plate" that you're meant to customize. Sula laments that you'll see tables of diners eating pad Thai, but the five-page menu is still full of "sublime delights." [Reader]