Elizabeth is an ambitious restaurant and Mike Sula writes that Iliana Regan's "unmistakably real food" is "worth it." He tries the 12- to 16-course "Deer" menu with a "woodland" theme and says "one of the more outstanding dishes" features "brilliantly colored" roasted red, orange and yellow carrots that'll have you "wonder why carrots almost never taste like this." A truffled potato puree cradling a raw quail egg has "clear connections to the earth" while a czernina, or Polish duck blood soup, is "intensely rich" and will have you appreciating the "fortifying powers it might lend to the heartbroken." Complaints include a deer tenderloin plate that's "undermined" by "dry, dense, bland" ground-venison stuffed cabbage, along with the communal table setting that Sula thinks could keep some diners away. But for everyone else, it's a walk through the woods worth taking. [Reader]
Carriage House is worthy of four stars according to Julia Kramer. The low-country boil consists of "rustic, spicy" rabbit chaurice sausage, "clean-flavored" clams and "sweet, fulsome shrimp," which "burst with the juices of Old Bay broth." Dishes like rich oysters contrasted with "bright" buttermilk vinaigrette show a "delicate balance between tradition and reinvention," while the only big "boner" is the buttermilk-marinated rib eye that comes out "grayish in color" with tomatoes and grilled chicory "that do nothing for it." As for the "first-rate" drinks, the Singapore sling is "perfection" and a "giant apology" for every bad version of the tiki classic found around town.
David Tamarkin praises Tesori, calling it a "valiant effort with a successful payoff." Grilled octopus is "so crispy on the outside and tender within" that it tastes like it's been deep fried, while braised veal cheeks "fall apart by merely breathing on them." Scallops can be "cut with a spoon like flan," but a plate of duck is "so unctuous it's hard to finish." Unfortunately, desserts "suffer from overkill" such as the deconstructed apple tiramisu that has too much mascarpone mousse and not enough apples to compensate. [TOC]
Bavette's Bar & Boeuf is another hit from Brendon Sodikoff. Phil Vettel thinks the 24-ounce dry aged rib eye is the "real deal, a seriously good cut of meat" even though at times the steaks "seem to be the last thing on the restaurant's mind." There are "excellent" terrines such as a "luscious" peppered-duck and goat cheese terrine with housemade apricot mostarda, as well as a "terrific" beef stroganoff with "perfect" texture. Vettel is also surprised by the "unexpectedly good" fried chicken that's "remarkably crunchy on the outside and delicious inside." Desserts "aren't spectacular, but they're very solid" with options including a "note-perfect" Chicago-style cheesecake. [Tribune]
Although it's just a tad below the city's elite because it "hasn't quite pursued its own voice entirely," Sixteen is still "one of Chicago's very best restaurants," according to Michael Nagrant. The lemon-pepper Parmesan popcorn is "fun and tasty" while tiny fillets of flour-dusted smelt are a "nice upscale nod to a Wisconsin fish fry." A "rich and comforting" melting turbot has a "pumpkin perfume" that's an "original invocation of a Midwestern autumn" and halibut in a green curry is "light and wafts a beautiful scent of coriander and lemongrass." For dessert, Patrick Fahy's ripe mission fig in a thyme and honey-flavored toasted almond cream is "brilliant." [CS]