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Critics Enjoy La Sirena Clandestina; Baume & Brix Disappoints; More

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La Sirena Clandestina
La Sirena Clandestina
Photo: Brian Willette

La Sirena Clandestina is a hot gem that's the worst-kept secret in town according to Phil Vettel. The "mean" baked empanda with its spicy ground pork, venison ragu and ricotta-hazelnut-butternut squash is enjoyable as is the "first-rate" swordfish ceviche. "Fun" acarajes are "more of a textural experience than a flavor trip," while the moqueca is "soulful" and a whole-fried snapper combines a "satisfying crunch with beautiful, slightly sweet flesh." Also impressive is a $20 lobster-tail option drizzled with miso-malagueta butter. For dessert, a "very pretty" coconut cheesecake is layered with chocolate-graham-cracker crust and dotted with guava sauce. [Tribune]

David Tamarkin also gives his two cents and thinks La Sirena Clandestina has some hits and some misses but is off to a promising start. The moqueca is a "fabulous thing" filled with a filet of sea bass, "creamy" mussels and sweet, meaty head-on shrimp that are all "cooked perfectly." Other winners include a "lively" salad that balances the "succulence" of octopus with the acidity of peppers, olives and tomatoes; and the swordfish ceviche. Not as good was a skirt steak "so charred it was rendered too bitter to eat" and the acaraje with a vatapa that "overpowered the plate." Overall though, Tamarkin's main complaint stems from dishes that live between fine and good, like chicken thighs that "lean good" with crispy skin and juicy meat but "lack [a] punch" from the other elements on the plate. [TOC]

Baume & Brix tries its hand at molecular gastronomy but fails at "showcasing the skills and techniques of its very able chefs." Olive-oil-slicked octopus tentacles are supposed to be rubbed in "fun dip" powders that are anything but fun and instead tedious. Similarly distressing is a beef short rib that's a "tough, stringy brick" and a trench of "bony, bland" pig tail nuggets topped with Greek yogurt. But the most unappetizing dish is a mushroom veloute that Mike Sula describes as the "unloveliest dish [he's] come across in a long time: imagine yourself spooning slush out of a pothole." Even the sweets go astray—in a dessert meant to mimic French fries dipped in milk shakes, the "star element" is a plank of banana shellacked in caramel. [Reader]

Michael Nagrant writes that gluten-free Senza finds creative ways to keep things tasty. The bakers are "alchemists" who create a "bread of magnificent crackling crust with a soft, almost gooey crumb." A "glorious" parsnip and apple soup would be "at home in any of the best gourmet tasting menus in Chicago" as would a seared lobe of molten foie gras. The 'everything gnocchi' "kicks the pants off most of the leaden versions served at Italian joints" while the tagliatelle is a "pasta of the gods." Desserts are less successful with a "second-rate" semifreddo and a grape sorbet that's "oddly chewy." [Sun-Times]

Senza

2873 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657 773 770 3527 Visit Website

La Sirena Clandestina

954 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 226-5300 Visit Website

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