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Avec Still Impressive; Mexique's Michelin Award is Questionable; More

Photo: Barry Brecheisen

Nearly a decade later, avec is still doing great things under new chef Erling Wu-Bower. David Tamarkin sits down and tries some of the new dishes on the menu like the n'duja, a spreadable Calabrian sausage presented as a crostini that "reveals itself in stages: the sugar of the parsnip mostarda, then the vinegar of the mostarda and, finally, the fire of the sausage." He writes "the way the flavors revealed themselves commanded respect" but expresses concern that some plates are "if not exactly complicated, fussed over." Still, the flavors are "pure, revelatory avec" with a smoked trout salad being the "best Caesar" Tamarkin's had this year and a bowl of muscular squid-ink pasta tossed with roasted octopus eaten "compulsively, helplessly." Desserts are "middling things" but the dates stuffed with marscapone and soaked in espresso are "sweet, and cool, chewy and creamy, and the coffee grounds sprinkled on top deepen the flavors." In the end, avec does what it does best: "Take simple ingredients and combine them into something much more." [TOC]

Michael Nagrant thinks Mexique's acquisition of a Michelin star is a "touch larcenous" and that the restaurant is "more of a solid neighborhood spot." A trio of sopes is a "seamless merging" of French technique and Mexican ingredients and hibiscus is used well as a "haunting essence" in a "rich, soulful" braise of pork belly on red cabbage with a trio of "creamy, well-caramelized" scallops. Not as good is the pescamal, whose delicateness is "almost undermined by a sauce of sour, acidic tomato," and a duck leg confit "riddled with too much cranberry and tamarind sourness." Dessert is "disappointing" with a duo of "soggy" enchiladas "tasting as if they'd been prepared hours earlier," and even the drinks have issues as a glass of sangria "tastes nothing of wine, only of cloying hibiscus flower." [Sun-Times]

Phil Vettel gives Elizabeth three stars and likens it to an adventure through Wonderland. The three different fixed menus offer "moments of rapture and occasionally of indifference. But nothing is ever less interesting." Highlights include a "trough of tastes," a wooden olive dish containing a buttermilk biscuit, a smear of bacon fat, a spoon holding apple mostarda and a pink beet marshmallow; a "knockout" duck trio of rolled-up smoked breast, confit leg and a custardy slow-cooked duck egg, over Polish kluski noodles and czernina; and a "gorgeous" poached oyster in a potato-nasturtium vichyssoise, presented in a ceramic ginkgo leaf. Desserts are "short and sweet farewells" such as bacon ice cream and whiskey butterscotch in pepper-tuile cones and black-walnut shortbread cookies with vanilla molasses and goat-milk caramel. [Tribune]

Badou Senegalese Cuisine in Rogers Park is cooking up some authentic West African dishes, writes Mike Sula. A plate of "Badou's Senegalese Soul Food" is full of "bright and snappy" greens and jollof rice saturated by a "brilliant burst" of lime, lemon, and habanero that's tempered by smoked turkey, and a "blazing" hot diby yaap has "supertender" chunks of lamb seasoned in a vinegary onion sauce. The thiebou djen, a national dish of Senegal, is a whole fish with a chile-tamarind-based sauce deep-fried and served with rice while a "hearty, thick" mafe is a peanut butter-based stew with fat chunks of chicken and yam. Topping things off are boulettes, "golf-ball-size" chicken-stuffed pastries. [Reader]

Mexique Restaurant

1529 W Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642 312 850 0288 Visit Website


615 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60661 (312) 377-2002 Visit Website

Elizabeth Restaurant

4835 North Western Avenue, , IL 60625 Visit Website