Fat Rice is a deeply personal and satisfying experience according to Julia Kramer. The restaurant's eponymous dish is a "spectacle to behold" that's "immensely pleasurable to eat." It's a conglomerate of clams, "plump" prawns, a tea egg that is "fragrant and saturated with seasoning" and hunks of pork on top of rice "packed with nuggets of Chinese sausage and pickled raisins that burst with sweet, tangy juices." The "pleasing" soups include "silky" tofu complementing "creamy" pumpkin and "lush" winter melon played against "funky" Chinese sausage while the Balichang & Catfish is a "pot of unsung riches: steamed fish, smooth tofu, meaty eggplant and pork belly with the sour twang of balichao." Capping the meal off is the serradura, a Portuguese trifle-like dessert that Kramer thinks is the "most socially acceptable way to eat an entire bowl of whipped cream."
David Tamarkin thinks Bar Pastoral is better suited as a cheese bar-type establishment than a restaurant. He praises the pork rillettes topped with a sweet-potato puree and crème fraiche and chives as the "city's best" and "nothing short of a miracle." The bread is "very good, crusty and soft in all the right places" while "impressive" housemade English muffins are spread with soft quark cheese, orange marmalade and bacon. Unfortunately the entrees don't hold up—a big plate of ham is "aggressively salty," disappointing roasted cauliflower is drenched in a "lifeless" Monray and a bowl of trout chowder is "boring." But if you stick with the small plates, Tamarkin thinks you've got a winner. [TOC]
Michael Nagrant also enjoys Fat Rice for its "fearless pursuit of rustic presentations and authentic ingredients." The hot fermented cabbage appetizer has "fizzy flavor and a snappy crisp texture" while shrimp and pork-stuffed pot stickers are "delicate" and "moist" with a black vinegar dipping sauce that's a "nice tangy foil." African Chicken is "flavored with a nice smoke" and "succulent" on one visit but "dry and dusty" on another, and the clay cauliflower is a "vegetarian dream stew" with its sweet-spiced curry filled with pumpkin, long beans and okra served with coconut rice." For dessert, a rice crisp encrusted with dried seaweed, sesame, pork jerky bits and cashews is a "satisfying sweet and salty mix." [Sun-Times]
Saddle Room in Hoffman Estates provides suburbanites with a solid lunch spot. Laura Bianchi writes that the tuna BLT "shows off the kitchen's knack for balanced busyness" with the tuna offsetting the smoky bacon and the jalapenos and Dijon vinaigrette holding the creamy basil aioli "in check." The turkey burger is also a "success," its "big, juicy" patty is "so well-seasoned you could forgo the chipotle mayo and pickled red onion." A "refreshing" pear salad is poached in Champagne and Riesling and paired with blue cheese and candied walnuts, while the margarita flatbread with pesto is "so fragrant you can almost taste it before the first bite." [Crain's]