Phil Vettel lands a coveted table at Next for the elBulli menu and gives it four stars. The 29 courses are a “culinary retrospective” re-creating the dishes of Ferran Adria's now-closed restaurant. Single roses hang over the tables producing a “Valentine’s-Day-at-Hogwarts effect,” while the courses dazzle and delight. A “burst of concentrated tarragon” makes the flash-frozen caipirinha opener “vividly memorable,” and a “remarkable” cauliflower couscous dish comes with a “sauce” of solidified aromatics and directions for mixing. Even a spice plate arrives in “quiz form,” inviting guests to identify from a list of possibilities. “Incredibly light, astoundingly intense” carrot air is served in glassware procured from elBulli and the desserts don’t disappoint either. “Doughnuts” that are molded freeze-dried coconut rounds dipped in bitter dark chocolate are a “burst-in-your-mouth” experience. [Tribune]
Tavernita knows how to party, writes Julia Kramer. The place is loud, packed and works under chef Ryan Poli. Potato-ham croquettes are creamy and light, and “surprisingly tender” housemade lamb sausage is paired with an “awesome re-interpretation” of giardiniera as “spicy, spunky, pickled whole vegetables.” The rock shrimp set on top of a poblano pepper “couldn’t be sweet or more delicate,” but the tuna crudo is “bracingly acidic.” Over at Barcito, the Booty Collins drink is “effervescent and refreshingly subtle” and the food is “as good as it could get as far as bar food is concerned.” [TOC]
Goosefoot comes oh-so-close to earning four stars from Michael Nagrant. For starters, the cheese is the “best composed cheese course” he’s had since Sprout’s. The dehydrated truffle powder served on seared Angus beef rehydrates in “tiny explosions, like a bunch of Dippin’ Dot ice cream pellets invading your mouth.” However, the spherified carrots garnish on the beef is a “touch too rubbery and relatively flavorless.” One of Nagrant’s favorites is the “velvety” chestnut soup, its “mingle of smoky chestnut and earthy truffle is a swoon-worthy perfume.” And to end, an “enlightening” tiny crisp chocolate hazelnut truffle served with heady mulled wine sauce is “original and fun.” [Sun-Times]
Mike Sula takes a close look at Sheeba, one of the few Yemeni restaurants in the city. It’s the only place that serves the national dish of the southernmost country on the Arabian peninsula— salta or fahsa, a tomato-based vegetable stew. The bowls are topped with hulba, an “ethereal fenugreek froth” that contribute “flavor and texture” by merging the broth and giving it a “buoyancy.” Adding in a dollop of zhug, a salsalike tomato condiment, tastes like a “tomato wave breaking over your tongue.” Other Yemeni dishes include a whole butterflied bass or tilapia rubbed in seven-spice mix, lowered in the tanoor in a basket and “blasted” for 15 minutes; and mushakal, a “spicy stew of potato, celery, zucchini, and okra” that simmers from open to close. [Reader]
Jeff Ruby reviews Goosefoot and Les Nomades and has two very distinct experiences. At Goosefoot, the crisp roasted quail is an “exquisite L2O-ish tableau that has been composed to within an inch of its life.” The “miraculous” chestnut soup and “impeccable” Angus beef manage to feel light while “oozing decadent flavor.” A “masterpiece” square of chocolate mousse on a crispy hazelnut and praline feuilletine base is the “best dessert of the year.”
In contrast the ambience at Les Nomades is a much more formal affair, which Ruby remarks is a dying trend because “ninety-nine percent of the world no longer bothers with such formalities.” The “perfect” risotto is topped with foie gras and black truffle shavings and the pairing of slow-roasted veal and lamb chop pushes diners “over the edge of ecstasy” and back into the year 2000. Unfortunately, sauces periodically “fall on the wrong side of the line between opulent and oppressive,” such as the coconut milk curry that “overwhelms” a delicate loup de mer and lobster ragout. In the end, Les Nomades is an enjoyable experience but Ruby would suggest Goosefoot for “anyone who’s hungry and has $90 to spare.” [Chicago]
Eater Chicago intern Jeffy Mai contributed this article.