The food shines through all the glitz and glamour at Tavernita, writes Phil Vettel. He starts with an artichoke salad that is “so intense you’ll swear there’s meat in there,” and the coca with orange-arugula salad and shredded duck is “one you ought to try.” Crispy cod in a habanero chimichurri sauce delivers a “gentle bit of heat to the back of your throat” while pork confit is “highlighted” by a sweet and tart sherry vinegar and caramel sauce. Desserts are “simple and sweet,” with the best being the fried milk pudding. Vettel is also "not completely sold" on the kegged cocktails, preferring the hand-mixed ones more. [Tribune]
Mike Sula says the execution misses the mark at Urban Union. The head-on shrimp were “hard to take in” and the flesh of the body was beyond “jellylike.” Ribs “required the jaws of a lion” to tear away the meat from the bone and the half quail is so rubbery it “could have bounced off the plate if given a dribble.” The pastas also suffer, a trio of dry oxtail-stuffed ravioli are “stiff and undercooked.” It’s not all bad though as there are a few winning dishes: a spring breaded schnitzel and a small bowl of cioppino spiked with enough fennel to “ignite your breath.” Desserts also excite such as a pair of pistachio cakes with toasted meringue and candied lemons that seemed “a short evolutionary step from Italian torrone.” [Reader]
The Viet-French cuisine is a “little schizophrenic” and a “very distinct line of confusion” at Pasteur. Michael Nagrant says the “fishy-smelling” sautéed scallops feature “mushy tasteless apples,” the seared duck breast is a “chewy, desiccated mess,” and the bread pudding is “too dense and has almost no custard.” Meanwhile, the Vietnamese dishes hold their own as the Pho Bo features a “silky deep” broth with the “highest quality” slices of beef Nagrant’s ever had in a local bowl of Pho. The papaya salad is easily the second best he’s tried behind Next’s, and the Bo Xao Lan “wafts mesmerizing waves” of kaffir lime. For dessert, the deep-fried bananas with green tea ice cream are “much better” than their American banana split counterparts. Ultimately, Nagrant suggests the owners "send Aubriot and the whole incongruous, middling, French bistro fare packing." Ouch. [Sun-Times]
It’s strange times at Charlie Trotter’s as the restaurant takes its victory lap. However, Jeff Ruby notes that the food is still top notch. The miso-informed tortellini and Broken Arrow Ranch venison loin represent the “brand of ballsy but nuanced creations that made Trotter a legend.” Few kitchens could pull off the “brilliant” salt-baked potato with “even half this style,” and a ricotta cheesecake with nicoise-olive-studded tuile and vinegary persimmons comes across as a “glorious salad without the lettuce.” But Ruby says the biggest difference now is the “loose and loud” atmosphere that permeates instead of the diners of past eating in hushed silence.
Pelago Ristorante is “stuffy, self-important, and overpriced” but nonetheless serves “adept and occasionally transcendent food.” Veal-filled ravioli “travel in a higher plane” and the “homemade love” shows in the texture and “earthy” hum of the pastas. A special fettuccine “demonstrates the value of top-shelf ingredients,” but the “suffocating” waitstaff “never leave.” [Chicago]
Eater Chicago intern Jeffy Mai contributed this article.