At Allium, the menu still clashes between casual comfort food and the traditional hotel fare. Julia Kramer writes that the Wagyu skirt steak is an “unlikely marriage” between a French bistro and Benihana-the beef is “soft as butter, juicy as a peach” and seems to “recreate itself” with each bite. The hot dog is the “most delicious” she's ever eaten, but there are also “restrained, milquetoast” dishes on the menu such as the pappardelle and braised chicken-thigh meat “whose only flavor is rich,” and a “singularly boring, overcooked” fillet of walleye. This trend also applies to dessert except for the miso-butterscotch milkshake that will “stop your heart.” [TOC]
Beverly Kim is doing great things at Aria but the front of house has some catching up to do. Phil Vettel’s favorite starter is a stack of Korean pancakes topped with caramelized kimchi, braised pork belly and a sunnyside-up quail egg—a dish that “should be on every table in the restaurant.” Pieces of barbecued pork and lap cheung sausage make a Singapore noodles dish “sing” and grilled swordfish in miso-mustard sauce is a “hit.” For dessert, a “soothing” chocolate-caramel mousse with tamarind caramel is matched to an “outrageously delicious” smoked-almond ice cream. Vettel’s main complaints come from inattentive servers and a long unexplained wait time, stating that “Kim ought to demand” that Aria operate at a higher level. [Tribune]
Tavernita manages to provide a bar-like fiesta while “maintaining some serious dining credibility,” according to Michael Nagrant. The Brussels sprouts are “swoon-worthy” while the meatballs are “tender golf-ball size orbs” blanketed in “velvety” hazelnut romesco. He also remarks that he’s “never found a croqueta as perfect as the one made with Serrano ham.” Disappointments include the duck confit flatbread and its raw flavor “that channels bad canned tomato paste” and a mound of “gummy, overcooked” housemade pappardelle. As for the kegged cocktails, Nagrant says it would “be an honor” to do a keg stand behind the bar. [CS]
The service is still a little rough and the space is cramped, but the food at Publican Quality Meats makes up for it. Nagrant thinks “Sarge’s Mom’s” meatball sandwich, featuring “luscious” beef orbs in “garlicky, deeply savory” tomato sauce punctuated by “bright bursts” of mint and queso fresco, puts a “Godfather-worthy hit” out on any competitors. The “glistening jewellike” flecks of orange and grapefruit in the citrus salad “burst” with sweet-and-sour acidity, complement a hearty bed of “satisfyingly chewy” farro. A ribolitta makes a “great companion” to the salad with its “hearty restorative” broth. [Sun-Times]
Bar Ombra and RPM are both new Italian openings, but the two couldn’t be any further apart in style. At Bar Ombra, Mike Sula is most impressed by what comes out of the kitchen: triangular crustless tea sandwiches; sweet-and-sour and wine-and-vinegar marinated fried sardines; arancini, whose “brittle golden crust” breaks over “creamy pitch-black” squid ink rice; cold beef tongue in salsa verde; and more. The options are endless but a candle-warmed terra cotta dish of bagna cauda is something he “could eat every night.”
Things are not as great over at RPM. The arancini is “irregularly sized” and “dry stuffing balls” advertised as eggplant polpettine. Rotini is tossed with “rubbery” scungilli and a lemon level “set at scour,” duck agnoltti is “arid” with the meat encased in “hard pasta,” and a “mushy” porcini risotto is cooked to “near porridge consistency.” There are some good things such as a tuna carpaccio bolstered by the “acidic tang” of fermented black garlic and the squid ink pasta, but Sula puts Bar Ombra a grade above RPM. [Reader]
Alinea and Naha have been awarded four and three stars, respectively, in updated reviews from Chicago. The experience at Alinea is “interactive edible performance art” with “one astonishing presentation after another” and Grant Achatz is flying “higher, faster, and farther than ever.” Carrie Nahabedian “continues to astonish” with a “winning combo of experience and enthusiasm” and is a “master at getting the most” out of seasonal ingredients and “catching its mood” at Naha. The custard cake and olive oil ice cream is a “heavenly” finish to a meal. [Chicago]
Eater Chicago intern Jeffy Mai contributed this article.