At City Tavern, the desserts are the highlight of the meal according to Michael Nagrant. The cream pie is a “custard of the gods” swimming in a moat of thick “cat’s meow-inducing” cream, cheesecake is a “cloud-light citadel of velvet” and mousse is a “treasure of tiny chocolate bubbles.” The savory dishes are not as fortunate like the salt-light beef cheeks “slicked with the slime of broken-down connective tissue,” and the fish and shellfish pie with “ice cold” scallops and a lobster sherry sauce that “tastes like paste.” And the “bone dry” shrimp po’ boy in a “pathetic” hot dog bun is an “affront” to Cajun dining. [Sun-Times]
Meanwhile, Mike Sula thinks that City Tavern does a good job at encompassing as many different appetites as possible. The “workmanlike” steak and ale pie is a “tall puck” of “heavy, fat-saturated” pastry filled with “juicy” shredded beef but a shepherd’s pie is a “mess” of ingredients smothered in a “thick blanket” of “overprocessed” mashed potato. An “outstanding” fried chicken maintains its “juicy integrity” while a mushroom-stuffed whole trout is a “testament to the power of simple technique.” The strength of simplicity is also seen in walleye fillets that are “seared, smoky, and crackly,” but a grilled cheese is composed of the “blandest varieties imaginable” and tastes like it “could’ve been pulled from a plastic bag.” [Reader]
Red Door is an impressive neighborhood pub in Bucktown. Phil Vettel nibbles on snacks that “alone justify a visit” such as roasted bone marrow, artichokes stuffed with chicken liver and wrapped in bacon, and poutine that “rises above the cheese-and-fries norm.” A quinoa composition is a “vegetarian option anybody could appreciate” while the “best efforts are the ones in which [Chef Troy] Graves plays with textures,” like when he combines “tender” grilled octopus with “crunchy” cauliflower, manzanilla olives and celery into an “agreeable” seafood-based salad. For desserts, the changing selection of classic sweets include apple-pear crumble, cherry cobbler and bread pudding that are served warm to “piping-hot” with ice cream. [Tribune]
Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ’s concept is a little confusing and the food is hit or miss. Julia Kramer tries the Dragon Egg and finds egg whites that are “partially raw,” while the noodles in the ramen lack “ramen’s alkaline flavor and its particular bite, tasting like nothing so much as spaghetti." The more successful dishes are straightforward American like “juicy” rotisserie chicken and spare ribs that “express substantial smoke flavor.” And the chopped brisket ordered with Chinese steam buns and piled with julienned pickled daikon and carrots “make a compelling case” for the barbecue-meets-Asian concept.
Wood is a fine new addition to Boystown, writes David Tamarkin. Squash blossoms are “light and crispy” ricotta-filled flowers on a “punchy” eggplant puree, a “golden” piece of “juicy” chicken is topped with a panzanella salad, and the pork belly is like a “notably tender pork steak.” Equally impressive are the country ham flatbread, Caesar-like Little Gem salad, and the soft-shell crab “battered so lightly” that Kramer first thinks it’s merely sautéed. In the end, none of the dishes break any new ground but it’s a “steady stream of well-executed, full-flavored neighborhood food.” [TOC]