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City Winery is Unimpressive; Trencherman in a New Class

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City Winery
City Winery
Photos: Jason Little

City Winery aims big but it's off to an unimpressive start according to the RedEye crew. Dishes feel "ripped from a Naperville wine bar menu circa 2005" like the "underfilled" sandwiches and "overdone" molten chocolate cake. Duck tacos are "comically" tiny, paella balls taste like "chewy hush puppies" and pizza flatbread is as "unremarkable as the ones Crocodile gives away for free." Other misses include an unhelpful staff and an overpriced, weak concert lineup. One bright spot: the wines are "perfectly lovely." [RedEye]

Mike Sula thinks the Trencherman is among the new class of restaurants that are responsible for the "salvation and reinvention" of fine dining in Chicago. Sepia noodles are thick, snappy, fettuccine-like ribbons of cuttlefish that give way to joy "upon discovering the terrific textural variety," and kale with sweet-and-sour onions and radishes are balanced by a "moist, savory" carrot-quinoa cake. Ethnic dishes are arranged in an "original, unorthodox" format like the "glistening" pink seat trout fillets coated in black olive tapenade sweetened with sesame. For dessert, savory and bitter flavors fuse into the sweet with "surgical precision" such as peach and tomato salsa with tomato molasses accompanying the "hottest, freshest" doughnuts Sula's ever had in an upscale restaurant. [Reader]

In Forest Park, Gaetano's might be one of the best Italian restaurants in the Chicago area and Michael Nagrant thinks it deserves "Mario Batali notoriety." The "inspiring" carpaccio is "silky, intensely marbled, rare" Kobe beef with "heady" pumpkin oil and "fiery" Calabrian pepper paste. Sweet and salty crab is stuffed between a "brontosaurus-sized" pork chop while the rigatoni alla trasteverina is carmelized sausage and "satisfyingly chewy" pasta in tomato-cream sauce mixed with a "tangy" dollop of goat cheese. An Italian Napolean dessert is "golden-brown" phyllo shard stuffed with "indulgent" vanilla bean-flecked custard and "honey-sweet" peaches. [Sun-Times]

Maison is an urban brasserie that succeeds where others around town have not. Alison Neumer Lara writes that butter is the secret ingredient, transforming onion soup into a "nearly creamy revelation." The menu of updated French classics is "rich with flavor" like "delicate and moist" whole pan-roasted trout. Chicken liver tartine with red wine-stewed prunes and pickled red onions is a "flavor-packed wonder," while desserts like profiteroles and crème brulee are worth sticking around for. [Crain's]

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