Embeya manages to stand out but still needs some work to hang with the other hotspots in the West Loop. Anthony Todd tries an addictive cool banana blossom salad that's "tangy, tender and refreshing, and finishes on a funky note" as well as "savory, flavorful" garlic chicken and "gush-worthy, finger-licking" ribs. The young bamboo is "so flavorful and tender" that it's a "genuine revelation," but lackluster plates include squid stuffed with bone marrow that tastes like a "mild pork breakfast sausage" and sea snails that are "barely discernible" with squid-like taste. [Chicagoist]
Phil Vettel thinks Trenchermen is a "steampunk-driven thrill ride ? in delightful, satisfying ways." Cuttlefish sliced into "brilliant-white strips so delicate and yielding" with avocado-chive puree will have you "slurping every morsel" while the smoked sweetbreads have become Vettel's favorite sweetbread dish in town. Just as impressive is an heirloom tomato salad that's a "colorful mélange" and "sensational" slow-cooked salmon, crusted with black olives and sesame. "Playful" desserts include a variation on churros, beer-infused panna cotta and coffee cake. [Tribune]
Bavette's is an evolution of Brendan Sodikoff's other spots according to David Tamarkin. The fried chicken is "crazy good" while the roast chicken is "otherworldly" and the "steak of roast chicken." In a bit of a surprise, steaks are not as successful with the 24-ounce rib eye losing flavor with each bite. Luckily, the "exceptionally tender" flat iron is more satisfying. Starter dishes fail to excite with a "very thick, very juicy, very flavorful" tomato-bacon salad that fails to form a cohesive plate and oysters that yield neither "revelations nor complaints." The excellent desserts include a "beautiful" lemon meringue slice with "perfect" meringue and an "intense" chocolate cream pie.
Two executes solidly in place of the failed Black Sheep. Julia Kramer is pleasantly surprised by a "most perfectly ripe" tomato-burrata salad and "tender" grilled octopus that "smartly" uses the texture of pistachios. Missteps include "mushy" thyme-roasted halibut and "gummy, overly sweet" carrot soup. Nostalgic desserts are "simple but successful" such as peanut butter cream puffs and chocolate cake sprinkled with Puppy Chow, "a snack that is long past due for a revival." [TOC]
Wood packs a punch, writes Mike Sula. Soft-shell crab is "brightened" by a crop of sweet corn and green beans while "worthy" house-made pastas and a handful of larger plates like lobster in a panko-fried eggplant patty "distinguish [themselves] from more typical dishes." The oven churns out a trio of flatbreads with "regrettable tough" crusts but the real star is the Belgian frites that are "crusty on the outside, creamy on the inside," making it the "best bite in the restaurant." [Reader]
Shokran delivers some of the best Moroccan fare in town. Michael Nagrant thinks the chicken bastila is the Moroccan answer to chicken and waffles, with its floral characteristics of water "melding beautifully" with the pastry's sweet dusting. "Cloud-light grains" of couscous feature roast chicken tossed with "golden tangles" of caramelized onion and "plump glistening" raisings, and the "primal soul-soothing" tagines include the lamb shank "Casablanca" with "fork-tender" bites of potato and salty olives. A citrus tart for dessert "isn't bad," but Nagrant suggests you end with the "fantastic addictive" honeyed-mint tea. [Sun-Times]