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Reno's a Bagel Renaissance; Tortoise Club Loves Butter

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Reno brings about a bagel renaissance that the city sorely needs, writes Mike Sula. Taking over the space left by Ciao Napoli Pizzeria, Katie Wyer churns out bagels that are "skinny and slightly sweet, with a moderate but unmistakable char and whiff of smoke, yet still possessing the all-important chewiness New York partisans live and breathe for." As for the rest of the menu, the pizzas "stand among the best" with a "light, crispy" crust lip giving way to a softer inside; pastas are equally good such as the "ruddy and chewy" spicy rigatoni Amatriciana with guanciale and bacon; and a "fat, juicy" merguez sausage wallowing in grits "stands out." Breakfast sandwiches "can be unwieldy but are still magnificent" and desserts are "terrific" like the apple crisp topped with cinnamon ice cream. [Reader]

David Tamarkin finds out how the club crowd eats at Tortoise Club. He thinks the service is "polished and polite" and a "refreshing sense of hospitality, but nowhere does the place seem to be trying too hard." The menu is "not inventive, or even reinventive—it's just a classic," with first courses including a "pleasant" and lemony crab toast. After that it's all butter-laden dishes as the butter crust of the pheasant pie is filled with cream and topped with molten foie gras; seared pork chop is soft, crisp and glazed in maple syrup; lobster Thermidor is so heavy "you can barely taste the lobster through the cream;" and a "very juicy" chicken "literally drips in melted butter." But healthiness aside, there's not much to complain about.

Shaman does a lot right but Julia Kramer wishes it would push the envelope just a little more. To start, guacamole is a "paragon of the form," mahi mahi ceviche is balanced by a citrusy dressing and "bright, crunchy" cucumber and an "interesting" simple green salad is tossed with candied peanuts and a "lively" chipotle dressing. The best dish is an "inspired combination" of grilled cobia, quinoa, tomatillo salsa and roasted sunchokes that's "new, fresh, unique and instantly essential." Misses include sopes filled with "watery, bland" chicken, wan chickpea fritters that taste like the "abandoned children of arancini and falafel" and desserts that "don't merit more than a couple of bites." Kramer thinks that while it's very similar to Chilam Balam, "it's just not as captivating" this time around as a sequel. [TOC]

Phil Vettel predicts that Embeya will soon be the "best Vietnamese restaurant in town." His meals are an "uninterrupted highlight reel" with dishes like crispy sweetbreads tossed in fish sauce with a red-chili kick, and Brussels sprouts caramelized in nuoc cham sauce. There are "exotic dishes" like slow-cooked pork in aromatic broth along with cooked quail eggs and coconut, and garlic chicken that's "actually very complex" with an "irresistible crispness" to its skin. For dessert, the fruit platter is a "beautiful composed plate" of lychee, jackfruit, rambutan and dragonfruit, while the durian fruit possesses a "custardy texture and funky sweetness" that's an acquired taste.

At Jellyfish, Vettel suggests that "the more you stick to nibbles, the happier you'll be." The Rocco taco is a "guaranteed hit" of crispy wonton-shell tacos with Hamachi, sweet radish and ponzu sauce while steamed buns are also "good bets," stuffed with five-spice duck or panko-crusted oysters. The El Topo roll of Scottish salmon, bufala mozzarella and fried calamari is an "odd-sounding combination that works nicely" but togarashi-dusted Bang Bang chicken nuggets "will be better when the kitchen eases on the salt." Entrees are all disappointing—the spicy seafood noodle is a "muddled mess;" the East-West filet is "smothered in a cloying garlic-soy sauce" to disguise its "meager size;" and the miso cod is likewise skimpy on the portion. "Very pretty, thoroughly Western" desserts are worthwhile meal-enders, such as the warm brownie trio and "gorgeous" leche flan. [Tribune]

Michael Nagrant's trip to L'Patron results in "chaotic disaster." Nearly everything is a wreck starting with an "over-marinated" ribeye torta with thin ribbons of meat that "weep grease" and a chorizo torta that's a "slimy, inedible mess that begs for some crunchy salvation." The lengua taco "tastes and looks like gray flavorless meat floss," but the fish taco fares better with the exception of "bitter and too finely shredded rat's nest of cabbage." It's the elote that's the worse though—an "oversteamed, wilting" hunk of corn on the cob drenched in sour cream, chili and cheese that tastes like the "salty, dessicated Kraft green-can variety." Nagrant calls it a "pigpen of grossness" and suggests that a lot more tasting needs to be done. [Sun-Times]

The Glunz Tavern has reopened after having been shuttered for nearly a century but Kate Bernot says it could use a little more time to sort out the rust. While a "harried" staff struggles to keep up with service, the vintage interior is a welcome sight. As for the food, the "tender and velvety" sweetbreads and escargots bourguignon are "worth waiting for" and the coq au Riesling has a "similarly satisfying" sauce but the chicken itself leaves "little impression." Also unimpressive is the spaetzle uberbacken, which "languishes under a pool of buttery grease so visible" that only a few bites are eaten. [RedEye]


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