There's a lot to like about Grace but Mike Sula thinks it still needs a little more time before it reaches its full potential. Curtis Duffy manages to "coax out flavors of knee-weakening intensity" in dishes such as roasted, dehydrated and liquefied orange and purple carrots with pureed and braised pistachios and creamy mascarpone on the "flora" menu; and a salad of trout roe, tuna and pomelo sections in a cylinder of ginger-flavored ice on the "fauna" menu that's a "sweet, sour, and briny convergence of flavors and soft and crunchy textures." But for the price of the meal, there are also "regrettable" courses like a seared-then-chilled scallop doused in a bloodred hibiscus tea that heightens its "gelid, leftover texture" and a maitake mushroom bloom saturated in an "unaccountably bitter" mushroom consommé. Sula also calls the service "immature," twice failing to describe dishes, and wonders if diners are willing to overlook such inconsistencies with such a steep price tag. [Reader]
Little Goat is hot hot hot and Lisa Arnett can see why. Unlike typical greasy diner fare, tempura-reid onion rings and pickles are "crunchy and light as air" and fried chicken is a "crispy, greaseless wonder." The Fat Elvis waffles are a "salty-sweet flavor bomb" of banana slices, bacon crumbles and a scoop of peanut-butter-butter, while a Korean pancake sandwich with pork belly and hoisin sauce "fires on all cylinders."Top it all off with chocolate pie that's a mix between a chocolate-chip cookie and pecan pie that "would have been more heavenly if served warm" and Arnett says Stephanie Izard's "comforting flavor combos [will] beg you to come back." [RedEye]
"At Reno, what you see is what you get," writes David Tamarkin. The bagels are "flat, crusty phenomenal things that ? carry the flavor of the wood-burning oven they're baked in," but are also made into "ordinary, lifeless" egg sandwiches. From the dinner menu, a mizuna salad with a "funky" baccala dressing is one Tamarkin would like to eat again "every day for the rest of [his] life" and housemade fuilli is "strong and tender" with bites of lamb neck, oranges and "impressively crispy" discs of fried eggplant. "Satisfying" pizzas are "soft in the middle and chewy around the edges," and may be the best in the neighborhood while desserts such as a brownie sundae and apple crisp are "very well executed."
Julia Kramer has a less-than-enjoyable experience at Del Frisco's, where she calls the execution "abysmal." There are "stiffened" shrimp draped in a "sullen" spoonful of remoulade; "mushy, unseasoned" tuna tartare with "rocklike" crostini; a Caesar salad "fouled by a salad bar-quality croutons and those fishy, suspicious anchovies that give fish a bad name;" lamb chops ruined by a "syrupy-sweet" teriyaki-ish sauce; heirloom carrots "dreadfully overcooked;" and other offenses. Even the steaks are cooked unevenly, while the peppercorn crust attempts to conceal a filet's "lack of flavor." Kramer asserts that "ordering a steak here was a bit too much like a game of roulette." [TOC]
John Manion brings a new level of South American cuisine to Chicago with La Sirena Clandestina. Michael Nagrant is impressed by the Moqueca, a "wonderful comforting" brew of spiced coconut milk-soaked rice with shrimp, mussels, whitefish and hearts of palm. The flaky, vegetarian empanadas are his favorite but the chicken and cheddar offering is also "remarkably juicy, like an excellent hamburger." Crispy sweetbreads are "punchy, tender" and a "smoky treat you're not likely to find elsewhere" and veggies "really sing" such as a salad of Brussels sprouts, radicchio and Manchego cheese topped with almond and a "zingy" lemon/olive oil vinaigrette. And for dessert, alfajores are a "righteous sweet and salty indulgence." [Sun-Times]