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Next is a Knockout; Bub City Makes a Statement; More

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Phil Vettel gives "The Hunt" menu at Next four stars and calls it "a flavor powerhouse, a parade of bold ingredients, colors and textures." A "charcu-tree" course offers tastes of soft rabbit pate, chewy elk jerky, boar salume, "surprisingly light" venison-heart tartare and heavy blood sausage. "Knockout courses" include a re-imagined applewood bacon and eggs; pure-white sturgeon over crisped sunchokes with a "take-me-now" caviar-butter; and woodcock medallions stuffed with its offal. But it's the squab that's the "centerpiece, and a delicious lesson in beak-to-tail preparation and consumption ? It's deliriously good." The meal concludes with guests choosing different garnishes to blend into a sweet barley pudding and using twigs to twirl maple taffy from a bed of shaved ice. [Tribune]

Bub City is a refreshing take on barbecue in River North according to Sam Worley. "Giddy up fries" are waffles fries "blanketed" in gooey cheddar and pulled pork, and sprinkled on top with jalapenos that are "such a powerful force that they make the dish taste, improbably, fresh." The El Paso salad is "cool, acidic and a nice complement to all the heavier food on the menu" but oven-crisped collard greens are "so slick with oil it's like licking the Gulf of Mexico." As for the barbecue, pulled pork and St. Louis-style ribs are "fine" while the brisket is "madly tender." The two standout dishes Worley recommends are the shrimp boil with roasted corn and potatoes in a "rich, slightly vegetal-tasting" broth, and the chicken "fried to a good crisp" with an Alabama-style white barbecue sauce that "beautifully offsets the bird's spice." [Reader]

At the new Evanston bar Ward Eight, David Tamarkin says it's clear that it's "left a lot of the nonsense of the current cocktail movement behind." The "lack of pretense" is just "one of the charms here," as is the "high-flavor, low-maintenance" bar menu which includes a "sweet-and-salty" farmer-cheese/fig/prosciutto sandwich. The cocktails are "practiced and perfect" like the "smooth" Elk's Own, the bartenders are "friendly and serious" and Tamarkin writes that Ward Eight has a "way of serving drinks that actually feels new." [TOC]

La Sirena Clandestina "knows exactly what it wants to be" and is the type of quality restaurant everyone craves for. Lisa Shames writes that the empanadas have a "terrific flaky crust" and are "packed with flavor and freshness" while the ceviche "allows the taste of the fish to shine through." The smell of curry in the brothlike sauce on a plate of "tender" sea bass en cazuela is "intoxicating" and the moqueca has an equally "tropical-like" aroma. Small misses include the rice and beans, and coconut and cilantro risotto suffering from lack of seasoning, and the head-on prawns packing "a lot of heat." Even so, Shames believes the secret of La Sirena Clandestina won't be hidden for much longer. [CS]

La Sirena Clandestina

954 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 226-5300 Visit Website

Bub City

435 North Clark Street, , IL 60654 (312) 610-4200 Visit Website

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