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Sumi Robata Bar is Head of the Class; Maison Shines

Sumi Robata Bar
Sumi Robata Bar
Photo: Barry Brecheisen

Sumi Robata Bar is the "most intimate and welcoming" of all the robatayaki restaurants that have opened in the last few years according to Mike Sula. Shredded king crab claw with spicy mayo and crunchy panko is a "must-order" while long, salted shrimp are "packed full of rich, red viscera." Appetizers feature "small plates of astonishing elegance" such as "smooth, chilled tofu, as creamy as a custard" with salmon roe and mushrooms; and a poached egg bathing in dashi broth. Heartier options include sea-salted Wagyu beef tongue "so tender you'd swear it was filet" and greaseless fried chicken karange with a shishito-yuzu paste that "will reduce you to a slavering animal." For dessert, soy milk panna cotta is "every bit as delicate as the savory tofu dish."

At the Monarch, Andrew Brochu has taken an unusual path of cooking a menu he could do "in his sleep" for the neighborhood clientele. Julia Kramer dines at the former German pub and thinks the dill-pickle wings are "not exactly radical" but "at least interesting," while the diner burger will "either kill you or make your night that much stronger." The fried-green tomato sandwich is "juicy and crunchy and buttery" but Kramer's main criticism of it, and the rest of the menu, is that it's doused in salt. [TOC]

Phil Vettel applauds Maison for displaying "a reverence for the past, dishing up French food while managing to feel fresh and vibrant." Gougeres the "size of a child's fist, get the meal off to a lovely start" followed by a "fine" steak tartare with "beautifully thin and crispy" fries and "the best escargots dish" he's had in a while. Entrees include a "delicious" walleye quenelle and "excellent" moules frites, with "bland, too chewy" Parisian-style gnocchi being the lone disappointment. Capping the meal off is a "picture-perfect" napoleon "bolstered" by spiced apple butter and caramel apple, and profiteroles "as good as any in town." [Tribune]

Although it doesn't stack up to the standards of New Orleans, Maple Tree Inn is its "own very beautiful, unique thing." Crawfish etouffee has "nice, swampy, velvety" gravy like the ones down South while the "Voodoo Nuts" smoked balls of garlic gloves wrapped in Andouille would "capture the hearts and minds of Baton Rouge." The dry-rubbed and slow-cooked ribs are "tender but still firm" and "one of the finest ribs in the Chicago area," but fried green tomato wheels are also "kind of soggy." For dessert, the Bananas Foster bread pudding glazed in brown sugar, custardy bananas and splashed with run is the "thing to have." [Sun-Times]

Sumi Robata Bar

702 N Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60654 (312) 988-7864 Visit Website