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EL Ideas is a Playful Delight; Ahjoomah's Apron is a Korean Standout; More

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EL Ideas
EL Ideas
Photo: EL Ideas

It's three stars for EL Ideas from Phil Vettel as he writes that dishes are "eye-catching and unfailingly delicious." A Kusshi oyster suspended in smoked-duck consomme with kimchi-spiced vegetables, shiitake matchsticks, sea grapes and borage is a polarizing dish but bone-marrow-filled potato with cauliflower foam and caviar are a nice combination. Other "novel flavor pairings and eye-tricking presentations" include baby octopus tentacles wrapped in cod cheek with squirts of inky-black charred eggplant, and a "gorgeous" salad of three styles of boar and six varieties of kale. "Fun and quite sweet" desserts like an old-fashioned doughnut with applejack caramel and spiced-cider sorbet are the perfect way to end the "anything-can-happen" experience. [Tribune]

Ahjoomah's Apron is "a place novice and expert Korean food aficionados will love." Michael Nagrant warns the "risk of packing on a few pounds" with dishes like the caramelized and "nicely charred" Korean seafood pancake and the kimchi chigae, a stew with "tender hunks" of spicy pork and melting cabbage. Dolsot bibimbop is a clay pot with spinach, sweet julienned carrot, marinated beef, a runny egg and crispy baked bits of rice that are a "treasure of contrast." Even the banchan is so "well-curated" that the sweet soy and black beans are consumed like "Junior Mints at the movie theater." [Sun-Times]

Julia Kramer recommends that you skip everything else on the menu at Riccardo Enoteca and order the lasagna. The sheets of pasta are "thin to the point of near translucence, layered painstakingly with lavish amounts of béchamel sauce and beef ragu" and the dish becomes a "black hole" where "all of life's uncertainties momentarily evanesce." Pizza crust is "sturdy and wonderfully airy" but toppings like "bland" fontina and mozzarella are underwhelming. Similar dishes are "profoundly unmemorable," but the molten chocolate cake is a worthy dessert. [TOC]

Earth + Ocean in Mount Prospect is full of misses according to Andrea Bauer. Pastas and pizzas are "unfortunately not very good;" ricotta-spinach dumplings remind of "microwavable lasagna from Trader Joe's;" and gnocchi is "tasteless." Spicy tuna on crispy rice has the "consistency of mush" while adobo-style pork belly is "beautifully seared, with a nice golden crust" but made "impenetrable to the brothy sauce." A crispy Brussels sprouts and kale appetizer is the lone "standout" that "kicks the back of your town just right." [Reader]

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