There are good plates to be had at Oak + Char but uneven execution holds it back, writes Mike Sula. Chef Joseph Heppe "makes worlds collide, combining elements of disparate cuisines in single dishes" like "candy sweet" hard-fried Korean-style chicken wings atop cilantro-lime yogurt sauce that come "pretty close to approximating" the ones at Crisp. Twin planks of seared rare duck breast is "well executed and appropriately paired" with cooked apples while the "most successful dish on the menu" is slices of pork collar brined in cider that exhibits "simplicity not seen elsewhere on the menu."
Dishes that miss the mark include deep-fried broccoli heads with breading that "absorbs oil like a sponge." Similarly, double cheeseburger patties are undone by "thick, too-sweet" housemade pickles, and strozzapreti in a "lifeless" goat ragu are "fat, doughy, and undercooked enough to take out a bishop." To finish, "cotton cakes" is a "dessert that absorbs more saliva than it produces" but a frozen "vegan" cocktail is a "rich yet somehow refreshing degistif that’s more than the sum of its parts." [Reader]
Amy Cavanaugh agrees with the critics’ consensus that pastas are "the reason you should go to Charlatan." Be sure to try the black pepper rigatoni with wild boar ragu; the heat from the pepper makes it "exactly the sort of dish cold Chicago nights demand." Spaghettini and meatballs are sauced in an "excellent" marinara alongside "large, serviceable" meatballs, while squid ink lumache tossed with snails, hen of the woods mushrooms, chilies and a parsley pesto is "deeply flavored and satisfying."
Wander to other parts of the menu though and the results don’t hold up. Octopus tentacles are "charred to the point of tasting burned," and the budino dessert is "doused" with saba, which "overwhelm[s] the pudding." Cavanaugh also thinks service can be improved but on the whole, "you can still have a solid meal" sticking with the pastas. [TOC]
Brendan Sodikoff’s new pizza joint, Roxie’s by the Slice, serves a "very good slice" of pie according to Michael Nagrant. The crust is as "curated as the atmosphere" and has a "superb and universal crispness" but is "almost too crisp and similar to a well-baked franchise pie." Red sauce "adds nice acidity" but it "also gets a little lost amid the dough" while the white sauce tastes "like it had all baked away" on Nagrant’s slice. Toppings are few: pepperoni is "thick and spicy" and the "very best ingredient" is a "spicy, tangy" sweet cherry pepper that "lightens the otherwise rich pizza." Overall, it hits the spot after a night of drinking but Nagrant says Roxie’s doesn’t "stir the soul" the same way as places like Pequod’s or Spacca Napoli. [RedEye]