Phil Vettel checks out two of Chicago's newest oyster restaurants. At Pearl Tavern, four oysters are featured daily alongside an equally "impressive menu" filled with items like a "sensational" tuna poke and "oysters Rockefella," which retains "all the salty, creamy, herby notes of the original [dish], in a new package." Absinthe-kissed razer clams topped with trout roe and ceviche are "refreshingly light on acidity" while a lobster and cavatappi dish with Mornay sauce is "addictive." Drinks include the "Dirty Pearl," a vodka martini containing oyster brine and an actual oyster.
Bow & Stern is equally impressive with its varied selection of East and West coast oysters, served with sauces "so good you may find yourself asking for more." Other dishes include a "nifty" surf-and-turf of fatty pork belly and seared scallops with a date gastrique and cherry-quince sauce that adds "sophistication," and a "legit" lobster roll. Gluten-free offerings are also available, such as a whole-fried fish and fish and chips. [Tribune]
Kinmont is a "very solid, dependable restaurant" but "minor execution issues" keep it from exciting Amy Cavanaugh. Stick with the raw selections like the variety of East and West Coast oysters, and a scallop crudo with grapefruit, candied ginger and fresno chiles. The catch of the day is also a standout: a "lovely" piece of trout that's "perfectly done and delicious."
Inconsistencies arise in other dishes though. Fish chowder is "overly salty," crab gratin is a "bland dish," squid ink spaghetti is "underdone" and the fish and chips are hampered by a "thick, soggy coating." But if Kinmont can sort through these issues, Cavanaugh thinks it may become a place that "gives diners butterflies." [TOC]
Cicchetti is simply "one of Chicago's most exciting new restaurants," writes Lisa Shames. The beef carpaccio is a "playful and delicious riff on a classic" while a charred baby squid and polenta small plate is a "lovely, balanced dish." You'll also definitely want to try Nonna's meatballs, a "holy trinity" of pork, beef and veal, served with a "zippy" tomato sauce, as well as the housemade pastas that are "worthy of your attention." For dessert, Sarah Jordan's "whimsical" take on a cannoli is filled with chocolate hazelnut ganache, sweet potato flan and chocolate sorbet. [CS]