Mike Sula is "not sure if [Laughing Bird] is going to be the great popularizer of Filipino food it seems to want to be." There are "unnerving results" on items like a bowl of gelatinous beef tendon with spring peas and watercress that seems "completely out of step with the dish." Similarly, charred octopus dressed in dinuguan sauce is "lost in the deep, livery intensity" and broiled bluefish fillets are "drowned" in a broth of beets.
More successful dishes include a charcuterie plate that "manages to distinguish itself" from others with a "smooth, rich" chicken liver pate, Peking duck rillettes and grilled, kimchi-saturated pork pate. Pancit palabok also has a "multitude of winning textures" while the traditional halo halo is an "easy choice" among the desserts, resembling a "clown's head exploded." [Reader]
Approaching its second birthday, Two is a fine restaurant worthy of your attention (and two stars) according to Phil Vettel. Mussels, like the Banger Island variety "luxuriating" in a delicious San Marzano tomato broth, are "never a bad choice" and "irresistible" potato croquettes are crunchy on the outside and "nearly molten" in the middle.
An "impressively full-flavored" hanger steak is accompanied by bits of rhubarb, asparagus and sweet-spicy pepitas while roasted half-chicken is a "fine bird, properly brined and handled." For dessert, banana-bread pudding served over caramel sauce and cinnamon-vanilla ice cream is "nothing fancy; just good." [Tribune]
Jeff Ruby revisits two Chicago favorites and discovers that at long last, he loves Topolobampo. The restaurant's "reenergized attitude" is apparent on items like the Chicago-style panucho that's a "wonderful dish oozing complex flavors." A tangy wood-roasted 28-day-aged prime rib eye "finally gives a classic Oaxaca black mole something worth coating" and is an "amazing mix of power and finesse," while "punchy" smoked shrimp and wood-grilled baby octopus mixes things up with morita peppers, Lucques olives and a basil pesto. To cap off the meal, the "perfect" Peaches in Cream tastes "in sync with everything else."
At Boka 2.0, Lee Wolen's dishes seem like a mismatch for the new space. Nonetheless, the menu is loaded with "intricate showstoppers" such as "gorgeous salt cod ravioli in a cream sauce, and a "killer" loup de mer with "robust flavors." Likewise, a "magnificent" duck breast "brings together implausible accompaniments" of mustard, prunes and roasted fennel "in a way that makes their union inevitable" while artichoke soup with crispy smoked sturgeon and browned shallots is "an explosive marriage of contrasting textures" and "nothing short of brilliant." In the end, Ruby thinks Boka's identity remains a mystery with a "three-star excellence in a one-and-a-half star atmosphere" experience. [Chicago]