Next’s Tapas menu "is a party" that's once again worthy of four stars from Phil Vettel. Chefs Grant Achatz and Dave Beran toured Spain for inspiration and have crafted dishes like a "delicious mix" of sepia, white asparagus and chorizo-manchego-breadcrumb powder, as well as simple patatas bravas, which are the "dressiest version of that classic ever conceived" but nonetheless "true to its simple flavor roots." Ribeye sliced on top of a curving bone rib served with an "impossibly creamy" tortilla Espanola is "refined" steak and eggs while the "star course" is the pork belly braised in romesco sauce. For dessert, the torta de queso is two inches of "creamy, almost liquid filling" and "might be the best cheesecake [Vettel’s] ever had." [Tribune]
Mike Sula thinks C Chicago needs to work on its execution before it's worth the hefty price tag. An appealing fish-market feature allows diners to select their own catch before it’s carved tableside. Unfortunately, the "lack of confidence and a rush to debone produce[s] shredded fillets and random scraps across the plate," and in one instance a turbot "looked like it had weathered a shark frenzy." The composed dishes though are "tightly executed," like tuna tartare topped with avocado roulade and purple wisps of seaweed, but not are all well thought-out as a scallop carpaccio is "overwhelmed" by red pepper. To finish, a green key lime bombe is filled with "creamy, tart goodness." [Reader]
Pub Royale fills the void left by Small Bar with a diverse beverage list and good bites to accompany, according to RedEye. The drink menu is craft-beer driven and the selection is "eclectic," with ciders getting their own section as well. Cocktails like the Pimm’s Cup-ish Cup No. 1 and the scotch-based with cinnamon Cup No. 3 are "incredibly refreshing," but Cup No. 4 is a miss with its "syrupy and overpowering" Campari. On the food side, the British-Indian pub "nail[s] it" on "delicious" eggplant curry and "might just become a new favorite drunk food spot, especially with so many vegetarian and gluten-free options." [RedEye]
Hot "G" Dog is a faithful recreation of Hot Doug’s from two former vets of the venerable spot. Amy Cavanaugh writes that the duck sausage with foie gras, truffle aioli and fleur de sel is a spot-on take of Doug Sohn’s famous sausage while the brat offered here is sliced in half and grilled, resulting in "more char and less juicy interior." The specialty sausages "vary in success, just like at Hot Doug’s" and overall they’re "a little dry, but not so much that you won’t want to eat them." In the end though, Cavanaugh laments that Hot "G" Dogs just doesn’t have that special experience yet that made Hot Doug’s legendary. [TOC]
Jeff Ruby takes a tour of Italy in Chicago. At Rosebud, the "unpretentious food for unpretentious people" includes baked ziti and chicken Parmesan, "most of it oversized, oversauced, and oversalted." Pastas like the rigatoni alla vodka and linguine with clams "get cooked into the ground and smothered with sauce." Ruby says "you’ll eat them anyway … and hate yourself for it."
At the other end of the spectrum, Formento’s has "higher ambitions and better food than Rosebud, but without the efficiency and charm." You’ll start with "outstanding" homemade giardiniera with focaccia before ordering the "gorgeous" relish tray. The menu is full of hits and misses: there’s "excellent" braised lamb and "impressive" San Daniele prosciutto that’s countered by "soupy" fontina-creamed escarole and "dull" Steak de Burgo. More issues range from "temperature problems to senseless oversalting," but pastas like rustic orecchiette with barese sausage and "lush" bucatini carbonara "represent what Formento’s should shoot for: simply, hearty food made with good ingredients and care." And of course, order the "memorable" chocolate cake that’s "one of Chicago’s best" at the end of the meal. [Chicago]