Phil Vettel thinks Bar Siena "shows a lot of promise" as a casual Italian restaurant and bar aimed at the sports crowd. For starters, grilled octopus with shishito peppers and a Calabrian chili pepper vinaigrette is a fine option while a "delicious" prosciutto and fig pizza "alone justifies Bar Siena's existence," highlighted by its "puffy" edges and thin crust. Housemade pastas are a "strength" too and include a "cute" duck mac ‘n' cheese and a short-rib lasagna that's "pure comfort-food pleasure." Desserts like the overfilled bomboloni are "tasty," but Vettel's favorite is a hazelnut gelato bar encased in chocolate and covered with crushed hazelnuts. [Tribune]
The Blanchard "proves there's still a place for refined French cuisine in Chicago," writes Amy Cavanaugh. The menu features "elegant, delightfully unstuffy" dishes that "offer a fresh look at French food." There's oeuf outhier, a classic dish of whipped eggs and caviar in an eggshell that includes "vodka-scented" crème fraiche, as well as a foie gras preparation that encases it in "super crunchy" black truffle and candied lavender coating to channel "amazing chicken nuggets." Simpler items are also "well-done," such as dover sole in brown butter with capers, while a coconut financier with passionfruit curd and roasted fruit for dessert is a "tropical riot of flavors."
Cavanaugh also tries Small Cheval and thinks that while it's fine for a burger, stick with Au Cheval "for a better overall experience." Like its older sibling, the "perfectly melted" cheese, Dijon, onion, pickles and puffy bun "add up to a delicious combination" but everything else could use some refining. Fries have the "texture of cardboard" and cocktails are "watery but expensive." She cautions that you'll still have to wait a little bit for the food but times are "much shorter" than a peak Au Cheval line. [TOC]