Chef Brian Fisher is quietly doing some of the city’s most "audacious, compelling cooking" at Entente. The former Schwa vet, along with pastry chef Mari Katsumura, are pushing out fine-dining fare that upend expectations in Lakeview. A "marvelously layered" buttermilk biscuit to start is "at once dense and impossibly flaky," and the wedge salad is a magnificent version adorned with green goddess dressing, bacon, Cambozola cheese and tomato jam. Meanwhile, "silky-smooth" chicken liver topped with Concord grape jelly is like an "offal enthusiast’s ideal PB&J."
Larger entrees feature "extraordinary opulence." Carolina Gold risotto is enriched by duck yolks and black truffle shavings, while fettucine is similarly taken to the next level with maitake mushrooms and white truffle. But while the plates show "clear potential for greatness," they’re undone by a "palate-exhausting overuse of salt." Fisher redeems himself, though, on a chicken dish that’s "silky and moist and its skin a crackly armor that begs to be ripped off and scarfed." For dessert, Katsumura’s lovely but restrained sweets, such as cheesecake with floral lavender marshmallows, allow the "complexity of supporting flavors to emerge." Simply put, Mike Sula thinks that "even if the neighborhood doesn't catch on, Entente deserves the embrace of a much wider audience." [Reader]
The Tribune's final restaurant reviews of 2016 were special as the writer team provided capsules for six restaurants that shouldn't be missed. Louisa Chu writes that while it's nice to get a version of Brendan Sodikoff's famed Au Cheval burger at the 3 Arts Club Cafe, it's the "it's the truffled grilled cheese that's destined to pull you in for an intense affair" from former White Oak Tavern chef John Asbaty. Joseph Hernandez raves about Animale, the casual spot from the folks behind Osteria Langhe, saying the cacio e pepe is a "a study in simplicity, and executed with aplomb." Nick Kindelsperger takes on Arbella, Tanta's global-influenced cocktail spot. It's not ideal for a meal. Instead "Arbella works best as a pit stop, when you're looking to escape your surroundings, even for a just a drink." Chu ventures out to the burbs over to Ballaro where diners will get modern Italian. The handmade pastas standout, but stick to the smaller sizes when possible: "The black squid ink spaghetti will tempt you to the larger size." Critic Phil Vettel doesn't want folks to overlook Billy Lawless' Beacon Tavern. Chef Robert Broskey is a funny guy, which is seen in his can't-miss cheddar bay biscuits, and homage to Red Lobster. Kindelsperger is surprised by Dixie, Charlie McKenna's (Lillie's Q) take on southern cooking. But even the traditional dishes, like the buttermilk biscuits, shine: "is there a better biscuit in all of Chicago?" [Tribune]