Ambitious brewhouse Band of Bohemia fires on all cylinders, creating food and drink pairings with "delicious results," writes Phil Vettel. Small plates are driven by the beer selection and include a "superb composition" of roasted carrots; grilled lamb neck formed into a glazed cube exuding Middle Eastern spice; and "superior-quality" prawns with a barbecue glaze, spicy ‘nduja and Old Bay aioli. There are only a few main course options but Vettel's favorites are the tete du cochon and the crisp-skin duck breast, while dessert offers a vanilla cake served with "memorable" fermented-kumquat ice cream.
Despite chef shuffles, Blackbird remains one of Chicago's finest restaurants. New chef de cuisine Ryan Pfeiffer impresses Vettel with a squab-centric menu that features a "delightful" course of breast meat served alongside buckwheat crepes and an array of sauces and vegetables. Other highlights include a "delicious" cauliflower soup with smoked Gouda and hint of horseradish, and a venison loin dish topped with venison sausage, currants, walnuts and cooked puntarelle. "Fine desserts," such as a "terrific" parsnip cake with lemon-yogurt sherbet and air-popped sorghum, complete the four-star experience. [Tribune]
At Malaysian spot Serai, the food has a "strange way of making you feel at ease." Elizabeth Atkinson sits down to some "cozy and cheerful" dishes such as the nyonya curry chicken, a "delightful and soothing" plate that's like "wrapping your taste buds in a warm blanket." Rendang lamb brings the heat while appetizers like curry puffs or a gado-gado salad "provide an excellent prelude" to the main entrees. To finish, Malaysian iced coffee is a "rich energizing drink that bursts with chocolate-y sweetness" to help cool the tongue. [TOC]
It's a good time to be a carnivore in Chicago, writes Lisa Shames. At Swift & Sons, Chris Pandel elevates the steakhouse experience by crafting dishes like salmon tartare, which "gets an elegant upgrade" with the addition of a poppy-seed sour cream spread; and ricotta dumplings topped with crispy Delicata squash. The beef is on point as well, featuring "wonderful" steak frites that's "tender and full of flavor" and a "bone-gnawingly delicious" 22-ounce ribeye. For dessert, Meg Galus delivers a "beautifully" plated, deconstructed Boston cream pie.
Shames continues her beefy focus at Maple & Ash. While the restaurant exudes a party ambiance, it also "takes its food seriously." A sous vide egg yolk adds a "wonderful creaminess" to steak tartare and the wedge salad is surprisingly "terrific." But it's the seafood tower that's the biggest "eye-opener," offering lobster, oysters, crab legs, scallops prawns and more cooked in the restaurant's hearth. Steaks include a "wonderfully juicy" New York strip while a "glorious" short-rib beef bourguignon pot pie gets "added flavor" from smoked beef fat. Throw in an impressive wine list with plenty of "under-the-radar offerings" and you've got a Gold Coast winner. [CS]
Bronzeville's Jerk Shack "serves the best jerk chicken in Chicago," according to Michael Nagrant. The chicken features "crispy" skin, a touch of heat and is "exceptionally juicy...and the juices in some bites are sealed in and carbonized like Han Solo." Other items include "golden brown and crunchy" saltfish fritters stuffed with "creamy gossamer threads" of fish fillet, and sweet and savory donuts with "flesh that puffed a steamy essence of sweet corn." If you're not in the area, Nagrant says it's "worth a ride over" for some tasty fare. [RedEye]