Michael Nagrant thinks Imperial Lamian is the real deal, bringing "gourmet, well-executed" Chinese cuisine to River North. The xiao long baos are simply the "best soup dumplings in Chicago" with options including "silky" pork swimming in a black truffle oil-scented broth that "explodes in a funky surprise." Nagrant also enjoys a bowl of handmade noodles in pork broth—which has a "satisfying chew"—topped with a mix of char siu, pork wontons and a runny soft-boiled egg. For mains, jasmine smoked tea ribs are "tender with a sweet and spicy crisp bark," while crispy prawns are a riff on honey walnut shrimp and "tempura-battered to flaky perfection." To complement the food, a "balanced, complex" Amaro Mule cocktail packs "real ginger heat and a pungent kick of lime." [RedEye]
Forbidden Root is the first brewpub in town to figure out how to put "refreshingly nongimmicky beer and beer-friendly food" together. Mike Sula says the botanical brews are "mostly pretty good" but drinking them "doesn't seem essential to enjoying the food." They "stand on their own," like the Number Six, a smoked porter enhanced by chipotle, and the thick Cherry Amaro Ale that's "every bit the tonic its Italian herbal liqueur referent is."
Chef Dan Weiland "harnesses an ability to transform the apparently boring into something special." A kale and spinach salad "goes to the Levant" with fried chickpeas and creamy tahini while a bowl of cauliflower soup is "slurpable, the crucifier roasted to bring out its sweetness." Likewise, a hanger steak is "executed perfectly" but mishaps include a "bland, gluey" mushroom potpie being upstaged by a side of tangy, sautéed chicory. Overall, though, the brewpub successfully pairs some great beers with a worthwhile menu of bites. [Reader]
Jessica Largey's stint at Intro has been exciting and memorable, writes Phil Vettel. The menu, now largely a la carte, offers items like abalone toast piled so high with abalone, shiitake and cucumber that "it's like some sort of Bruschetta Gone Wild." A beet salad has the "prettiest and brightest presentation" Vettel's seen in a long time while Parmesan dumplings, in a foamy sauce containing peas, green garlic and pistachio, "practically scream spring." For dessert, a "lovely" citrus soda float, served with blood orange marmalade and sesame ice cream, is an "intriguing blend of sugars." [Tribune]
Snagging a table at Monteverde might be difficult, but Lisa Shames says it's worth the hype. Prosciutto butter toast is a simple-sounding dish "worth pining over" and an ocean trout small plate offers a "diverse group of supporting flavors" that "play very nicely together." But the housemade pastas are the real stars of the show. They include a version of cannelloni rolled with lamb, prosciutto and manchego; arrabbiata with head-on shrimp; and an enormous bowl of ragù alla Napoletana featuring sausages, meatballs and an "undertender" bone-in pork shank. Save some room for dessert too as the salted butterscotch budino is a perfect end to any meal. [CS]