Roister lives up to the hype by delivering "exuberant food" full of "pure and simple flavors." Jeff Ruby recommends going with the a la carte experience and trying dishes like the signature whole chicken that's "clever, resourceful, and terrific," and "busy but spectacular" scallop crudo served with morsels of passion fruit and daikon microgreens. Similarly, a salad of grilled asparagus is a "deceptively uncomplicated textural masterpiece" and "pipe" pasta with clams, limes, mint and green chili ragout provides "pure, unfussy gratification." For an indulgent splurge, the A5 wagyu is "one of the most stunning steaks in Chicago" while "slam dunk" desserts include a whipped-honey cake and a "coy but decadent play" on a candy bar. [Chicago]
Saint Lou's Assembly is a "work in progress" that both hits and misses. While it's inspired by the meat-and-three cafeterias of yesteryear, Aimee Levitt calls it more of a "modern restaurant in a nostalgic setting." The kitchen succeeds on items like "crisp and flaky" fried catfish and "tender" sweet-and-sour pork belly that "melt[s] in [Levitt's] mouth like pig candy." Just as good is the watermelon salad that tastes "like summer in the best possible way" and burrata with vinegary hot sauce that "play[s] off one another delightfully." A couple of mistakes include dessert offerings that taste as though they've been "sitting under a plastic dome for a few days" and a gyro that seems like it "come[s] from another restaurant entirely." With time though, Levitt thinks Saint Lou's could "grow into the sort of place where your grandpa would've been a regular."
Leña Brava is another masterpiece from Rick Bayless, according to Mike Sula. The menu offers a dazzling array of dishes from Mexico’s Baja region. They include "meaty slices of fish treated with extraordinarily vivid flavors," such as pink yellowtail with a sweet and sour sauce of guajillo chile and hibiscus flower. Uni is a "creamy, surprisingly mild counterpoint to its briny garnish" while the star of the show is a whole striped bass that can be prepared in several different ways. Whichever method you choose, Sula says you’ll be "amazed each time that this magnificent creature has arrived in our freshwater port in such impeccable condition." For dessert, "imaginative" creations like a zesty yuzu cheesecake is "so of the moment" with local roasted strawberries and rhubarb. [Reader]
Imperial Lamian's dishes are mostly fine but the steep prices make it tough to swallow, writes Graham Meyer. The hand-pulled noodles "show their home-spunness in taste and spring back when chewed" but the broths "lack the complexity that would achieve a true soup coup." The char siu and wonton has "plenty of pork fat but little contrasting sparkle" while the spicy broth with minced pork is "tasty but falls short of transcendence." Xiao long bao "rival any in Chicago" but are "almost double the price at the Chinatown dim sum palaces." Likewise, the London duck winds up as "six tasty wrap-your-own-three-bite tacos." In the end, the restaurant plays it safe and "aims for beginners, so it doesn't show off cosmopolitan Chicago." [Crain's]