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Sula Calls Katana a ‘Brobatayaki’ and More Reviews

Plus a look at Good Fortune’s pop-up run

Marc Much

For better or worse, Katana has joined the River North party, writes Mike Sula. The Los Angeles import has taken Chicago by storm with a sizable menu of sushi, grilled meats, and spirits. The robata items are “generally well executed”—proteins “glisten and sizzle in their fats, from springy chicken meatballs and clean-tasting lamb chops to charred aged rib eye and bouncy mineral-rich chicken hearts.” Other dishes miss the mark. Lobes of sea urchin “suffer a briny disaster, drowned in an insipid ponzu,” and soggy popcorn shrimp “perform as if they'd emerged from a room-temperature take-out container.” And while it’s possible to order “lovely pieces of fresh, unadorned sashimi,” there are also “absurd crimes against fish such as the signature Katana roll.” On the beverage side, the “Beerus the Destroyer” cocktail—a mezcal old fashioned—is a “clear, potent, and sorcerously sweet elixir.” Overall, though, Katana is a “brobatayaki; every intention is to make you feel like a sexy beast, in an effort that couldn't be a more accurate expression of Hollywood facileness.”

Sula also goes off the beaten path to visit Balkan Grill Company in Gary, Indiana. Located right off an I-80/94 truck stop and housed inside a bright yellow semitrailer, the restaurant serves “some of the freshest, hottest, heartiest Serbian food in the Midwest.” Pljeskavica, a “gift to the burger arts,” features a char-grilled beef patty tucked in “warm, pillowy flatbread” that’s served with slaw and cheese spreads. A variation of this sandwich called gurmanska is “Serbia’s answer to the Juicy Lucy.” It comes stuffed with ham and mozzarella, and will “put you right to sleep.”

The rest of the menu similarly “bestows the same nutritive powers on people who truly are in need of it.” Sizzling beef cevapcici and housemade pork rostiljske kobasice provide a “day’s recommended dose of protein, fat, and carbohydrates,” while the mixed-grill sampler platter is “more than enough to last you through the long haul.” Don’t sleep on the “equally fortifying” veal and white bean soups though, or the muckhalica stew made with pork chops and peppers. Overall, Sula thinks weary travelers passing by would do well to stop at this “king of road food.” [Reader]

Although the doors have already closed on its current run, Good Fortune shows promise. The temporary pop-up from former Honey’s chef Charles Welch was an exciting preview of what’s to come at his permanent restaurant coming in 2018, according to Michael Nagrant. Cooking with a “level of refinement that’s usually only found at expensive pre-fixe restaurants,” Welch composes a pretty plate of yellowtail with bright ponzu sauce alongside grapes and apple cubes that “burst like fruity fireworks.” Braised octopus has the “texture of silky duck confit and none of the rubber most people associate with octopi,” while Oysters Rockefeller is reinvented with creamy manchego and “salty melt-in-your-mouth” serrano ham. Finally, an “inspired scallops version of a taco al pastor” features achiote paste, habanero, sour orange, and charred corn. With so much to like, the restaurant’s potential “should be realized in a full launch.” [RedEye]

Phil Vettel thinks Nico Osteria hasn’t missed a beat under new chef Bill Montagne. Bruschetta, piled high with king crab and heirloom tomatoes, is a “terrific shareable starter” while the crudo offerings “rival the city’s best sushi bars.” Lobster spaghetti is a “big-ticket” pasta but “more than justified by the amount of lobster meat and the dish’s powerful flavor.” Similarly, an “incredible” preparation of halibut is a “masterpiece of subtle, clean flavors.” Among the “marvelous” desserts, tiramisu—rum coffee spongecake with white coffee mousse, frozen sabayon, and hot fudge—is “something new and vital” instead of a tired cliché. [Tribune]

Nico Osteria

1015 North Rush Street, , IL 60611 (312) 994-7100 Visit Website


339 North Dearborn Street, , IL 60654 (312) 877-5544 Visit Website