Mike Sula thinks Raisu is poised to fill the shoes of the soon-to-be-shuttered Katsu. The low-profile sushi spot in Irving Park is delivering fresh, pristine pieces of fish that wow. The “florid” sashimi arrangements are a thing of beauty: “Judiciously dressed” sweet Hokkaido scallops are perched across a palm leaf, while slices of scarlet bonito come adorned with sesame seeds, chives, and green onion. Nigiri feature “unconventional garnishes that harmonize nicely with the fish,” such as sea bream touched with fresh ginger and a fried garlic chip; and salmon with black pepper and maple butter. In the end, guests who put themselves in the hands of chef Simon Liew “can’t go wrong.” [Reader]
Ten years in and Sepia is “grown-up but also exhilarating.” Jeff Ruby visits the fine dining stalwart and finds that it’s just as good as ever. A “gorgeous” appetizer of tandoor-cured hamachi “synthesizes multiple traditions to create something alternately rich and delicate.” Similarly, grilled squid with long beans, chorizo verde, shaved cucumbers, and edible flowers is a “forceful mix of finely honed flavors [that] emerges earthy and new.” The pasta game is also “strong” — “saffron-kissed” triangles sit on a “hearty” beef sugo packed with “an uppercut of flavor.” Dessert stars a deconstructed goat cheese cheesecake with beet sorbet that pushes the envelope.
A few doors down at Proxi, Andrew Zimmerman and the Sepia team let their hair down and offer the flavors of international street food. The kitchen’s “command of disparate tastes allows it to upend dishes that look familiar,” such as a Burrata plate with leek ash and blackened sourdough that cuts through a sweet sunchoke conserve and the cheese. Conversely, a hunk of cobia is a “canvas on which the familiar flavors of Thailand have been painted.” Another winner is a colorful salad of pickled watermelon, mint, Thai chili rings, and crisp pork belly cubes, but a few duds include a “strangely muted” wagyu beef short rib in Malaysian curry, and the “cockeyed” dessert compositions. Of the two restaurants, Sepia is the “more exceptional choice, but if Proxi steers the masses to this unconventional chef’s food, we all win.” [Chicago]
Beatnik feels like a “lush, globetrotting dinner party set inside environs fit for a Wes Anderson flick,” writes Maggie Hennessy. The dining room mixes “elaborate antiques” with “warmer details” to create a “comfy vibe.” It’s backed by a “vibrant” cocktail menu that might be Hennessy’s “favorite of the year.” Summers in Sweden is the “drink equivalent of dipping into a crystalline forest lake after a sauna” while the boozier Multitasking At Its Finest is “soft and subtly herbal.” The food “works as a sort of a gastronomical composite of a Beat — a flavorful collision of preparations collected from all over the globe.” Pork and beef meatballs in a curry next to a smear of English pea hummus is a “lovely riff on the colonized Indian fare of London,” and “pillowy” mussels bathe in a malty black ale broth that begs to be soaked up with bread. For dessert, an orange blossom cheesecake is the “perfect alchemy of warm spice, cream and bright fruit.” [Time Out]