Mike Sula thinks Ronero is both fascinating and formulaic at the same time. The West Loop’s new Latin rum bar and restaurant dazzles with "mackadocious" starters like "powerhouse" ropa vieja and an "inspired salad" of hearts of palm, radicchio and Belgium endive. Likewise, albondigas in a hot peanut sauce are a can’t-miss dish that will "awaken your inner five-year-old." However, entrees are more one-note: saffron-buttersquash winter risotto lacks "any discernible flavor profile" and Sula is disappointed that arroz con pollo is served with only grilled white breast meat. Desserts are also all over the map—espresso mousse covered in icy granita consists of "two textures that don’t belong in the mouth at the same time"—but the beverage program offers an "awe-inspiring collection" of rums to please drinkers. [Reader]
Bad Hunter has successfully planted itself on Randolph Row in the West Loop as one of the best new restaurants. Phil Vettel finds a "trove of worthy dishes," from "meaty" maitake mushrooms that he "could eat a dozen times" to root vegetable Bolognese that "absolutely nails the traditional texture." Veggies plated with proteins are also stars: roasted turnips get a "nice flavor" accent from bacon-radish croutons, while housemade lonza with kumquat, peppery arugula and truffled cheese is a "very appealing composition." For dessert, a white-chocolate and parsnip panna cotta is the standout. Overall, the "food doesn’t taste of denial, and that’s just about everything you’d want." [Tribune]
Jeff Ruby also visits Bad Hunter and calls it an ambitious restaurant with moments of inspired excellence. The veggie-forward spot impresses with "light touches, bold flavors." Butter dumplings served with sliced shiitake, Asian pear and tart oyster kimchi are simply "brilliant," while the "exceptional" black bean burger is a meatless-yet-satisfying option. Other dishes are "more clever than good" though, like an "underwhelming" beef tartare with anchovies and flax seed crisps. Pastry chef Emily Spurlin caps everything off with her "whimsical desserts," including a squash tart with red curry that’s "in the running as one of Chicago’s best new desserts."
The Barn brings new twists to retro steakhouse dining. Amy Morton’s latest concept, housed inside a former stable in Evanston, is an "unforgettable venue" with old-school favorites like bone-on filet mignon and German Butterball potatoes. But Nicole Pederson "sprinkles in surprises too," like "luscious" king crab leg in a buttery red beet broth; and a "wondrously crisp" chicken pot pie special. As one might expect, a 16-ounce ribeye "pulse[s] with an intense flavor," while whole-roasted branzino, which is deboned tableside, is the restaurant’s "best dish." A "dynamite" chocolate mousse with whipped cream and candied hazelnuts is the cherry on top of this suburban winner. [Chicago]
Moody Tongue raises the bar on the taproom experience and is "just the place to feel spoiled," writes Elizabeth Atkinson. The beer menu is "reliably delicious" and full of "interesting flavors paired harmoniously to the chosen style of beer." Food is limited to only two items but they’re both wonderful indulgences. Oysters are "delightful and teeming with brine," while the chocolate cake is a multi-layered German cake that’s "consistently delicious." Pair them with the "smoky, easy drinking" Applewood Gold and you’ve got an unbeatable combination in Pilsen. [TOC]