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Elske is a Tale of Two Menus for Chicago Mag; Curious Confuses Sula

Both restaurants are full of highs and lows

Elske
Marc Much

Jeff Ruby has two very different experiences at Elske. On his first visit, he opts for the prix fixe menu that feels “disjointed, more jarring than comforting.” Some dishes, like beef tartare with pickles and crispy onions atop remoulade, “venture into cutesy-gimmicky territory.” Others, such as duck liver with salted ramp juice and dried parsley powder, are “austere and ultimately listless.” There are a few standouts: lamb loin chops with broccoli puree is impressive, as is a sharp kaffir lime custard dessert that “transcend[s] everything that precede[s] it.” Blasé servers don’t do the meal any favors, though, delivering dishes “so fast and unceremoniously that they may as well have been Usain Bolt.”

Ruby’s return trip to try the a la carte menu yields stronger results. A trio of seafood dishes—tender grilled sepia, smoked trout slices, crisp-edged skate wing—are all “gorgeous and perfectly balanced.” Likewise, grilled shiitake mushrooms with toothy fava beans are “rich and lively” while fermented black bean agnolotti with morels, sugar peas, and pea shoots are a “case study in the art of simplicity and concentrated flavor.” But the highlight is a plate of “texturally stunning and complex” scrambled eggs with confit chicken thighs and crispy grains. It’s inspired by David Posey’s mother and embodies the restaurant’s “mellow, informal Scandinavian ideal” much better than anything on the tasting menu. [Chicago]

Curious, A Chef’s Playground is, at times, a puzzling conundrum according to Mike Sula. The restaurant from former Tru vet Laurel Khan offers an everchanging menu that’s full of both surprises and “duds—disasters even.” A bowl of mussels and clams in tomato sauce is marred by slices of andouille that are akin to “supermarket hot dogs,” while a mixed greens salad is “drenched in berry vinaigrette so sweet it deserves to go on a sno-cone.” Other dishes, though, “hit all the right notes.” Deconstructed chicken ravioli is a “sloppy, satisfying mess”; beef shank in a Jamaican curry is “meltingly tender” and saturates the rice in a “most primally appealing way”; and fillet of fish is “perfect: moist, flaky flesh jacketed by a cheesy brown crust.” While the highs are certainly worthwhile, Sula thinks there’s ultimately “too much else amiss at Curious to gamble on its small ratio of peculiar but winning dishes.” [Reader]

Elske

1350 West Randolph Street, , IL 60607 (312) 733-1314 Visit Website

Curious, A Chef's Playground

2020 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (773) 360-7534 Visit Website

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