Bar Ramone is Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise’s first wine bar and a mighty fine effort. Phil Vettel thinks the “pluses far outnumber the minuses.” Patatas bravas are re-imagined as “addictive” fries served alongside smoky paprika aioli, while “well-seared” scallops over salsa verde and jalapenos is a dish he’d “reorder every time.” Duck poutine is similarly “very satisfying,” and crisp pork belly with cauliflower and marcona almonds is a “textural delight.” Even “prosaic-sounding” beef tenderloin medallions are “impressive, thanks to a delicious anchovy butter melted on top.”
On the beverage side, Joseph Hernandez praises the “taut selection of 20 or so wines thoughtfully chosen with food in mind.” Many of them “balance acidity with gulpability, a good sign about matching your food to wine.” The strongest sections are the classics. Bereche & Fils’ Reflet d’Antan is a “knockout,” a blend of pinot noir and meunier with chardonnay that is “at once nutty and sherrylike but also creamy.” Austria’s native grape, St. Laurent, produced by Erich Sattler is “heady with aromas, on the palate, meaty and herbaceous, a complex surprise for a wine fermented in steel.” And Domaine Serol’s 2016 Les Blondins, a “lush gamay,” is a value at $85 per bottle. Guests can also order txakolina served from a porron for an “economical option when you’re channeling your inner tapas-loving Spaniard.” [Tribune]
Twain is a Midwestern restaurant that “evokes childhood memories with flavors of home,” writes Ariel Cheung. Inspired by Montreal’s famed Joe Beef, Tim Graham is cooking “upscale versions of Midwestern classics.” Half-chicken is “alive with piripiri-like spices playing off the blackened bird and finished with honeycomb that melts into a lovely glaze,” while “deep, earthy” chili-braised short rib is for all intents and purposes “the most luxuriant chili you’ve ever had.” Desserts star a cast iron crisp full of “rich” red plums and served with burnt honey ice cream, a treat that satisfies Cheung’s sweet tooth. And to imbibe, the wine list is “filled with character” and cocktails include the ‘Sconnie, a riff on the Wisconsin old-fashioned, as well as a “fresh, bright” gimlet. [Modern Luxury]
Chicagoans who live in Wicker Park should be excited about Etta but for everyone else, Michael Nagrant doesn’t think there’s enough to make it a dining destination. The casual restaurant from Danny Grant and the Maple & Ash crew “appears to be a potpourri of pandering,” full of easy-to-like pizzas, pastas, and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The menu copy also “swaggers like a Jersey Shore cast member” and makes big promises, to varying degrees of success.
Wood-fired pizzas are “crackling and blistered,” topped with pepperoni that’s “meatier than Mike Ditka’s fingers and spicier than your drunk aunt from Bridgeport.” Other winners include bucatini — a “fulsome tangle of gluten joy” — and a winter citrus and golden beet salad that “channels an evening at Chez Panisse.” The signature pig picnic, served with a family-style spread of accoutrements, is “good” but the “$56 price tag is insane.” For dessert, doughy raspberry galette is overpowered by an accompanying scoop of Earl Grey ice cream. Despite the mostly positive review, Nagrant says “If you live in a hood with a lot of great dining choices, you’re probably not returning to Etta very often.” [Michael Nagrant]