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A Critic Savors East Coast Seafood in Old Town

But Free Rein is marred by its execution

Two Lights Seafood & Oyster
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Two Lights Seafood & Oyster has brought affable vibes and the flavors of the East Coast to Old Town. Phil Vettel says the seafood eatery’s oysters are “treated lovingly, served pristinely clean and icy-cold.” He also thinks salmon tartare is one of the “best bets,” calling it “a dish you’ll very much enjoy, though you won’t think ‘tartare’ when you’re done.” Lobster stars in a “very good” bisque and a $19 lobster roll that is “well worth the cost.” Among the land-based options, a spicy beef salad hits the mark and the requisite griddled cheeseburger is “very rich and very good.” The only dessert, a butter cake, is studded with blueberries to “give the dish a wicked-good accent.” [Tribune]

Chef Aaron Lirette’s return at Free Rein is a mixed bag according to Michael Nagrant. Beef tartare is “original, adorned with scallion kimchi and carrot dressing,” but foie gras torchon is “overpowered” by a green curry. Halibut fares poorly as well, a “dry bark adrift on trumpet mushrooms.” The meal recovers with “one of the best pasta dishes [Nagrant’s] had this year, plump ricotta cavatelli tossed with blood sausage ragu, Asian pear, and black truffle.” Desserts are similarly up and down; marjolaine is a “touch dry” and “overwhelmed by the richness of hazelnut and ganache,” but a carrot layer cake is a “satisfying antidote to the usual cream cheese-frosted spiced-crumb classic.” Overall, though there are some “shortcomings in execution,” Nagrant still thinks the kitchen’s ideas and techniques are “advanced and exciting.” [Michael Nagrant]

Free Rein

224 North Michigan Avenue, , IL 60601 (312) 334-6700 Visit Website

Two Lights Seafood & Oyster

227 West North Avenue, , IL 60610 (312) 929-3091 Visit Website