The Warbler is a rare destination restaurant in Lincoln Square that “attempts to sing its song for every kind of eater,” writes Mike Sula. The eclectic menu features “an apparent greatest hits of the banal bar food” that’s common everywhere, but also has unconventional surprises. There’s a “sensational” bowl of barley that possesses an “engrossing array of textures”; an unforgettable side of roasted broccoli with horseradish-celery root slaw, Greek yogurt, and everything-bagel seasoning; and a “great” cauliflower dish dressed with ponzu glaze, cashews, sesame seeds, and pickled red onion.
Executional errors ruin other dishes, though, such as an “oversalted and oversauced” cacio e pepe and roast chicken that’s served “ghastly pallid and with rubbery skin.” Dessert presents a carrot cake topped with butter-pecan ice cream, praline chunks, and caramel sauce. While “there are still notes that need tuning,” Sula thinks The Warbler has “a far better chance of catching on beyond the borders of Lincoln Square than many of [its] neighbors.” [Reader]
Maggie Hennessy also checks out The Warbler and says it “appears well on its way to neighborhood-haunt status.” The “anything-goes comfort dishes are assembled with care, matching the upscale diner feel of the space.” Nachos — “deliciously un-newsworthy, as nachos should be” — are lifted by fried pork belly cubes, pickled red onion, and tomatillo salsa, while a grilled sweet potato and winter radish composition sings thanks to a “pleasing scarlet pepper vinaigrette” and “lemony, caramelized notes.” The double cheeseburger is a “perfectly tasty assemblage of thin patties and melted American cheese,” and places “among the top third of Chicago’s cutthroat burger rankings.” In the end, the restaurant delivers what all great local spots do: “Craveable, comforting food.” [Time Out]
S.K.Y. is already a “strong contender for the year’s best restaurant.” Stephen Gillanders continues to impress critics and this time around, it’s Phil Vettel’s turn to be wowed. Adding his own spin to a classic, Gillanders’s bibimpbap is a “decidedly nontraditional” mix of “silky” foie gras, mushrooms, charred broccolini, scallions, and toasted nori. Pork chop with wild-rice risotto is “balanced beautifully with a habanero-honey sauce so rich, you can’t believe it’s butter-free,” while sea bass gets a little boost from a toasted pain de mie crust that “adds buttery notes as well.” Sweets don’t disappoint either, as chocolate whiskey pie is a “visual treat,” flanked by torched marshmallow and coffee gelato. [Tribune]
According to Ariel Cheung, Marchesa is a “place where elegance and graceful ease combine.” Set inside the “three floors of intricate interiors,” the European-inspired restaurant impresses with “simple presentation and carefully curated flavors.” A “memorably delicious” cut of iberico de bellota is smartly coupled with baby beet escabeche, and together “they hit each note on the palate one by one.” Duck breast is “brightened” by pomegranate compote and sliced fennel, then topped with seared foie gras, while smoked salmon “proves to be a fresh, light charmer” thanks to capers and sprigs of dills alongside the fish. To drink, the truffle-based Mr. Fortuny cocktail looks “at home at the posh bar [area], all silver and gold and glass.” [CS]
The reborn Booth One is a hit-or-miss affair during lunch service. Upgrades to the lounge area make it “more prominent and more urbanely seductive,” but the “light” dishes leave Joanne Trestrail feeling hungry. For better or worse, the “portions are small, flavors delicate, textures on the wispy side.” The Booth One salad is “grimly functional and overpriced” without a protein add-on while scrambled eggs with crab and black truffles is “seriously overcooked” and “watery.” It’s not all negative — egg salad on brioche is “one of the more substantial dishes to hit [the] table, quite delightful,” and lemon meringue napoleon is a “good finish with coffee.” [Crain’s]
Giant is a “wonderfully quirky restaurant that has charmed the pants off those fortunate to snag a seat.” Lisa Shames heads to one of the city’s hottest spots and relishes Jason Vincent’s cooking. The super uni shooter is a deep-fried orb of uni, butter, and condensed milk mixture that manages to be “sweet, salty, slightly bitter, pleasingly rich and, yes, delicious.” Onion rings dusted with fresh Parmesan “sound totally weird but works,” while the housemade “Sortallini” — filled with guanciale, pine nuts, and a smoked tomato butter sauce — is a can’t-miss. Desserts are “comforting and full of deep flavors that tap into memories you didn’t know you still had,” and include a gooey babka paired with banana ice cream, coffee-caramel sauce, and figs. From start to finish, Giant’s food “begs—no demands—you put down your phone and eat.” [Sophisticated Living]