Instead of being a trend setter like many of Brendan Sodikoff’s other restaurants, Radio Anago is more akin to a moderate retread according to Michael Nagrant. The Japanese restaurant from Hogsalt Hospitality “feels like Au Cheval crossed with Bavette’s and a touch of Gilt Bar and Dillman’s, sprinkled with grandma’s heirloom crystal soy-sauce decanters.” The menu is full of ups and downs: Warm miso scallop maki is a “salty conglomerate of tempura crunch and comfort” while uni is “clean and funky.” But a pricey tuna flight is marred by two pieces of fish “past their prime and wafting ammonia.” A $25 board of fried chicken is also a letdown, which Nagrant describes as a “plate where curation usurps degustation, where the cooks somehow forget to dust the bird with salt, but make time to shower it with tasteless edible gold leaf.” Desserts manage to turn things around, though, with a coconut cake “so tender that it weeps moisture with the intensity of a contestant cut during the final rose ceremony of The Bachelor.” All in all, Radio Anago might not be a revelation, but Nagrant concedes it’s a fun place that should keep diners coming back. [Michael Nagrant]
Mike Sula thinks bar food is being taken to the next level at Ludlow Liquors. Dubbed Old Habits, the kitchen’s “novel takes on classic junk foods trigger primal urges that can weaken your inhibitions as easily as the booze.” A “voluptuous” Beefy Boy sandwich boasts pressure-cooked beef cheek and brisket, while smoked rib tips served on flour tortillas with melted SarVecchio and cotija cheese are a “so-crazy-it-just-might-work inspiration.” Lumpia are “fat, tubular vessels for a pleasingly greasy farce of finely ground pork, beef, and Spam” but fries are the “greatest triumph” on the menu. That’s because they have “creamy interiors and crispy exteriors” capable of standing up to a variety of sauces. To imbibe, the old-fashioned is “particularly memorable … the drink’s typical sweetness tamed by salted simple syrup.” [Reader]
Bar Biscay is a “party with straightforward, delicious, ingredient-driven bites,” writes Phil Vettel. The French-Spanish restaurant offers chef Johnny Anderes lots of room to play and he doesn’t disappoint. “The fun lies” in the small plates section, where guests will find a half-dozen options of meats and cheeses. Manchego-stuffed gougeres are also a “must-try” while the hongos — sautéed wild mushrooms topped with a runny egg — are an “umami bomb.” Among the large plates, piquillo peppers stuffed with sausage over a rich manchego mornay sauce “might become your favorite stuffed-pepper dish ever.” Finally, there’s a “lovely” crepe filled with strawberries and Neufchatel cheese that ends things on a high note.
Vettel also checks out two cocktail-forward restaurants. At Sable, new chef Amber Lancaster’s menu is an “appealing, though short, mix of Mediterranean influences.” Deviled eggs are “kind of fun, perked up carbonara-style” with Parmesan crisps and crumbled pancetta. “Very good” mussels bathe in a chorizo broth and ricotta gnudi are “as pillowy as you’d want,” but if Sable is going to reach new heights, Lancaster is “going to have to take some chances.”
Gideon Sweet is the reinvention that Graham Elliot Bistro needed. The bone-marrow croquette, topped with crab mayo and bonito flakes, is a “very satisfying one- or two-bite experience.” Roasted heirloom cauliflower is a “triumph of crispy textures” while a crispy potato spiral tastes like an “elevated-beyond-belief ballpark food.” Desserts are a “secret weapon,” each “extraordinary” in its own right. Among the choices is a caramel-apple tart with cheddar ice cream that reminds Vettel of the “comfort food of [his] youth.” [Tribune]
Notwithstanding the pastas, Gibsons Italia “represents a surprising step up” for Chicago’s venerable steak empire. Jeff Ruby says starters, such as Alaskan king crab, oysters, and Caesar salad, “dutifully hit their steakhouse marks.” On the other hand, “it’s shocking how uninspired the noodles turn out to be.” Spaghettini al pomodoro is “oily” while “gummy” fusilli with “pasty” Neapolitan beef and onion sugo doesn’t fare much better. Steaks, though, are “top notch in the way [Ruby’s] always longed for the ones at the original GIbsons to be.” The signature 22-ounce bone-in rib eye is “lightly charred on top, capping perfectly marbled beef oozing with fatty flavor.” Desserts are “far more down to earth” and include homemade cookies that “Nonna might bring to a wedding because she doesn’t trust the caterer.” [Chicago]