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A Critic Relishes the ‘Unrestrained’ Flavors of Bar Biscay

Plus Vettel thinks Tied House is a dazzler

Bar Biscay
Barry Brecheisen

Bar Biscay thrills Maggie Hennessy with a “joyfully irreverent design and a broad mix of dreamy, Franco-Spanish-tinged eats.” The space ranges from “bright and airy up front” to a LED lights-illuminated back dining room that “more closely resembles the no-frills pintxos spots you might find in Spain.” Basque Country flavors come through in full effect on skewers of anchovy with charred asparagus and pickled haricot vert. Similarly, buttery hake atop a tomato-olive sauce “tinge[s] with meaty depth from jamon broth” while “complex” veggie dishes include a tangle of clams, bitter greens, gigante beans, and Serrano ham that packs “savory, jolting acidity.” Cream puffs are a “dulcetly uncontroversial ender” and on the beverage side, the Wrath of Kalimotxo “adults up the beloved Spanish teen drink, mixing red wine and house-made ‘Coke.’” [Time Out]

Phil Vettel applauds chef Debbie Gold’s triumphant return to Chicago at Tied House. He calls the menu a “study in delicious, nurturing flavor combinations.” It starts with a “mind-boggling” Okinawa sweet potato that’s deep fried and scattered on the plate with shaved turnip, confit turnips, and fromage blanc. Duck ravioli is a “beautiful dish,” topped with a runny duck yolk while an “exceptional” rack of lamb is dusted with smoked orange-peel powder and surrounded by blood sausage and cranberries. Desserts are “pure fun” and include a deconstructed wedding cake with vanilla frosting, huckleberry jam, and freeze-fried rose petals. [Tribune]

Astoria Café & Bakery is serving epic Serbian comfort, writes Mike Sula. The signature item is the komplet lepinja — a bread bowl filled with a scramble of egg, roast pork drippings, and Balkan clotted cream that’s finished off with pulled pork and slices of cured-and-smoked pork loin. Other “wonders” include a burek that’s “nearly as monumental as the komplet lepinja” and a bowl of sarma, beef-and-rice-stuffed cabbage rolls. To satiate sweet tooths, there are pastries like breskvice, cookies filled with apricot jam, crushed cookies, and walnuts; and kneedle, plum-stuffed potato dumplings rolled in panko. [Reader]

The Florentine is a hotel restaurant that plays it by the numbers according to Joanne Trestrail. It’s certainly no “foodie paradise” but there are “some nice bites.” A BLT burger is a “monster of deliciousness” and salads, like the Tuscan kale, are also a “smart choice.” Less fun is the ravioli, which is “overwhelmed” by braised leeks, and Faroe Island salmon that’s “overcooked to dryness, rude treatment for a fish that had come such a long way.” And although prices are in line with the area, they feel “high considering the careless execution on some dishes.” [Crain’s]

Tied House

3157 North Southport Avenue, , IL 60657 (773) 525-2508 Visit Website

The Florentine

151 West Adams Street, , IL 60603 (312) 660-8866 Visit Website

Bar Biscay

1450 West Chicago Avenue, , IL 60642 (312) 455-8900 Visit Website