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A Critic Approves of Funkenhausen’s Spin on German Cuisine

Plus a critic thinks Etta’s food shines its service is lacking

Funkenhausen
Barry Brecheisen

Mark Steuer’s cooking at Funkenhausen is “somewhat rooted in the Old World” but doesn’t take itself too seriously, according to Mike Sula. The new German-inspired restaurant in West Town offers intriguing mash-ups such as “Oysters Hockafeller,” a twist on a classic that “incorporates crispy crumbled ham hock and pickled Fresno chiles to produce a luscious swirl of porky, buttery, smoky, sweet-and-hot sensations.” Garlic pretzel knots, “the size of a toddler’s fist,” are accompanied by bowls of pimento cheese and Alabama-style white barbecue sauce.

There are also meaty delights aplenty on the menu and they include a surf-and-turf combo of grilled pork belly and seared scallops with pureed sauerkraut and sweet plums. The one dish that “has the potential to be a year-round classic” is ricotta dumplings with cauliflower, oyster mushrooms, crumbled kielbasa, and gooseberries. “More than anything, it prompts a pursuit of athletic indulgence without the leaden heaviness normally associated with northern-European food,” Sula writes. And for dessert, bombolini-like doughnuts, filled with custard and rolled in cinnamon sugar, “present challenges worth rising to.” [Reader]

Etta’s food is “inspired and undeniably likeable” but Maggie Hennessy thinks the service leaves a lot to be desired. The casual sibling to Maple & Ash provides “bold, fire-licked cooking” at an “affordable” price point. An appetizer dubbed “bubbling shrimp” stars “fat, tender” crustaceans in a “nubbly” red sauce while the “squishy, charred” pizza selection includes one topped with wild mushrooms, raclette and goat cheeses, and green onions “melted to sweet, stringy submission.” Squid ink mafaldine tossed with clams, fried garlic, and king crab is “habit-forming” and a fire-roasted whole branzino thrills with “delicate white meat encased in beautifully singed skin.” A raspberry galette is a “rustic late-summer triumph” as well. Where the experience “falls short,” however, is in hospitality. Non-informative hosts and “flippant negligence” from servers make Hennessy feel “less than welcomed [at Etta] despite being so dazzlingly well fed.” [Time Out]

Dutch and Doc’s takes the neighborhood bar and grill to a higher level with a “considerable number of refinements,” writes Phil Vettel. The Wrigleyville spot from Boka Group offers first-rate versions of bar fare alongside “chef-y” entrees. “Don’t miss” the chicken wings’ “note-perfect” flavors or the sticky pork ribs in a thick soy-based glaze. Similarly, crispy rock shrimp doused in a chile glaze are “the sort of pop-in-your-mouth munchies that are gone before you know it.” Among the meatier choices, the “pink and juicy” pork chop topped with agrodolce and a mix of pickled onions and cherries “work[s] very well.” The meal is capped off with comforting desserts like a “perfectly textured, wedge-shaped” tres leches cake. [Tribune]

Free Rein marks the triumphant comeback of chef Aaron Lirette, who has “taken the soul of his shuttered Michelin-starred restaurant GreenRiver and given it new life.” Ariel Cheung praises the lineup of “refined yet familiar American dishes” that feature twists to “make them feel brand-new.” Beef tartare sports a “briny sweetness from pickled carrots playing against smoked yogurt and charred scallions,” while sweet corn soup looks like a Monet painting “thanks to kernels of crisp corn, delicate edible flowers and green scallion oil that swirls deliciously with every spoonful.” Carnivores should enjoy “tender” duck breast “kissed with plum sweetness” or a giant bone-in rib eye that’s “briefly hit with intense bursts of flame” and perfectly cooked to medium-rare. Desserts are “sculptural and satisfying” and include a “decadent” marjolaine, a French layer cake of meringue and chocolate buttercream topped with smoked vanilla ice cream.

Laura Hine thinks Etta is the type of restaurant that should be in every neighborhood. Chef Danny Grant’s casual sibling to posh steakhouse Maple & Ash is full of “amazing, inventive food, all at a price point that encourages regular visits.” Bubbling shrimp are a winning starter, served with pita bread from the kitchen’s wood-burning oven. The oven also cranks out pizzas with “insanely thin crust and charred spots,” which are then customized with condiments like giardiniera, chile de arbol oil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Pastas “will please everyone from the pickiest kid to the more-is-more gourmand” and range from cacio e pepe to a “rich” rigatoni with lamb ragout, olives, and chili. To finish, blueberry shortcake is topped with a “generous amount of fruit” and makes Hine wonder “why anyone would make this dessert with strawberries.” [Modern Luxury]

Free Rein

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

Funkenhausen

1709 West Chicago Avenue, , IL 60622 (312) 929-4727 Visit Website

Dutch & Doc's

3600 North Clark Street, , IL 60613 (773) 360-0207 Visit Website

etta

1840 West North Avenue, , IL 60622 (312) 757-4444 Visit Website

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