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River North Fusion Spot Flora Fauna Gives a Critic Memorable Moments

Plus Crate & Barrel’s first restaurant showcases the talents of a top Chicago chef

The tropical themed dining room features hanging plants and lights, green and blue accents, and a “California chic” bar.
Flora Fauna is full of both delights and head scratchers.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Flora Fauna’s globally influenced menu is hit or miss, but chef Jonathan Meyer’s “ability to make unexpected connections creates memorable moments,” writes Jeff Ruby. The tropically themed restaurant “looks like Fantasy Island on an acid trip” and the food is even more confounding. A play on Thai som tam salad features shredded green papaya tossed with Sichuan spices and Costa Rican jackfruit, a “ridiculous mash-up that also happens to be inspired — equal parts refreshing and intense.” Koji-cured steaks — beef aged with fermented Japanese rice — taste “decadent and nutty” and come with yucca tots that “push the whole thing over the top.”

Other dishes are head scratchers. Jerk pork shank fried rice is a “cloying, egg-mush fiasco,” while a stone bowl filled with broth and seafood turns into “wet, muddled nonsense.” Similarly, a dessert of tres leches cake with strawberry-infused coconut milk, roasted pineapple, and dried coconut “deliver[s] nothing but spongy, saccharine sadness.” And the mix-and-match cocktail program leads to oddities that sound “more like a threat than a drink,” such as a whiskey sour with tangerine-grapefruit Campari. Despite these shortcomings, Ruby thinks “Meyer’s ideas come from a place of respect for the cuisines, rather than being a lazy pastiche.” [Chicago]

Crate & Barrel’s first restaurant is a successful display of chef Bill Kim’s cooking according to Joanne Trestrail. Located within the company’s Oak Brook store, the Table at Crate’s vegetable-forward menu “leans light.” Salmon tartine, an open-faced sandwich of parsnip, carrot, and egg, is “delightful” while mushroom fricassee is a “captivating mélange of wild mushrooms and Brussels sprouts atop white corn grits.” And the marinated skirt steak is a “meaty masterpiece.” A few clunkers include “heavy” and stale waffle fries, and shrimp poke with “over-applied” miso sesame dressing. [Crain’s]

The Table at Crate

35 Oakbrook Center, , IL 60523 (630) 590-9444 Visit Website

Flora Fauna

11 West Illinois Street, , IL 60654 (312) 624-9276 Visit Website