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Chicago’s ‘Best Sushi Experience’ Blows Away a Critic

Plus Hermosa has exciting sandwiches aplenty, and more reviews

A spherical bowl contains a slice of bamboo, which olds three slices of sashimi.
Mako thoroughly impressed Phil Vettel
Mako [Official Photo]

Phil Vettel calls Mako the finest sushi experience in Chicago. Chef B.K. Park’s omakase restaurant wows with pristine bites of fish and dazzling dishes. It starts with a “powerful opening statement” that includes super lean tuna “bolstered by osetra caviar and crowned with a smidgen of gold leaf”; and a nugget of king crab dabbed with butter and topped with a potato chip. A “beautiful” sashimi composition places slices of kindmedai, shima-aji, mama-katsuo, and chutoro alongside flowers and rocks inside a ceramic bowl. “Perfectly grilled” squab with smoked-soy glaze is a highlight among the composed plates while hand rolls filled with “silky-smooth” uni and fatty otoro tuna “provide a crescendo of richness before sweets arrive.” Overall, Vettel can’t “remember being this blown away, from opening course to finale, by a meal in quite some time.” [Tribune]

Sandwich shop Hermosa offers some of the most creative and intriguing mashups on a bun according to Mike Sula. Owner Ethan Lim whips up an ever-changing selection of “next-level specialties born from one simple question: Will it sandwich?” A Cambodian fried chicken sandwich, marinated in a spice paste known as kroeung and topped with a papaya salad with chopped long beans and herbs, “stimulates every pleasure point in the human nervous system.” The cheesesteak is similarly impressive, featuring Chinese-style rib-eye marinated in black pepper and complemented with poblanos and Chihuahua cheese. Another Cambodian “triumph” stars pork belly, kroeung, and fermented mudfish paste, topped with grilled shishito peppers and green Thai eggplants. It’s “glorious: spicy, fatty, a little bit sweet, and yeah, sure, it’s funky, but not too out there by any stretch of the imagination.” Even the classics get “cheffy enhancements, such as red-onion jam on the burger” and “bacon-fat-cooked kraut on the Reuben.” [Reader]

With the departure of opening chef Aaron Lirette, Free Rein “now shows the shackles of the hotel it’s attached to, displaying the typical timidity and underperformance of a hotel restaurant,” writes Graham Meyer. Carolina shrimp “promises tamarind, ginger, and black mustard seeds, but the merely decent roasted tomato sauce dominates the dish.” The grilled cheese is “all dry white bread, the cheese not even reaching the crusts, much less oozing over the side.” The “biggest disappointment,” though, is the burger. What was once one of the best in the city now sports “two bland, gray patties, incompletely melted cheese, too-sweet pickles, and overweening dullness.” On top of all that, the new version is $20, a marked increase over the original. [Crain’s]

Mako

731 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 988-0687 Visit Website

Free Rein

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

Hermosa Restaurant

4356 West Armitage Avenue, , IL 60639 (872) 802-4920 Visit Website

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