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A Critic Gives High Marks to One of the Year’s Biggest Openings

But Chicago “deserves more” from vegan eatery Althea

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Jeong is on its way to great heights, writes Michael Nagrant. The modern Korean restaurant showcases Dave Park’s talents and its tasting menu is full of memorable dishes. The Instagram-friendly salmon tartare is “silky and sweet and serves as an incredible conveyance of crunch and citrus.” A choose-your-own-assembly course of “intoxicating” yulmoo rice, soy-glazed duck, and funky kimchi causes Nagrant to attack “with the munchies abandon of a frat boy at the end of 4/20 day.” He also supplements the meal with an a la carte order of juk, a “glorious barley porridge larded with uni and more shrooms than a Phish show.” For dessert, a chestnut financier served with dwenjang caramel, smoked chestnut cream, and chocolate is a “Korean mic drop to the challenges of the best sea-salt infused chocolate chip cookie.” [Michael Nagrant]

Althea, the vegan restaurant inside Saks Fifth Avenue, “lacks joyful ingenuity” according to Maggie Hennessy. The menu is often “trite and clinical, removed from the locally fueled, seasonal-minded energy” of Chicago. Avocado tikka is an unsatisfying combination of cold avocado slices in cashew yogurt emulsified with curry-infused grapeseed oil. The “biggest disappointment of all,” though, is the $20 kung pao cauliflower set atop an “unceremonious pile of fluffed quinoa like something from the frozen-food section.” There are a few redeeming plates – A “texturally confounding” cacio e pepe features kelp noodles, cashew cream, black pepper, olives, and pea shoots and is a “beautiful new vehicle for the typically umami-rich original.” But as a whole, “Chicago deserves more” from Althea. [Time Out]

Mima’s is serving Cuban comfort in Irving Park. Mike Sula says there’s “some extraordinary frycraft” going on; tostones have a “lightness and freshness, utterly unlike the dense and starchy variant you come across all too often.” The jibarito, the only non-Cuban item on the menu, is “very respectable” but classic Cubano sandwich itself is “something extraordinary, an expertly buttered and pressed package, with all the elements of fat and acidity in balance contained within a uniformly resonant bread jacket.” Other highlights include a Gordito sandwich packed with mojo-marinated sirloin and eggs; and meats like peppery ropa vieja and juicy shredded roast pork. [Reader]


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