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A Critic Praises West Loop’s Japanese Cocktail Hotspot

Plus Galit is “widening the frontiers” of Israeli cuisine

A look at Kumiko’s bar.
Barry Brecheisen

Phil Vettel thinks Kumiko offers two sublime dining experiences. In the dining room, guests can choose from chef de cuisine Mariya Russell’s a la carte bites — “small but complex flavors, nicely varied” — and creative cocktails courtesy of Julia Momose. Her concoctions include an old fashioned made with Japanese whiskey, shochu, and French Banyuls; and “Sea Flower,” a combination of Japanese gin, vermouth and yuzu kosho. For food, “definitely go for the king salmon sashimi” and the kampachi nigiri crowned with caviar. Steamed buns filled with short rib, pork belly, or braised shiitakes are also standouts.

Downstairs, Kikko is a 10-seat counter that serves only a tasting menu. There’s butter-poached scallop with caviar and puffed rice; and an “absolutely gorgeous” course of tofu topped with green almonds and fried bonito flakes. To finish, Japanese milk bread topped with fermented-honey ice cream and fresh truffles is an elegant delight. Regardless of where diners choose to sit, Vettel says they’re in good hands with the talented team. [Tribune]

“Chicago is lucky to have Galit to welcome us in,” writes Jeff Ruby. Zach Engel’s lauded Israeli restaurant continues to turn heads and the chef “knows when to tweak familiar stuff and when to present dishes in all their simple glory,” such as with the multiple hummus options. Engel’s salatim fills guests with a “sense of warmth and welcoming” and include pickled cauliflowers and onions; labneh; and a spicy Turkish ezme spread of tomatoes and peppers. They’re accompanied by house-made pita, which is a “thing of beauty” and has “more craters than an English muffin.”

Vegetable dishes “burst with confidence” as well. Roasted asparagus “gets an acid jolt from barberries and a mellow crunch from pecans,” while cumin-glazed carrots are topped with feta and a sprinkle of hazelnut dukka. Entrees range from Tunisian-style fried catfish to seared sirloin served with schmaltz-fried potato wedges, which are “schmaltzier than a Hallmark movie” and have become “one of [Ruby’s] favorite guilty pleasures.”

YouTube personality Larry Legend reviews DJ Khaled’s new soul food restaurant, the Licking. The chicken wings are “3rd grade size, which [is] disappointing,” but the lemon pepper seasoning is “perfect.” Chicken rolls are “delicious” and the “best thing” on the menu, while fried shrimp are a “very nice size” and fried in a batter that gives it an “island/Miami style flavor.” The lobster dinner, though, is a $23 letdown as there aren’t enough lobster bites. On the beverage side, the must-try “mystery drink” is like “if lemonade and Kool-Aid decided to do a Watch the Throne album.” Overall, Legend thinks the Licking is “not the best restaurant [he’s] ever been to but it’s better than most.” [Chicago]

Politan Row vendor Mom’s is dishing out heartwarming Japanese comfort food. Local chefs Randi Howry and Kelly Ijichi make a katsu sando — panko-breaded pork cutlet between two slices of Japanese milk bread — that “certainly arrests the eyeballs” according to Mike Sula. Housemade udon noodles are served in a rich dashi broth with beef short rib, tempura crumbs, and a soft-boiled egg, while the Spam musabi is an “Insta-ready riot of textures and flavors: fatty, snappy, salty, crunchy, and soft all at the same time.” Rounding out the menu are sweets like big, flaky cream puffs filled with purple ube cream. [Reader]

Chef Baasim Zafar is now in charge at the Lobby, the restaurant inside the Peninsula Chicago, and his new menus are “well worth a trip.” Joanne Trestrail says the Alaskan king crab and white asparagus is a “light and satisfying first course,” and the club sandwich is “stellar, piled high with turkey, bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato and avocado.” Tandoori chicken is also a winner — the meat is “unusually juicy and tender, and the tikki masala sauce doesn’t fool around.” The only misfire is a plate of seasonal pasta, described as evoking the flavors of tom yum soup, that turns out to be “slightly soggy spaghetti with tomato sauce and Parmesan.” [Crain’s]

The Licking

5045 W. Madison Street, Chicago, IL Visit Website

Politan Row

2445 Times Boulevard, , TX 77005 (713) 489-2546 Visit Website


2429 North Lincoln Avenue, , IL 60614 (773) 360-8755 Visit Website


630 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 285-2912 Visit Website

The Lobby at The Peninsula

108 E Superior St, Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 573-6695 Visit Website