Sunday, January 15, 2012

Slurping Turtle

Slurping Turtle is likely the most buzz worthy opening of the new year and with good reason. Chef Takashi's flagship Michelin Starred restaurant in Bucktown was one of my favorite meals last year. We've also seen this playbook from other highly acclaimed chefs - follow up the fine dining restaurant with a lower price option (capitalizing on good press/reputation) - like XOCO, Grahamwich, Big Star, etc. And as expected, the experience and food were worthy of the hype and should put the Turtle as the first hit of 2012. I am also happy to report that I was able to have two dining experiences from which to make a judgement. I hope that is a New Year's resolution I am able to keep because good food should be repeated and verified. Something else I'm starting to favor in 2012 is a no reservation policy. I don't know if that's good or bad for restaurants but I appreciate the equal opportunity of diners to experience a restaurant if they're willing to put in the time. I say this now but maybe I'll regret that soon. We got lucky on a Tuesday night and only had to wait a few minutes to get a table of four. The luck continued when we were seated in the "upstairs" area with one of two tables that over looks the restaurant (only 4 tables up there and really neat "lounge" feel). I really enjoy the feel of the space with a very modern and clean looks with white and glass as dominate themes. There is a large communal table in the middle that stretches the entire length of the space, a good sized bar and tables around the perimeter. I think it is fair to say that Takashi (or whomever he works with) understands how to design a space consistent with the food (both here and at Takashi).



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Coast Sushi

For whatever reason it took me a long time to dine at Coast in Bucktown even though it's been around with many high marks. I've waited about a month to write about our meal so I can't recall each maki roll we ordered but it doesn't matter. The food is very good and the atmosphere is lively and fun due in no small part to the BYOB policy. It's classier and trendier than your neighborhood BYO which means it's slightly harder to get into but the food is clearly better. I really think it's one of the better all around BYO sushi places I've been to in a while - especially in the area. It may not "wow" you with everything on the table and you know the servers are desperately trying to turn tables - but a few rolls stood out for excellent flavors. And finally, the value is better than average for good service and a fun experience in a good setting.



Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vera

I must be in a Spanish food mood because I didn't realize my previous post Iberico. We went to the new Spanish  Wine bar Vera located in the red hot West Loop. They don't take reservations and our plan of arriving late friday night worked to perfection. The space is very well done with nice clean looks, and a long bar area by the front door and another cheese bar area as well. I also like the open view kitchen in the back with a large chalkboard overhead displaying the wines of the day. The food was great and the menu has nice balance of simplicity and variety.




Monday, January 2, 2012

Cafe Iberico

Highly regarded and often visited Cafe Iberico is my (and many others') choice for good tapas food in Chicago. They don't take reservations for parties less than six so wait times can get ugly on popular nights. But a long wait is usually a good sign and that remains true for Iberico. Also true to form for good tapas is a rowdy and sometimes overwhelming noise level from energetic groups. But the best part is that food good is consistently good without a complicated menu and a nice drink list.

We ordered a whole lot of food (and some before I got to the table) so I won't try and recap each dish. The standouts included a calamrai & fries dish, a sausage and rice dish and two different beef plates - one with cheese and one on a skewer with fries. That doesn't leave many choices for the "non-favorites" like spicy potatoes or baked goat cheese but that doesn't mean they weren't good. Also, the red sangria we ordered was tasty and not as sweet as I remembered.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Southern

**I was in the middle of writing this post last night when I ran out of time to prepare for our NYE party. Oh well. Happy 2012!! More great food to eat this year.**

Happy New Year's Eve! We'll be staying in and hosting a party tonight so no NYE restaurant post this year. Last night we went to The Southern for a quick and easy meal in the neighborhood. I had been once before for drink and enjoyed myself, so I was happy and eager to get a meal experience. It was somewhat quiet but downstairs was pretty lively. The decor and scene is definitely more bar - with high tops and TVs - than restaurant but the menu has enough options for any meal. We also had the pleasure of hosting our friends from Kentucky in order to get their thoughts on the authenticity of the "southern" cooking style.

I was pleasantly surprised with all of the food that we ate. Everyone ordered one dish (the menu isn't really separated by courses) and we had a side of cornbread and mashed potatoes. I really like the mashed potatoes - nice and creamy and buttery, delish. The cornbread was also nice and came with butter or honey.

Erica ordered crab cakes (came with two good sized ones) and I had the Andouille Gumbo (with house made spicy sausage, Gunthorp Farm duck, steamed rice, pickled okra).


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