Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grace

There's so much to say about Grace but probably so few words to do it justice. It also doesn't help that my experience there is definitely not the norm. Therefor this post will be very light of written detail and just have more pretty pictures to look at. First of all, I went with a friend of Chef Duffy so I have no idea which courses were actually brought out and when, as I'm pretty sure the actual menu wasn't really followed, and definitely augmented (not complaining, just harder to recall in detail). We also had delicious wine pairings but again, I have no idea what they were - besides extremely tasty and well chosen. But less about me, here are a few observations of the experience at a high level. 

The food is by far the most artistic dishes I have ever seen in my life. Each one could double as a painting and not food, particularly with all of the whimsical and creative touches of texture and color that really make things stand out. There were no throw away courses, or courses that attempted to push your comfort zone just because the kitchen wanted to see you squirm. Everything was approachable and edible even if visually delicate. 

Comparisons of Grace to Alinea are natural given the history of the Chef, the price point and the style of the food. But I find that they are only similar at the surface (and maybe the damage to your wallet). Grace is a much more approachable restaurant in many regards and a place you could go for that wow meal without feeling like you're about to mortgage your house or that you might pick up the wrong utensil. There's an atmosphere of comfort and friendliness that persists. Maybe there are more circus tricks and wizardry happening at other spots in town but Grace has enough to make it fun but not too much to confuse or distract from the real show - the visual ART of delicious cuisine. If you are inclined to seek out a high quality, expensive, fun, different and beautiful dinner (that doesn't last 6 hours) - you should grab the next table at Grace. Enjoy the pictures. 




Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lost Society - Washington, DC

Happy Mother's Day to all moms new and old!! The best way I know how to celebrate is with food. So go have a brunch, bbq, dinner or all of the above with Mom and have a great day. Because Mom's rock.

Lost Society was the most recent DC restaurant I ate at on my last visit (which will be the last time before actually being a resident). It has this interesting and funky vibe of wanting to serve stake on one level (which happens to be the second level above a subway), and have a loud, dancy, open air bar/lounge above. And even on the "steak" level, it feels much more like a bar our cocktail lounge, even with tables equipped with personal curtains for privacy (except strange enough not between the tables...). So all in all it's trying to be hip and cool and slightly exclusive/club like, but then wants to be more upscale with the menu and drink lists. Confusing.

We ordered plenty of food to get a good sense of the range: kale salad, salmon, filet with fries and brussel sprouts on the side. The best dishes hands down were the sides. Fries were very good, well cooked and salted and I could have had two more orders of the roasted brussel sprouts with olive oil, garlic and cheese. It seems that dish is everywhere but few places really do it well. I know Kale is all the rage right now and there's an argument to be made that it's hard to really spice that super healthy green up. But they did a pretty good job of making the most of it with a nice and light dressing, cheese, pine nuts and dried grapes. Not bad.



Saturday, May 11, 2013

Reno

No, not Reno, Nevada, but Reno the new restaurant from the guys that did Telegraph and others. And yes, Telegraph is next door so I too was confused when I showed up on the corner of Milwaukee and Logan Blvd and thought I was in the wrong place. I went for dinner but apparently they are doing very good breakfast (great bagels?) and lunch business too. It's cash only which adds to the rustic, earthy, coffee house feel with exposed wood and brick everywhere. Love the extendable lamps at eat table too. I like the charm, it works, especially in that neighborhood.

The dinner menu features pizzas, pastas and a few salads/sides. We did a little of everything. Our dinner included the frisee spinach salad, roasted broccoli side, the HOG pizza and DUBS pasta. All washed down with some tasty beer and wine.





Monday, May 6, 2013

Graffiato - Washington, DC

Change is coming to RappEats. By the end of the month the focal city will no longer be Chicago but Washington, DC. It's time to explore a new city and see if any place can possibly compete with the world class dining that Chicago has developed over the last decade. Have no fear, I am up to the challenge and hope local Chicago readers will continue to enjoy reading about food from other cities. Throughout this month I'll have posts from previous DC meals I need to write about, as well as my last few efforts of catching up on the Chicago scene before moving residences.

My first "real" meal in DC back in January when I was there working on the Inauguration was at Graffiato. Whenever I would go out or plan meals I was at the mercy of my friends since I had no clue of where to go. Haley decided the first place I needed to explore was the restaurant Top Chef Mike Isabella created after leaving Zaytinya (another spot I'll need to check out). Ironically during my month stay in DC I ended up at Graffiato multiple times for drinks or snacks as it is very well located and popular as a fun place to hang out.

I really enjoyed the meal and would definitely go  back (as I did already - but also for dinner). The space feels great, two levels, good crowd and fun bar area with the wood burning oven on full display. I was very impressed with the value of the meal and thought our service was solid. Neither one of us was TOO hungry and I was subjected to dear friend Haley's gluten free wishes (which only adds reason to return) so our selections included brussel sprouts, buratta salad, arctic char, risotto and cauliflower. Our server also mistakenly brought us a beet salad dish but gave it to us on the house anyway. It happened to be very tasty.



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sumi Robata Bar

My first NEW restaurant in Chicago in so long. Phew. Though that will be changing shortly...

Sumi was an idea to try something new. Too bad the weather was still just a bit chilly to sit outside on their cool looking wood deck patio. Instead we sat at the 'bar' next to the robata grill. It seems like there have been a fair number of robatas popping up in Chicago and that's a good thing because I think the style is fun and interesting, though I don't think I'm alone is saying there isn't one really good one in town that everyone gravitates towards. I would add Sumi to the list of good options with some great dishes but overall just above average. The space inside is cool but very small with nice decor, wood everywhere and nice finishes to go around. Two points that stand out to me was that our service was fantastic, always attentive, friendly and very solid with new dishes, grabbing our hot food or filling glasses. The second point is that I felt the value was very skewed (no pun intended). The food was well priced in some places, strangely high in others, and the alcohol extremely poorly priced (without a large and diverse selection either). The overall bill wasn't terrible but the alcohol didn't seem worth it and some dishes were way out of whack.

The cool thing is that everything was served when it was ready and we ordered a bunch of individual grill items so there is a lot of good pictures of the food. We started with a hamachi tartare of sorts, udon noodles, chicken gyoza and a sea bass dish.



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