lcohen | Chicago Reader

Recent Reviews

Re: “Sayat Nova

it's hard to rate this restaurant. on the one hand, compared to the hugely expensive restaurants in the area (half a block off michigan ave.) it's an incredible bargain. at the same time, it's not inexpensive and it sort of felt like someone wasn't trying very hard.

we were there at 5:30 on a friday--for a long time we were the only diners in the restaurant. my dad and i ordered lamb shish kebab, my mom ordered the armenian combo. all three came with soup or salad--my mom had the lentil soup which pleased her mightily. my dad and i had the salad with the house mint vinaigrette (the only dressing choice). the salad was tasty but not that interesting.

the shish kebab was fine but nothing one can't get a better version of at one of the middle eastern restaurants in andersonville if one isn't trying to get to the theater, which is why we were eating down there. for one thing it was rather dry--do they often come with sauce and this one didn't? i'm not sure. my mom had the winning entree with the armenian combo which consists of sarma (stuffed grape leaves--my mom asked them to substitute the veggie version), boereg (a sort of hot cheese pie), kufta (minced lamb meatball--blessedly in a sauce, so i stole some from her), and eggplant--roasted, i think, and maybe there were some other things going on with it. so perhaps i would have been happier if i had tried something more armenian? anyway, all of her items were very good.

service was attentive (otoh, we were the only people there, as i said). the room is perfectly pleasant. be aware that while the dining room is handicapped accessible, the restrooms are not.

if i were looking for something before the theater again, i might go back and look for things that are more armenian--as it was, there was nothing dreadful about it, just not a soul-searingly wonderful meal.

Posted by Lisa Cohen on 06/22/2009 at 2:18 AM

Re: “Sapori Trattoria

we had reservations for three people at 6:30 on a monday--i'm not sure we needed them but business certainly was booming. it was just a tad chilly to eat outside, we thought, but there is a nice outdoor eating area.

on monday nights they have a special family dining option for a set price ($20.95 when we went) and we decided to try that to sample a lot of different things. the setup is that you choose two appetizers from about four choices, two salads or soups from about six choices, three entrees from about twenty choices, and one dessert from three choices and they bring it to your table in amounts that will feed the number of people in your party.

for appetizers we chose the grilled calamari and the avocado crostini. both were tasty but i think all three of us preferred the crostini, piled with avocado and tomatoes. our salads were the caesar and something called the insalata stella, which (and i am capturing text from an online menu here) consisted of mixed greens and belgian endives with provolone cheese, pinenuts, apples and raspberries in a honey mustard-champagne vinaigrette. the latter was the standout of the two.

we had a good time picking our entrees. i think that the choices were all pasta, chicken or fish--that is, i don't think that there were any red meat choices. the three we chose were pennette cardinale which i recall as being a little different from the menu pages description--it had chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and maybe one other thing in a light cream sauce, Cappellacci All' Aragosta handmade pasta stuffed with lobster served in a creamy pink sauce (that sounds about right), and Risotto Pescatore italian arborio rice sauteed with a generous portion of mussels, clams, calamari, and shrimp and scallops (that also sounds about right). they all were really good--the sauce on the cappellacci was outstanding, i thought but really, all of them were great. and for dessert we had a panne cotta which was sort of a cross between a flan and a mousse, chocolate, with chocolate syrup drizzled on it.

my two companions each had two glasses of wine--one had two glasses of a chardonnay, the other started with a rose' and moved to a sauvignon blanc. i think that everything was fine but that the rose' was a bit of a surprise--much more of a red wine than most rose'.

the service was good--everyone was pleasant and helpful. the family dining option gives you a lot of food for the price if you have compatible dining companions for sharing. we were very full and very pleased when we left.

Posted by Lisa Cohen on 06/16/2009 at 11:14 PM

Re: “Cafe Bolero

neither of us had ever had cuban food--i had selected this restaurant from the chicago reader site based on it having a late closing since we were going to eat dinner after a concert. we were feeling like trying something new and picked this place.

if you don't like garlic, this is not the cuisine for you, but we both love garlic, so no worries. he ordered something called chilindron which was goat in a garlic sauce accompanied by rice prepared with garlic and black beans, and i think yucca. i ordered something called escabeche which was kingfish, again in garlic with peppers and onions, accompanied by regular rice, black beans and plantains. the server warned me that the fish was strong and it is, but not unpleasant (and it has big robust bones). both things were very good (and did i mention the garlic?).

there was a large party when we got there, which made the room very loud. after they left, the music was loud but we could hear each other. the room was dark and it was late--i didn't get much of a sense of the decor. the service was considerate and attentive. we want to go back and try a bunch more things on the menu!

Posted by Lisa Cohen on 06/03/2009 at 7:12 PM

Re: “Thai Classic

five of us met there at 6:30 on a rainy saturday. i mention the rain because i think it keeps the crowds in that area down a bit, but the restaurant was still filling fast. we had a reservation for four but they found room for us.

the menu has a ton of stuff. we had two vegetarians who had no problem finding plenty to eat. i'll try to recall everything that we sampled. someone ordered the potato puffs--these were not what i usually think of when i think of potato puffs--they were sort of a dumpling with a spicy potato filling. i ordered two appetizers as my meal--spinach dumplings were a little disappointing--perfectly prepared and tasty but really just a dumpling stuffed with spinach relying on the dipping sauce for flavor rather than any seasoning in the spinach. i saw a picture of grilled calamari on the menu but couldn't find the dish--but they made me up a batch of them anyway--that was terrific. they gave me a sweet/chili sauce and a small dish of peanuts to dip the calamari into--very very nice.

to my right, someone had ordered the jungle curry with chicken. this is significant because it's a curry without coconut milk for those who care about such things. i had a bite--quite spicy and good. further down the table, someone had a combination plate that i am not even sure what all was included--i saw satay. the fried rice was a beautiful presentation, coming wrapped in a lettuce leaf--a friend took a picture of that dish, it was so pretty.

moving around the table, another person had the drunken noodles with tofu. we were unable to learn what makes the drunken noodles drunken but they were very good. and last but not least, i think she had a panang curry with tofu--i didn't sample that so i can't report but she seemed very happy.

helpful attentive service, an assortment of table arrangements (some tables are close to the ground--we were not at one of those). quiet rooms so that we could talk and hear each other. we had a really nice time and didn't spend an outlandish amount of money, either. most of the tables required stairs to get to, so if you need handicapped accessibility, i would phone ahead and specify that.

Posted by Lisa Cohen on 03/29/2009 at 8:34 PM

Re: “Anteprima

it's not that loud on a monday, but i can tell that on another evening, it would be really loud in there. rumor has it that the patio is the place to be, but not in march in chicago.

got there at 6:30 p.m. with no reservation on a monday, as i said, and were seated right away. the waitstaff is helpful and personable but we had a little trouble getting their attention from our corner, a couple of times.

the food is fantastic. i decided to do a sort of tapas thing and ordered three starters. i got the caponata which is described as sicilian eggplant relish with pine nuts, a bruschetta with fresh tuna on it and i think arugula on it, and grilled octopus salad. all three were good--the octopus was outstanding.

my friend ordered a green bean salad that had chicken livers--every bite of that was more interesting than the one before--very rich and earthy. he also had a special of the evening--spaghetti with artichokes, parsley, mint, chilis--that might be all. it was fresh and delicious. he had a glass of red wine that the waiter recommended--i think it was a syrah? anyway, he enjoyed it. i had decaf coffee with cream and sugar that was really really good.

there were tons of things on the menu that looked appealing--we ordered towards the inexpensive end, but things would add up pretty fast. they have a prix fixe special for weeknights that looked like a good deal but looked like more food than i wanted. as it is, i have yummy leftovers for lunch.

Posted by Lisa Cohen on 03/24/2009 at 12:23 PM

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Re: “Demera

We picked this place because it was handy to the Annoyance Theater, where we were headed afterwards, and we all liked Ethiopian. So we didn't know much about it going in. The decor is nice--not sure what was in the space before but this looks clean and bright and a step up from some other local Ethiopian places.

One of our party was a vegetarian, so I feel safe in saying it's a good place for vegetarians--lots of choices. She ordered a separate plate and the other two of us shared a veggie combo and a meat combo, so i tried eight dishes, and saw four others tried. I didn't write down the name of things but in our meat combo we tried fish, lamb, beef, and chicken. We ordered the chicken mild and it came a little milder than we needed. The beef dish was a beef tartare dish mixed with some other things--a specialty. We also ordered a special veggie dish--something mixed with the injera bread that looked odd but tasted good. Anyway, everything was tasty and the combos seem like a good value. One of us ordered tea, the other two had water.

We told our waitress that we were trying to make it to the theater (and had a two-hour window) and made it with no problems. Which is not to say that service was quick, but she did pay attention to our mentioning that we were on a timetable.

Overall, a good choice if you are heading to the theater over there.

Posted by Lisa Cohen on 01/24/2008 at 9:00 PM

Re: “Sapori Trattoria

we had reservations, were seated promptly. the room is a little loud but not unpleasant. the waitstaff is friendly and very helpful.

we skipped appetizers--i had the lobster ravioli, my companion had the pumpkin ravioli. the portions look small compared to the ginormous portions you get some places but both entrees were rich and filling. the sauce on the lobster ravioli is to die for. it didn't look like there were tons of things for vegetarians but i don't think the pumpkin ravioli was the only choice. for dessert we split a tiramisu--a huge portion--don't order it alone unless you are still really hungry. very very good tiramisu. one disappointment--the very strong coffee comes with milk, not half and half.

all in all, a very good experience though it felt a little pricey. i'd certainly go back, though, especially if i had a coupon, which i gather they will send me around my birthday.

Posted by Lisa Cohen on 01/22/2007 at 10:56 PM

Re: “Green Zebra

we had a wonderful wonderful meal here. our server recommended three courses apiece because portions were small--i would say that two courses plus dessert will probably satisfy all but the heartiest appetites or the extremely hungry, but we enjoyed tasting so many things. cauliflower soup and corn soup were fabulous. we loved the wild mushroom rolls. and our raspberry compote on beignets dessert was scrumptious. flavors of the eggplant tart and the potato gnocchi could have been a little more vivid. a really wonderful choice for vegetarian fine dining though i think they had at least one fish dish. lovely peaceful decor. good waiter and bartender--the greeter seemed a little fed up with how long i had to wait for my dining companion so we could be seated.

Posted by Lisa Cohen on 09/14/2006 at 9:08 PM

Re: “North Pond

even in the wintertime the setting is romantic--a stroll through the park past the pond looking over to the lights of the city. inside the music is pitched for conversation and the atmosphere is very warm. we started off with a soup and a salad--the soup was butternut squash with lovely complex seasoning--buttery and intricate. the salad we chose was mesclun greens with pears and a dijon vinaigrette--perfectly dressed and just the right combination of flavors. for entrees we chose a ribeye with a cabernet reduction (yum!) accompanied by fingerling potatoes and caramelized cauliflower (yum again!), and pheasant with wild mushrooms, wild rice, cognac-sage sausage and i think there was some spinach as well. expensive entrees but they come with plenty of food and everything was perfectly prepared--i know i'm having a great meal when my biggest complaint is that my knife needs to be sharper. for dessert we chose a winter fruit napoleon (we identified dates and after that we weren't sure) served with orange chocolate ice cream and tart cherry coulis. lots of wines by the glass and our server made good recommendations, and a non-alcoholic peach spritzer for the designated driver which was a nice choice for more sophisticated food. service was attentive and helpful, the meal was nicely paced and they had good coffee--what a lovely evening!

Posted by lisa on 12/22/2001 at 10:16 PM

Re: “Lucky Platter

we wandered in without a reservation--seated immediately--the place was almost full but not spilling out the door. we started with their house salad--lettuce, tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette, feta cheese, walnuts, apples and raisins--really tasty although the tomatoes aren't ripe at this time of year and the feta cheese was a little heavily applied. but since this place looks like a diner where the decorator raided a county flea market, the salad is way more interesting than you might expect. my partner wasn't very hungry so she had a bbq chicken breast sandwich and the salad was her side--okay, nothing to write home about. my prime rib was a mixed bag--lots of fat but nicely cooked, yummy onion strings, au jus (that maybe had some steak sauce or something added?) and horseradish sauce. it came with two sides -- i got the salad and a side of mashed potatoes, hold the gravy (and then i mixed in some of the horseradish sauce and made horseradish potatoes--that worked really well). not the best meal i ever had but tasty, well-prepared and filling. the hot cider is too sweet. the food in general is diner food with a twist--meatloaf but it's cajun meatloaf--that sort of thing. easy, laid-back, but a little more ambitious than a regular diner. our waitress was distracted or something--she kept forgetting to bring the horseradish sauce. but a nice place to wander into and get some comfort food on a cold night.

Posted by lisa on 02/03/2001 at 11:52 PM

Re: “Campagnola

we were being taken out to dinner so i can't be sure of the final tab. this is pricey but not out of this world--and everyone liked their entree a lot except for one person who thought that their fish was nothing special but loved the accompanying brandade with shrimp (but wished for a few more pieces of shrimp). our salads were fresh and good. i think we all were a little disappointed with our desserts--our french toast with oven-roasted fruit had dry toast although the fruit was yummy. biggest hit was one person's beef tenderloin--a large piece of meat perfectly prepared and mmmmm, the accompanying portabello mushrooms--my free-range chicken with garlic whipped potatoes were delicious as well.

Posted by lisa on 09/07/2000 at 5:23 PM

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