Recent Reviews

Re: “Mindy's Hot Chocolate

The food at Hot Chocolate is excellent. I've been a few times and haven't had anything disappointing. The papardelle with lamb shank was especially good. They also have a very good cheese plate; I especially liked the small salad that came with the cheese. The deserts were amazing. We split two of them and I'd have a hard time choosing my favorite. We had the chocolate souffle tart with salted carmel ice cream and the raspberry brioche pudding with vanilla-clementine sorbet.

My only complaint was that the service wasn't great. The waiters seemed rather hurried - maybe they're trying to handle too many tables at once. On this trip, our waiter also didn't seem very knowledgeable; when we asked for help picking out a soft cream-style cheese for our cheese plate, he suggested a cheese that turned out to be semi-firm. But waitstaff notwithstanding, I'd definitely go back.

Posted by Eli Malone on 10/16/2006 at 12:55 PM

Dinner at Izumi was first-rate. We tried several of the specialty maki, as well as a few other pieces of nigiri, and everything was very good. My favorite was the Red Samurai maki: unagi, avocado, cucumber and salmon with spicy mayo. The otoro nigiri was arguably the best i've had: buttery, rich tuna that dissolved in the mouth and left a whisper of flavor lingering on the tongue. We also tried the saki flights, which were nice. The flights came on a card describing each saki in the flight. Our service was excellent. The waitstaff was friendly and engaging without being intrusive. I was suprised at how empty it was. We were there from about 7 to 8:30 on a Saturday night and there were only about 5 other parties there during the course of our dinner.

Posted by Eli Malone on 07/06/2006 at 12:50 PM

Re: “Essence of India

Essence of India is the only Indian restaurant in Lincoln Square. The room is cozy, with beaded candle lamps on each table and Indian art throughout the restaurant. Service was attentive and very prompt. The food was good, if a bit milder than most Indian fare. Sag gosht, lamb covered in spinach sauce, was quite good, as was the mutter paneer, peas and Indian cheese in creamy tomato sauce. But prices were higher than anywhere on Devon, portions were no bigger, and nothing was included – if you want rice or Indian naan bread with your entrée, expect to pay an extra $4. Overall, I’d suggest driving the few extra blocks over to Devon for better food at more reasonable prices.

Posted by Eli Malone on 03/22/2006 at 1:37 PM

Re: “Alinea

Alinea is the best dining experience I have had to date. The space is elegantly minimalist, and the atmosphere is calm. Tables are large and well-spaced. This, combined with the lack of music makes conversations easy. Service is very attentive and tailored to each individual party; as the staff gets a feel for the mood of table, they pace courses and commentary accordingly. But the real focus here is the food. There is a choice of a 12 course tasting or 24 course tour. We opted for the tasting. From the first course, it was obvious this would be something special. A cold potato soup served in a small paraffin bowl with a small metal pin piercing the side, holding up a hot miniature potato draped with a slice of black truffle almost as large as the potato itself. Remove the pin, release the potato and truffle into the soup and down the soup like an oyster on the half-shell. Other stand-out courses include unbelievably tender Kobe Beef with paprika-pumpkinseed brittle, butternut squash, smoked paprika sauce and yogurt; and a very rich course of duck breast, braised duck leg, duck confit and seared duck foie gras with foie gras financier, persimmon and leek foam all served on a pillow filled with mace-scented air that slowly deflated as we ate, perfuming the air around the table. Desserts were very good, but not quite up to the level of the savory courses; a Peanut sable with banana puree and jasmine leaves and sauce was tasty, but a bit grainy. Alinea has a good-sized wine list, but also offers pairing to accompany each course, which were fabulous. A few final touches really made a good impression. They serve good, dark coffee from a French Press – I can’t say how many times a wonderful dinner elsewhere has ended in mediocre coffee – and they send home a printed version of the night’s menu and wines with each guest. All in all an experience I won’t soon forget.

Posted by Eli Malone on 03/21/2006 at 5:15 PM

Re: “Chicago Brauhaus

We came for dinner and stumbled into the Chicago Brauhaus’ annual after-Super Bowl party. The room was loud as diners tried to talk over the oompa band playing German favorites and encouraging guests to sing along. We waited a while before the hostess noticed us in the jovial confusion of the room, but then were shown to a table immediately. Conversation was hard over the general din, and the music was more enthusiastic than good. The food was straightforward German fare. The special of the evening, roast venison smothered in gravy, was hearty and rich, if unimaginative; sides of spaetzle and sweet-and-sour cabbage were just right. The beer, of course, is good and plentiful. There’s a generally friendly mood, with diners singing along to the animated music and talking to their neighbors. The feel of the Brauhaus is overwhelmingly of a beer hall in a small German town.

Posted by Eli Malone on 02/07/2006 at 2:55 PM

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