abbiej47 | Chicago Reader

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Re: “Rodan

Creating arty fusion food as comforting as grilled cheese takes skill; making minimalism homey is an even greater task. But, somehow Wicker Park’s South Americasian Rodan manages to keep up with its voguish neighbors while making its eaters feel as calm and cool as the dreadlocked diva at the bar.

This demure bar and restaurant, tucked into Milwaukee Avenue with a modest sign and an electronic screen that coyly flashes different addresses (which one is it? are we at the right place?) is accented by sharp lines and clean artwork. A wall-size screen shows a constant flow of lava lamp imagery apt to hypnotize those who have had one too many. The single spotlights over each booth, the only lighting in the place, makes it seem that you are the only ones in the restaurant, while the cushionless seats keep you leaning into the conversation.

The menu is broken into three courses, the portions manageable enough to eat and afford some from each. The tempura fries border mundane – until you dip them in the wasabi oil that pushes tired ketchup to the back of the fridge. The Rodan Three lets you sample the garlicky grilled shrimp in a tart mango salsa, pork satay, and the cigarette rolls (profiteroles filled with meat), whose name is far more intriguing than the taste.

Rodan’s second course offers a palate-cleansing bowl of mixed greens with a puckering vinaigrette, and one of the best coconut curry soups this side of Chiang Mai, steaming with crunchy pea pods, not-too-much rice, and never-enough shrimp.

Indeed, Rodan has a way with curry. Although a peculiar combination, the grilled salmon, under the third course, is topped with a savory curry that has reached sublimity. Truly, there must be mathematician in Rodan’s kitchen who found the perfect quotient of sweet and spicy.

But let’s cut to the chase. If you don’t see yourself going to Rodan regularly, don’t even look at the menu. Just order the fish tacos. Made with the freshest tilapia and a sweet mango corn salsa, this is rightfully becoming Rodan’s main attraction. The pork tenderloin and the vegetable curry (again, the curry) are also worthy of your appetite, while the grilled swordfish is far from exotic and the steak was little better than the skirt steak in La Pasadita’s burritos, at three times the price.

But you’ll find no disappointment at a table eating desserts. The caramelized plantains evaporate in your mouth, and the sharply sweet jackfruit ice cream melting over them complement their subtly. The flourless chocolate cake is only for the serious sweet eater, and should be taken with a strong cup of coffee. Bliss.

For a restaurant this mod, in this part of Chicago (it’s even down the street from a restaurant called Mod), one would expect way higher prices. But the food is worthy of its cost. Now, those mathematicians in the kitchen just need to combine the curry with the tilapia tacos and the plantains. That would be comfort food.

Posted by Abbie Jarman on 02/12/2004 at 9:33 AM

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