felliot | Chicago Reader

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Re: “Twist

Twist is one of my favorite tapas places. I enjoy both the more-traditional tapas dishes--we had the patatas con alioli and the solomillo con cabrales this time, and both were excellent (the steak actually delighted us before it even got to the table, because we could smell it grilling)--and the "twisty" tapas, which this visit included the jalapeño gnocchi, which are just wonderful, with a nice little back-bite of spice in the delicious almost-traditional tomato-cream sauce and in the gnocchi themselves, and a couple of the specials, including mini lobster tails and a shrimp and chorizo dish in a pastry shell (which had nice flavor, but was marred by the tough pastry--a nice phyllo shell would have been better, and also in tune with the fusion trope of the "twisty" tapas menu). Twist does the traditional tapas as well as any other tapas place, but the "twisty" tapas really do distinguish it from all the others. The wine list is not extensive, but well-selected to go with the food, and glasses of wine are also on the specials menu--which, I should have mentioned earlier, you should not overlook, as it has some of the best, most creative (and certainly freshest, as in, "using seasonal ingredients") dishes on the menu.

Service was very attentive, even when the place started filling up. Our plates didn't pile up, our waiter answered all our questions and never let our water- or wineglasses get empty.

I've never had a problem with the wait, but then I tend to eat dinner a little bit earlier than most (6:30-7:30); certainly when I arrived this time, I was seated immediately (with my choice of tables, and we chose to sit in the couches by the open window, looking out on Sheffield). By the time we left, though, the place was completely full, with (a few) people sitting outside, despite the threat of rain.

Posted by Floyd Elliot on 06/03/2007 at 1:11 PM

Re: “Riccardo Trattoria

Great place, great value. I had the grilled provoleta with speck--and may I just say, mmmmmspeckmmmmm--and the Gnocchi Brava, also with speck--hmmm; are we detecting a trend here?--and fontina in a very nice creamy tomato sauce. Both dishes had wonderful strong flavors that melded gracefully, as did one of my companions' lobster salad; honestly, I wouldn't have thought lobster and blue cheese would go together so well. I didn't care for the ragu of rabbit pasta, but that's probably just because I'm not a big fan of the rabbit's work. Very enjoyable, and there are several dishes on the menu that I'm very much looking forward to sampling on subsequent visits.

The service was excellent, very efficient and friendly, but not intrusively so. The room is a bit crowded, but hey, it's Lincoln Park, so as long as I'm not sitting at two tables at once, I'm happy.

As I came out of the bathroom, I overheard the owner (or the manager; I have no idea) chatting and joking with the chef in Italian. It made me smile, as did the food, which also clearly speaks Italian.

0 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Floyd Elliot on 05/31/2007 at 1:14 PM

Re: “Calypso Cafe

I love Calypso Cafe, and try to make it there every time I'm in Hyde Park, despite which, I still haven't made it past the appetizer menu. (Seriously, do you have any idea how much food 2 freakin' pounds of jerk wings is?) I'm sure I'm missing a lot, and I promise to do better in the future, but the wings are lovely (although they could maybe be a bit hotter--they still taste great, very smoky and rich), the plaintain nachos are very flavorful (and huge) and the conch and shrimp fritters are light and come with a delicious sauce. Plus the service is very low-key and down-to-earth, though attentive, so what's not to like?

Oh, and it's dead cheap.

Posted by Floyd Elliot on 05/24/2007 at 5:55 PM

Re: “Sura

The food here kicked ass; the service sucked that very selfsame ass.

Sura is BYO for the moment; my daughter and I brought a very nice Cote Du Rhone, which the "sommelier" proceeded to cork without first cutting the top off the foil. Hey, not a problem: I really enjoy peeling foil off the top of my wine bottle. He also managed to splatter the table with wine that he somehow sprayed out of the bottle--Cotes du Rhone? Not a sparkling wine. Um, dude, have you ever seen a bottle of wine before?

Oooo-kay. Nice start.

Then, after a very long wait, the waiter brought...something we hadn't ordered. As we'd ordered 1/4 of the things on the appetizer (sorry, the "Thai tapas") menu, this was a feat of some statistical note. Our waiter proceeded to ignore us in favor of the table of 6 directly across from us, despite my increasingly desperate appeals, at one point featuring signal flares and a bonfire. Finally, our appetizers started to arrive and, yeah, they were excellent. Sadly, we were distracted from the excellent appetizers by the noise level, which could only be characterized as "just under the level at which rats start to eat their mothers." The addition of insipid music with the bass cranked as high as the ridiculously adept sound equipment could take it, helped not even a little.

After they'd brought the entree before we'd gotten our last two appetizers, and then whisked said entree away, and our thoughts had turned to eating the fat guy at the table next to ours (hey, we were hungry), we were joined by someone who demanded my daughter's ID. Um, dude: you're not serving her; I am. Oh, and you could dial down the attitude to a nice moderate 11, 'k, fuckwit? (At one point he said, "We could..." What, lose your nonexistent liquor license?) But no, the Legion of Decency snatched my daughter's wineglass from the table--a wineglass I'd actually brought from home--and only returned it after I'd promised to go searching for it in his fucking kitchen if he didn't produce it forthwith.

I have never left a $0 tip. Until tonight.

I might try this place again in a few months, when they have their service under control. Until then, I don't care how good their food is, I'm ordering out from Joy's or Bamee.

Posted by Floyd Elliot on 05/04/2007 at 9:42 PM

Re: “Wakamono Sushi Bar

I wasn't expecting much from Wakamono, just another neighborhood sushi place, and to be honest, my expectations dove even further when I found out it was related to Pingpong, which I'm not as crazy about as most people seem to be. I was wrong; this place rocks.

The appetizers are eye-opening and damn near perfect. The snapper with truffle oil, soy and toasted sesame seeds is delicate, slightly sweet, slightly salty and utterly delicious. They don't stint on the wasabi in the soba noodles; it's totally not for heat-wimps, and I like that Wakamono doesn't underestimate its patron's capacity for spice. The gyoza actually resemble dim-sum more than typical gyoza, are filled with whole shrimp, and are served on a bed of ribboned cilantro that sticks to the outer dumpling; honestly, what's not to like? We finished the first course with tuna tartare with avocado, which here comes with a side of fried wontons for dipping; the tuna is fresh and cut a little larger than in most tartares, and is supported by a lovely creamy sauce. I don't think there was a single thing wrong with any of these dishes.

The nigiri are as vibrantly fresh as any I've had in any sushi restaurant in Chicago, and the maki are well-rolled and delicious; the Godzilla roll in particular is at least as good as the Godzilla roll at Sushi Wabi, without the drive to the West Loop and the attitude. Oh, and dessert? Well, three little words: avocado ice cream. That? Is some fine fine stuff.

As for decor, the room is very pretty, and pretty loud. (The bathroom, which I always notice, is clean and nicely-decorated.) Service is very very friendly and accomodating without any hovering or intrusiveness. While waiting for our table--and you will wait, because the room is tiny and they don't take reservations--the host offered to open the bottle of wine we'd brought (it's BYO, which keeps the cost down; Kafka's, down Buckingham, is a good place to pick up a bottle while waiting for a table), an offer we accepted gratefully; it certainly made the wait a little easier.

I am *so* coming back here. Often.

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by Floyd Elliot on 12/22/2006 at 11:46 AM

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Re: “Exile on Randolph Street

I sincerely hope van Camp gave Sula a blowjob in the bathroom for this review. At least that way someone got something out of this shitshow. I went to Nellcote on the basis of it, and I have to tell you: you owe me $80, Sula. Screw the Stones; this dump more closely resembles the Monkees.

This place is a douche-trap. I cannot imagine anyone who is not a mindless trendoid drone enjoying anything about it: ambiance, service and food are all...not average, not subpar, but dreadful.

Ambiance: other loud places tend to be loud because people are talking; this place is loud because they spent the extra $20 for an amp that goes to 11. You cannot talk, you cannot even shout. This will work for you if you have nothing to say, specifically nothing to say to your date.

Service: we had a 10 o'clock reservation. Our server informed us--ten minutes after we sat down--that the kitchen closes at 10. When we started to get up to leave, she informed us that the kitchen would deign to serve us--and they did, everything all at once; we were done with our food in half an hour. Ed Debevic's doesn't rock the "Eat up and get out" vibe more effectively, though they do it more cheaply. NO ONE, when I made the reservation, when I confirmed the reservation, when I checked in at the podium, informed me that the kitchen closed at 10.

Food: did you ever keep eating, trying to find some hint of flavor, seasoning, spice? That's what we did. The mortadella pizza? Tasted entirely of mortadella and was underseasoned. The Robuchon potatoes? I hope Joel Robuchon sues their asses off; they were cold and only edible because of masses of truffle. The tagliatelle? When I order house-made pasta, it's because I expect something that tastes fresh, pops in the mouth. This was a congealed clump of crappy supermarket-grade crap in cold butter--also underseasoned.

My daughter--who is, by the way, the GM of a major Chicago restaurant in the area, and who will *not* be referring people to this dump--and I went to Avec afterwards, just because we wanted to taste something that actually had flavor. They were closed, so we hit Haymarket, and even their humble bar-food made Nellcote look like the sorry pretender it is. Take the last train to Clarksville, as long as it's away from this shithole.

10 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by felliot on 05/18/2012 at 12:57 AM

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