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Recent Reviews

Re: “Ta Tong

Ta Tong is a Thai and Sushi Bar restaurant on the strip of Lincoln Avenue north of Diversey. It is a small BYOB restaurant taking on the challenging task of trying to serve a full menu of two cuisines. Not every restaurant can do this successfully unless it a fusion of the two cuisines, however, I can’t say the same for Ta Tong as we only tried the Sushi on that cold and snowing night after Christmas.

We were able to make reservations before arriving and to our surprise there was no one else in the restaurant with the exception of the staff. The waitress was very inviting and took care of us right away. I must admit that we were very tempted by the Thai menu as there were a few specialties that were interesting but unfamiliar in most other Thai restaurants such as the Seafood Salad with shrimp, squid, mussels, and artificial crab diced with onion and cilantro and topped off with a homemade spicy sauce. Then there was the Soft Shell Crab appetizer that’s served hot with a tempura dipping sauce. We stood our ground and ordered a few of their maki rolls. There are three categories and they are: Special Maki, City Maki, and Maki Mono.

Typically when ordering the Maki from the special lists of any Japanese restaurant, I expect something that is very complex in texture, taste, and presentation. To my surprise, the rolls were simple in presentation and easy to decipher the different flavors from the various rolls. We tried the Dynamite Maki with scallop, cooked shrimp, oshinko, and masago topped with a spicy tako sauce. I asked the waitress if they could go light on the spicy tako sauce as all the reviews I read mentioned it was too much. I’m delighted that we did because there was just enough sauce to add to the flavors of the roll without taking anything away from it. We also tried the Dragon Maki with shrimp tempura, avocado and Unagi. I was very disappointed at the Spider Maki as the Soft Shell crab was not warm and mayonnaise was added to the roll but we were not sure why. Philadelphia was listed on city maki and it was just as you expected, smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese. Unfortunately I did not taste the freshness of the salmon. Our favorite maki roll was the Spicy Scallop Maki. It was beautifully prepared and was very simple and light. It was not as heavy with sauces and fried seafood as the others.

Overall, Ta Tong is a restaurant I would definitely return to and try other options on the sushi menu as I believe there is great potential for this neighborhood spot. The service was outstanding and the maki rolls were tasty. The room is small but charming and the option of a BYOB makes an extra added value that is not available at most sushi restaurants.

Posted by Tawanda Falconer on 01/12/2008 at 5:14 PM

Re: “Grande Noodles and Sushi Bar

The Grande Noodles and Sushi Bar has good potential but I believe they are trying to deliver too many cuisines options under one roof. The menu is large with a great deal of choices ranging from Chinese, Sushi, and Thai.

I really enjoyed the mussels as an appetizer. The mussels were not chewy, but moist and tender and the broth was very flavorful. In addition, there were a wide range of soup options that were appealing but our initial goal was to try the Sushi. I believe the Sushi was the most disappointing. Some of the Maki rolls appeared to be old, they looked as if they had been pre-made and refrigerated for the next day. There were a few that were deep fried and many had some of the same combinations of vegetables used over and over again.

It is a BYOB which assists in keeping the prices down, and the sushi options weren’t expensive. The ambience was basic and the dining room small. It is definitely a restaurant you would not expect to find in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. Unfortunately the service was very slow, however, I would definitely return to try some of the Chinese options on the menu. If you decide to try this restaurant, bring two bottles of wine so you have enough to drink because you will spend about 15 to 20 minutes just looking at all of the menu options.

Posted by Tawanda Falconer on 01/15/2007 at 9:57 AM

Re: “Buffet Palace

To my surprise, there it was -- a buffet in the midst of Lakeview. A buffet restaurant in the small mini mall located on Ashland. I must admit that I was very surprised because you typically see Buffets in the burbs near a major mall. However, there it was on Ashland and my curiosity got the best of me so I had to try it just once.

I entered with an open mind and tried to hide my pretentious and stereo typical attitude. Those of you who have eaten at a buffet, particularly one that had bad food and wasn’t so clean no exactly what I mean. But would this place be different from all the other Chinese buffets.

Upon entry, the staff at the door greeted you and was very friendly. They ask you how many people in your party and then proceed to take your money. If you were lucky enough to get one of the coupons advertised in the restaurant section of the Chicago Reader that would have saved you 20% and help lick the wound you would surely suffer after you’ve eaten here and realized that the meal was overpriced.

After paying for your lunch, you’re then led to a seat and a waiter is called to take your drink order. The décor is typical, a variety of bright colors, bright fluorescent lights, and mirrors all over the entire dining room which provides your senses with a quick flashback to the 1970’s. And just when you think it’s safe to leave your seat and proceed to pile your plate with fried goodies, a large group of about 12 raid the buffet for al the crab legs and by the time you figure why everyone got up all at once and proceeded to one buffet station like and army, it’s much too late. You will now need to wait another hour before the opportunity presented itself again to taste those hot, steamy Alaskan snow crab legs stay under the lamps for a minimum of one minute.

This was one of the most disappointing Chinese buffets I’ve seen. The variety of offerings was slim pickings and nothing really tasted good. There is the fresh fruit and veggies stations, the every thing fried stations, soup stations, a few Chinese and Schezwan entrees, and a feeble attempt at Sushi was an alternative.

It’s a bad deal when the hot and sour soup doesn’t taste hot and sour. I tried to make the best of it and eat my money’s worth, but with all the chaos, lack of hot food in the empty trays on the buffet, and limited choices, I gave up and proceeded home all the while thinking I should have had a Coke and McDonald’s fries.

Posted by Tawanda Falconer on 07/11/2006 at 2:56 PM

Re: “Turquoise Cafe

Turquoise has potential if they could only narrow their menu down and concentrate on one focus, either Turkish or Mediterranean, but I feel the menu is too large and they can't concentrate on quality.

Service was decent but only one waitress that evening so service was a bit slow. Food was served hot but the lamb skewer that was ordered at our table was so tough you could barely chew it or cut through it with the butter knife they gave you to do so.

Very impressed with the bread they serve immediately as you take your seat. A great crusty bread with lots of flavor and steaming hot. The bread is accompanied by a pickled-type cabbage dip that has a little bite to it.

There is a white bean side dish that was served in additional to the rice and it was served cold. It lacked flavor but the sautéed spinach was very good and tasty.

I found all of the food really salty, to my surprise. The drinks were quite expensive as well but they do offer a $20 bottle wine list.

Posted by Tawanda Falconer on 04/15/2006 at 11:24 AM

Fonda del Mar has just recently opened in a neighborhood with restaurants that boast traditional Mexican and Puerto Rican cuisine at very cheap prices. It is indeed a diamond in the rough with promise.

Overall the entrees did not lack flavor or presentation. However, the appetizers were a tad bit surprising. The chips and salsa were fresh and flavorful. There's a choice of a salsa verde style or a red salsa style. It wasn’t your typical chunky tomato and pepper salsa either. More like a puree of herbs and spices with good heat.

The tortilla chips were fresh and plentiful and the tortillas for the entrees are made fresh on the premises. I need to point out that the tortillas arrived to our table hot and fresh but lacked flavor, or more importantly salt. The tortillas could have been so much better.

The guacamole arrived with jicama and cucumber slices as garnishes. I’ve seen half cucumbers with smoky mole sauce served with tequila flights, but this creation did nothing to enhance the flavor of the guacamole. If anything, it took always from it.

The steak asada had a wonderful char flavor that’s missing in a lot of Mexican-style restaurants. The mole sauce that accompanied it was delicious. But the steak was very, very tough. This was a bit surprising.

I would definitely go back because the prices were reasonable and their service was outstanding. Keep in mind that it is a BYOB even though beer is listed on the menu.

Posted by Tawanda Falconer on 02/13/2006 at 11:13 AM

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