Buzz List for February 6, 2017
Everest is still the top says Vettel, barbecue is still mostly bad says Sula, a con artist takes over a Wicker Park bar, Ancient Rome conquers Next, and farewell to Swedish Bakery.
Phil Vettel re-reviews Everest on its 30th anniversary. Do you think the city’s most formal critic is going to like its most formal French restaurant? Yeah, he gives it four stars again: “There is no shortage of excellence among the current offerings, beginning with the stellar Maine lobster salad, a towering composition of lobster meat on an artichoke-heart base, surrounded by mini-pools of lobster emulsion inlaid with blood-orange sauce. Lobster also stars in a presse (terrine) with potato brandade. Another terrine features slowly cooked game bird (duck, pheasant, quail) alongside beet diamonds dotted with apple-carrot aigre doux, and splashes of truffle vinaigrette forming little commas on the plate.”
2. SMOKE AND MIXONS
Mike Sula mentions that it’s been a long time since he took a barbecue place to task—in the course of reviewing, and mostly disapproving of, two new places. Of Myron Mixon’s Smoke Show he notes, “Competition barbecue frequently places too much emphasis on sauce, which can be and often is used to disguise weak meat. So I was immediately disarmed when, after placing an order for brisket, pulled pork, and ribs with sauce on the side, I was told that the kitchen never reflexively sauces the barbecue. Myron Mixon had my attention. When the order arrived and I was confronted with a half slab smothered in candy-apple-red syrup, the server apologized. ‘They just started doing that.'” While of Rylon’s Barbecue in the South Loop, from the chef of Batter & Berries, “The best that you can say is that it uniformly falls into the ignoble category of meat Jell-O. Ribs slide from the bone like they’re melting. Serve the brisket with some kasha varnishkes on the side and it wouldn’t be out of place at a seder.”
3. INEVITABLE AS
Anthony Todd is as impressed by a place called Income Tax as you can be: “Income Tax is the neighborhood restaurant that everyone wants four doors down from their house, a place where you can have a casual glass of wine after work with a colleague, a night on the town with friends or a four course romantic meal with a date. And all of those experiences will be reasonably-priced and delicious.” (Chicagoist)
4. NUF NOW
Mike Sula likes some things at Won Fun, but not quite enough to think it fully satisfies your Chinese jones: “Sure, it has those lanterns, a rocking soundtrack, and a sophisticated cocktail program by former Gilt Bar alum Remy Walle. It also has one peacock of a dessert and nothing more—a cement-colored pile of mildly sweet taro-root-flavored shaved ice garnished with various fresh and preserved fruits. But there isn’t much else to undermine the case for conquering your fears to walk the coals of less simulated Sichuanese food just a few miles to the south in Chinatown.”
5. IN THE PINK
A very curious story about how Baker Miller uses a color in their restaurants and food that actually has the name Baker-Miller Pink: “Psychologist Alexander Schauss conducted extensive studies in the 1970s on the hot pink color’s effect on mood and behavior and discovered it had the ability to reduce stress and aggression. (It’s famously been used in prisons, and football coaches have sneakily painted their stadiums’ opposing team locker rooms Baker-Miller pink.)” Though they actually altered it slightly, because one of its attributes is… appetite suppression. (DNA Info)
6. WHAT'S UP
Nick Kindelsperger is impressed by the cooking and the value at Dox Quality Greek in Wicker Park: “Instead of a grilled lamb gyro, Dox offers luscious braised lamb ($8.50 for two) on pita. ‘Leg of lamb is classic in Greece,’ says chef Fasseas. ‘I wanted to get that flavor of rosemary, thyme, oregano and lemon.’ Unlike most meat-heavy gyros served in Chicago, the pita is topped with freshly made tzatziki studded with beets, cooling cucumber salsa and salty feta. Each bite is actually balanced.”
7. CROCK O-DILE
Wow, this is a bizarre story and it’s not even about Bowtruss Coffee. DNA info did a story on the new proprietor of a Wicker Park dive bar called Crocodile, which was said to be reconcepting as a bar and blues lounge, complete with a (somewhat nonsensical) interview video with said proprietor, one Ian Baker. Social media lit up and it turned out that “Baker” appears to be one Christian DeBoer, who has a record of stiffing businesses around Wicker Park—and no license, ownership in the bar or anything else. (No one seems to know where actual owner Radek Hawryszcuk is.)
8. PANEM ET CIRCE
We don’t race to catch our first glimpses of Next menus like we once did, but I recommend checking out this blog post about the Ancient Rome menu that just launched—there are definitely some cool things going on, especially the bread baked at table.
9. PATRIOTIC GORÉE
He’s not the first to review it, but Mike Sula provides a considerable guide to the food of Gorée, an island off the coast of Dakar, served at Gorée Cuisine: ” You might get lucky one day and find they’ve got the spicy fish meatball thiou boulette on hand. Another might feature dakhine—lamb, rice, and beans stewed in peanut sauce—or tiebu djeun itself, fish stuffed with parsley and onion, cooked down for hours with cabbage, carrots, and rice in tomato, with a seasoning paste of dried fish and hot peppers that lay a salty marine funk at the bass line of the dish. A more deconstructed ‘house’ version of tiebu djeun is available daily, featuring a whole tilapia scored and deep-fried or grilled to preference, and joloff rice—jambalaya’s West African antecedent.”
On the joyless downtown hotel restaurant beat, Graham Meyer says of Roanoke in the Residence Inn: “The food circulates around safe, culling the broadest-appeal bits from bygone trends. The menu, still slugged ‘fall 2016’ in mid-January, offers the likes of a charcuterie board (no offal), a fried chicken starter (not Nashville hot) and an Au Cheval-type burger (but no fried bologna sandwich).” In short, Roanoke “justifies a short walk from the office. Anyone farther away can do better closer.” (Crain’s)
11. MY LITTLE DUMPLING
Dumplings are the subject of the Tribune’s latest monthly focus, with Louisa Chu in particular trying to identify the best xiao long bao (soup dumplings) in town. The problem is that it can be hard to tell when they come frozen out of a bag—as the improbably perfect ones she instagrammed from Katy’s Noodles almost certainly did, for instance. Beyond Asian dumplings, there look to be pierogi and more on the way.
12. UPTOWN'S NUTS
As Tracy Letts’ play Superior Doughnuts becomes a TV series, Janet Rausa Fuller searches the neighborhood it’s set in, Uptown, for its real-life equivalent. Which there isn’t really one, but she does find some fried dough worth eating. (Chicago)
Well, this is a bummer: one of the last Swedish businesses in Andersonville, Swedish Bakery, is hanging it up after 88 years. As one of the family who owns it, Dennis Stanton, put it to the Tribune’s Louisa Chu, “People are not interested in history. They’re interested in making their own history, and that’s understandable.”
14. MEAT THE PHOTOG
The Reader’s Chicagoans column talks to an actual meat photographer—and they don’t mean somebody on Instagram.
WHAT MIKE ATE
I returned, back to back, to both Smyth and Oriole. Smyth: still challenging and cerebral, but more accessible now in its thoughtful exploration of complexly constructed flavors. Oriole: sheer pleasure, mellow atmosphere for lush flavors, a piece of kampachi nigiri with yuzu-kosho and toasted rice putting sushi in Chicago to shame.
Much more earthbound, I had brunch at Cochon Volant, menu devised by Roland Liccioni, but defeated by careless hotel kitchen workers and not a good value even for the Loop. Very pleasant waitress though.