Buzz List for March 13, 2017
Dolo is a solid Chinatown recommendation for Jeff Ruby, Sula finds a phildickian alternative universe at Kitsune, we cannot allow an Atomic Cake gap, and how did a violence-prone liquor store get a 5 am license?
1. DOLO CONTENDER
I wrote about Chinatown’s Dolo when it opened a couple of years ago, liking the dim sum in particular, but haven’t been back, so I was surprised and pleased to see that Jeff Ruby checked it out and found it not only good but better than ever: “Dolo, a two-year-old Cantonese spot just off Chinatown’s main drag, has created a kind of boutique dim sum that’s changed everything for me. Instead of churning out dish after dish in a factory-like commissary, Ming Chen makes everything to order in a small kitchen and carefully curates the menu, narrowing it to a manageable number of standouts… I have always dreaded people asking me for Chinatown suggestions. Now, with Dolo, I’ve finally got a recommendation I can stand behind.” (Chicago)
2. FOX IN THE HIGH CASTLE
Last week Michael Nagrant compared Iliana Regan’s Kitsune to Nirvana, and this week Mike Sula invokes The Man in the High Castle: “Kitsune is Regan’s expression of what it would be like to open a restaurant if the Japanese had occupied Chicago for the last 70 years. It’s a place where virtually none of the servers and cooks are Asian, but where they’re serving technically faithful adaptations of Japanese bar snacks with overwhelmingly midwestern ingredients. Close your eyes, imagine the chairs filled with sake-swilling Kempetai and Japanese Imperial bureaucrats chopsticking bowls of donburi and ramen, and you’re there.” (Reader)
Mostly the Trib’s pieces on Chicago classic experiences have trodden familiar ground for me, but one so far stands out: Louisa Chu’s look at a South Side cake from the 1950s, the Atomic Cake, still popular down there and just as unknown on the north side. To be honest, she doesn’t really find many answers to where it came from, but I enjoyed reading about the Bakers Dozen, a council of elite bakers from old school bakeries that meets to plan their own survival. Hmmm… a secret society, an Atomic Cake… I’m concerned where this is heading. (Tribune)
4. ORIOLE COOKIE
Elizabeth Atkinson gives her second five-star review to Oriole, as if you needed to be told how good it is: “Our meal starts with a bite of Golden Osetra caviar, with a rich coconut dashi, lychee and grape to brighten the bite, which feels lavish and sets the tone for the rest of the meal. It’s served in an almost egg-shaped bowl with all the components resting inside providing an extra element of surprise. Interestingly presented dishes appear throughout. Take the puffed beef tendon—an über-fancy pork rind—topped with wagyu tartare and shaved matsutake mushroom served on a bed of wood chips for an additional note of smokiness when you bite into the crunchy puff.” (Time Out Chicago)
5. ANKER, MAN
Elizabeth Atkinson seems a little put off by Publican Anker, man: “Your server will ask if you want to have your whole fish filleted for you, and we highly recommend it, especially if you’re something of an exhibitionist… Was it tasty? Yes, the fish was grilled—flaky, topped with Aleppo pepper and served with naan and lettuce (we couldn’t figure out what exactly to do with huge pieces of bibb lettuce, but sure), letting the fish speak for itself. Would I get it again? Not unless I was trying to impress someone.” (Time Out Chicago)
6. A PLACE IN THE KITCHEN
Eater is exactly the sort of social-media-driven publication that you’d expect to take A Day Without Women very seriously, and though the staff of Eater Chicago is, well, itself without women (since the departure of Sarah Freeman), they found a woman chef to talk about kitchen life. Beverly Kim famously sued Charlie Trotter over kitchen life there, but she doesn’t talk about that but rather, the example set for her by a couple of female mentors—Sarah Stegner at the Ritz Carlton, and Jackie Shen. (Eater)
7. ONE STELLA
Phil Vettel visits some modestly (one star each) satisfying Italian places in the burbs: “Worthy pasta picks abound” at La Notte Ristorante Italiano in Oak Park, while “The chef’s heart is more in the pastas than the proteins. All the pastas I tried (I include the very good lobster risotto for efficiency’s sake) were terrific,” he says of La Grange’s La Buona Vita. (Tribune)
8. HOLD MY BEER
If you like beer, or life itself, be sure to check out the Reader’s guide to brewery tours, and not just because I wrote two of them (not that many, considering that they evaluate 23 different breweries by the degree of interest in the tour and how much you get to drink). Check it out here.
Arun’s has held a unique place in Chicago and even U.S. dining for 30 years (not counting being closed for the past year): an upscale, and quite expensive, Thai restaurant. As it reopens after a redesign, Louisa Chu talks to Arun Sampanthavivat about it, though his explanation of what’s new (“There’s a lot more focus on presentation”) doesn’t tell you much—Arun’s has always been more about dressed-up presentation, carved radishes and the like, rather than any sort of cutting-edge authenticity.
10. CHUTE THE BREEZE
Parachute is a Korean restaurant. Korea is not exactly a wine country. But somehow Parachute wound up with a really interesting wine program. Wine & Spirits talks to Matty Coulston, who devised it.
11. CHICAGO WAY
A liquor store in Austin is open till 5 am—and has a significant record of big trouble after 2 am. The owner is someone who shouldn’t have been allowed any license, let alone a 5 am one. How did this happen? The Tribune explains the Chicago way (short answer, an alderman is involved).
12. NEW EDITOR CONGRATS
Congrats to Morgan Olson, who’s joining Time Out Chicago as its editor. She’s currently Lifestyle and Food & Drink editor at Redeye, and prior to Redeye, she was an editor at The Mash, the Tribune’s publication for Chicago high school students.
WHAT MIKE ATE
I finally ate for real at Quiote, after two preview meals over six months, with both sons in tow this time—and the words “This is the best taco I’ve ever had” were spoken by one of them at one point. It’s really good, go.
I went to new LTHForum fave A Bite of Szechuan, which, if not better than Lao Sze Chuan at its peak, has more than enough dishes with good spicy porky ma la to rank as the best Chinese option on the far-north, semi-west side. Dan dan noodles and pork with garlic (better described as pork belly swimming in oil) were the best things, dumplings not so much.
And I hit that new Kurdish place, The Gundis, for lunch, but that menu looks like a stripped-down version of what dinner offers, and I trust an okay chicken pita sandwich with fries does not represent the heights for this place.