Mike Sula seems pretty wowed by the alchemy performed by chef Brian Fisher at Entente: “These days it takes some guts for a chef to put something as boring as a single chicken breast at the center of the plate, but Fisher somehow redeems this has-been, rendering the flesh silky and moist and its skin a crackly armor that begs to be ripped off and scarfed. The side of sausage, escarole, and flageolet beans is almost an afterthought. He performs similar wizardry on other familiar proteins. An agreeably gamy duck breast with juicy turnips and the nutty rhizomes known as crosnes gets a counterpunch from dabs of funky miso yogurt and blackberry hoisin sauce, while a roulade of crispy pork belly sits among deposits of granola and dabs of apple butter and celery root puree.” (Reader)


A judge ruled that Chicago don’t want no food trucks nobody sent: per the Tribune, Judge Anna Helen Demacopoulos “said in her ruling that ‘food trucks may be regulated in a manner that balances the needs of the community, which includes the interests of the brick-and-mortar restaurants.’” So be sure and patronize well-funded national chains over the entrepreneurs trying to launch new businesses in Chicago—that’s the way the city wants it.


The Tribune looks at the best chocolate cakes in town in its latest slideshow. My best chocolate cake in town closed a few years ago (House of Fine Chocolates in Lakeview), but you won’t be surprised that a certain brewery winds up on this new list—and Julia Thiel talks about it, and what beer goes with chocolate cake, at the Reader: “I’m glad I didn’t try the cake with the bourbon-barrel-aged barleywine, a lovely beer that tastes like dates and brown sugar with a dash of bourbon and is much too sweet to pair with dessert. But I would be interested in a pairing with the bourbon-barrel-aged gingerbread imperial stout: its spiced molasses notes and creamy chocolate flavor with a touch of graham cracker combine to create a relatively dry beer that doesn’t hint at its whopping 14.2 percent ABV.”


One thing you quickly observe in Japan is that the most popular western cuisine isn’t American fast food, but Italian food (or as they call it, itameshi)—not surprising in that pasta is like all those Japanese noodles (and Neapolitan pizza seems well suited to a country with a perfectionism fetish). Mike Sula is only so-so on Intro’s Japanese-Italian menu, though, even when they’re making one of guest chef Hisanobu Osaka’s signature dishes: “Uni ‘carbonara,’ another dish the chef has brought from Japonais. There it was bacon and the reproductive structures of the sea urchin contributing to a rich creamy pasta, amounting to a sybaritic delight. But at Intro something goes wrong: the sauce and the pasta are appropriately luxurious, but the uni themselves are small and withered, nothing at all like the standard at Morimoto—or, for that matter, like Lettuce’s boilerplate publicity photos of the dish.” (Reader)


Time Out Chicago just put out its “100 Best Things We Ate This Year.” One has to wonder who exactly the “we” refers to when its reviewer, Elizabeth Atkinson, turns in her first review in two months with a not-entirely-excited review of Duck Duck Goat: “You’ll see familiar, if wanly executed, dishes like seafood fried rice ($17)—too greasy to eat with chopsticks, the only utensil provided, no matter how many ways you try to scoop it out of the bowl. Xiao long bao ($11) come five per order, and while the taste is there, these prove to be far too large to fit into your mouth resulting in a big brothy mess. At these prices—both about $5 more than variations we’ve enjoyed in Chinatown—these dishes should be fantastic.”


Graham Meyer in Crain’s has had some of the saddest meals we’ve read about, working the business lunch beat, so we’re glad he had a good lunch at last at Roister: “For lunch, which began in September, half a year after dinner debuted, Roister is excellent and enjoyable, slotting it a level below its sui generis Alinea Group sisters, all the sort of places you tell stories about after you eat there. Andrew Brochu, a chef who has done everything from slinging wings in a bar to tweezing peas and making dessert with hay at Graham Elliot, steers the kitchen, inflecting dishes with a Southern mood as he did at the Lincoln Park chefs’ darling Kith & Kin.”


Michael Nagrant has a roundup of his top choices for a variety of dining out occasions, from an odd-numbered birthday (“I’ll assume you want to celebrate somewhere that’s a little glitzy and makes you feel special for surviving another year… For you, Naoki Sushi is where it’s at”) to where to brunch without a wait (“Uncle Mike’s can get a little busy on weekends, but you can often slide right into this low-key West Town diner without much ado.”) (Redeye)


Mike Sula writes a paean to Cafe Tola, long on Southport and now in the old Hot Doug’s space, too: “I like none better than the simple version with refried beans and gooey melted cheese. The piquant chicken salsa verde bests the dull chicken mole, while the chunky egg-and-chorizo outperforms the dry egg-and-cheese. I’ve enjoyed plenty of the others: rajas, birria, spinach-ricotta, ropa vieja, and more. The pastry is consistently wonderful, tightly crimped, blistered, and flaky; it’s light but sturdy, and more than capable of holding the sometimes dense fillings together.”


The Reader’s annual people issue is out and subjects include friend of Fooditor Saralynn Pablo of Filipino Kitchen and Kultura fame, whose activities I covered for the Reader quite a bit back in the day. And another friend of Fooditor, Julia Thiel, talks to one of the leaders behind the Dill Pickle Co-Op.


First Rene Redzepi moves to Tulum, now Infiniti moves into Pilsen and Little Village with a glossy, sponsored look at Chicago’s Mexican community and the food there in association with Eater, Vox Media and something called the Museum of Food and Drink. There’s some good information in it about the community’s history and about restaurants (I did not know about Yvolina’s Tamales), and unlike Redzepi, they at least hired some actual Mexicans or Mexican-American freelancers to write it, which makes up for a somewhat bloodless, exhibit-tag-on-the-wall tone.


At some point, what’s a brand name worth if you’ve gotten mediocre reviews, fired the guy it was named for, and now you’re moving out of your brewery and the restaurant you took over as the chef (Matthias Merges) who was running it calls the relationship “toxic”? That’s what Finch Beer Co. will find out, I guess. (Tribune)


To repeat from last week: “The holiday Sauced Market is moving up in the world—it’ll be at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. Get the details here.” It’s Tuesday, be there.


I talked about The Fooditor 99: Where To Eat (And What To Eat There) In Chicago on WGN Radio’s Outside the Loop with Mike Stephen. Go here to listen (I’m on at about 31 minutes in), and order your copy here!