Mike Sula is pretty admiring of “vegetable-forward” restaurant Bad Hunter’s way with vegetables hearty enough to be meat: “Narrowly sectioned tempura-battered fried lemons and delicata squash are the sweet-and-sour snack every movie-theater concession should aspire to. Charred chunks of fractal Romanesco broccoli are dressed in a Spanish double shot of the Catalan-style pepper-nut-and-bread sauce salvitxada and served atop a shallow pool of almond-garlic soup. A blimp of white-anchovy-spiked beet tartare, launched to the mouth on brittle flaxseed crackers, tastes as meaty as the dish it models.” (Reader)


Michael Nagrant calls Entente’s combo of owner Ty Fujimura, chef Brian Fisher and pastry chef Mari Katsumura a dream team: “Their high-quality fare deserves a temple. Chicken liver ($13) is now more ubiquitous than pork belly on restaurant menus, but Fisher’s liver is pureed to velvet in a Vitamix Vita-Prep blender, leaving it smoother than all other contenders. It’s topped with a ring of winey Concord grape jelly and tiny tufts of salty sweet pumpkin seed butter, and it comes with tangy house-baked charred sourdough made with rye flour. Dipping the bread into the mousse elicits the same kind of savory-sweet satisfaction you’d get from a childhood peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” (Redeye)


In more good news for Ty Fujimura, Phil Vettel returns to Arami, reopened after its fire, and finds it worthy of three stars: “One of the best-balanced Japanese restaurants in Chicago, a multi-tooled player, much in the manner of Katsu or Momotaro (still the best, in my view), where the sushi bar and hot kitchen both operate at high levels, helped along by a surprisingly thorough beverage program. I hate when waiters tell me that ‘everything’s good,’ but at Arami, that’s pretty much the case and has been for some six years.”


You know, I admire Next for sticking with the variety of concepts year after year, but I ate there a bunch early on and wrote about it even more at Grub Street, and after The Hunt (which was fantastic) I kind of retired and moved on to other new things. But I have to say that the new menus just announced for next year are pretty exciting. Roman menu out of Apicius was the kind of thing I think I said at least once as a half-joke for what Next might do, but it makes total sense, and I might need to get my I Claudius on for it. Hollywood, dishes inspired by classic films, is something that Next’s former neighbor Ing already did in the case of Goodfellas, but doesn’t mean you can’t do it again your own way. And the World’s 50 Best menu, doing dishes from other famous high-end places around the world on that list, is a brilliant idea, what fan of that kind of dining wouldn’t want to sample a bunch of those places on the same night? More info here at the Trib, and see the teaser video here.


In an interview coming soon to Fooditor, Kevin Boehm mentioned that Boka Group has four concepts in the works—and one of them was just announced. Well, the chef was, anyway, Jimmy Papadoplous, formerly of Bohemian House; the precise concept as well as the location are still in the works, but read what more there is here at the Trib.


Lisa Shames raves about Smyth: “Change and adhering to the seasons are tenets at Smyth, both made more accessible via a relationship with a 20-acre Bourbonnais farm growing produce exclusively for the restaurant and for The Loyalist, the lounge downstairs where you’ll find interesting cocktails and a terrific cheeseburger among other tasty casual fare. While the birch twig in the amuse-bouche tea didn’t come from that farm, its notes of wintergreen mint say something about the time of year (the persimmons hanging to dry in the kitchen further drive home that point). It also sets the Japanese-leaning tone of the dishes yet to come, the harmonious flow of which is a joy to witness—and even better to eat.” (CS)


Mike Sula tells you how to get your shaved noodles on at Chinatown’s Slurp Slurp: “These noodles have a rough affinity to pappardelle (rough being the operative word), with uneven edges and varying thicknesses that magnify the textural appeal by nearly half. Like anything textured, the properties of adhesion come into play, which is why I suggest ordering these fat worms stir-fried so they pick up some wok hay, the smoky breath of the wok.”


I’m surprised GT Prime let Anthony Todd in after he slammed Swift and Sons last year, but it sounds like all is forgiven when the headline is “We Have a New Favorite Steakhouse”: “GT Prime is the sort of epic restaurant that has come to represent the Boka restaurant group. It’s huge, has an incredibly detailed design, and feels like the sort of place where a discretely dressed man would walk in, pull out a small controller, push a button and descend to his villain’s lair far beneath the dining room.” But what about the steak? To cut to his conclusion: “GT Prime reminds us that meat doesn’t need to be expensive, massaged or pampered to be great—just treated right by a talented kitchen.”


A sad and moving piece at Munchies by Sarah Freeman about Dan Jacobs, half of the Milwaukee restaurant Dandan (and its upscale sibling Esterev), who right around the time the restaurant opened, was diagnosed with a degenerative and ultimately fatal muscle disease.


Nick Kindelsperger talks about tlayudas, the really big tostadas you can try at Leña Brava Cruz Blanca and an increasing number of other Oaxacan-inspired spots in town.


Roscoe Village’s craft beer bar The Green Lady drops Miller/Coors products after Pete Coors holds a Trump fundraiser. I can’t imagine they 1) didn’t know the Coors family have been major conservative donors for the last 40 years 2) sold a lot of Miller Lite anyway, but they got plenty of publicity for it.


Farewell to Trenchermen, losing its last remaining Sheerin brother (Pat) and reconcepting as Trench. Here’s the official story. In other year-end closing news, Mercat a la Planxa will skip winter for a refresh, and low-rent bikini bar Crabbby Kim’s, the extra B is for boobies I guess, is no more.


Looking for a gift? Besides The Fooditor 99, I mean. Chicago mag calls out 5 cookbooks from Chicago authors that would make great gifts—I had no idea about the Dustin Drankiewicz one but I’m going to check it out. (Though I can think of two more they left out—Meathead and ManBQue’s Eat Street.)


The holiday Sauced Market is moving up in the world—it’ll be at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. Get the details here. 


The Washington Post does an article on the MAD symposium about chef work/life balance, leading with Iliana Regan: “Off the cuff, she nailed two hot-button issues chefs face: gender roles in the kitchen and the industry’s mental health. ‘I know my business, my craft, but I can barely some days get out of bed,’ Regan said. ‘It’s the topic I don’t want to talk about, but it’s necessary. Why am I having the best year of my life and still taking Wellbutrin?’”


I’m kind of a terrible citizen of my own neighborhood, not without reason as little in Roscoe Village is good for more than a quick lunch, so it’s with apologies that I note that it took me a year to get to Altiro Latin Fusion and it is, actually, a modest charmer in a hip, no-Mexi-cliches room. They specialize in sort of tablecloth and china presentations of tacos, which you may think is unnecessary, but the lamb stew, the freshmade tortillas and the carefully presented accompaniments were quite good and not that much more than a taco stand on a per-taco basis. Give it a try sometime, faster than I did.