Arun’s, the upscale Thai restaurant that was the unlikeliest member and survivor of the 1980s fine dining scene in Chicago, has announced its intention to close (though not with any specific date in mind; owner Arun Sampanthavivat will close when he finds a buyer for the building, located well off typical fine dining paths at 4156 N. Kedzie).

In truth, it’s a restaurant that has long outlived its time. When it opened in 1985, the combination of still-new-to-many Thai flavors, the decor that included Sampanthavivat’s own art collection and the artful service in native costume made it a novelty and an eye opener. Chicago magazine in particular took to it with the enthusiasm of Pauline Kael at a Brian DePalma festival, long propping up the restaurant’s reputation even after foodies on places like LTHForum began to discover more authentic Thai restaurants. As early as 2004 Laura Levy Shatkin at the Reader labeled Indie Cafe “almost as good as Arun’s at a tenth of the price,” and Heather Shouse hit the $85 prix fixe hard in a 2011 Time Out Chicago review: “Every dish currently coming out of Arun’s kitchen is not only straightforward Thai-in-America greatest hits (green curry beef, crêpe-like spring rolls, tofu in panang curry), but they are poorly executed at that—the flavors flat, the proteins overcooked, the food obscured by dated attempts to mask it all with random piles of julienned bell peppers, tomatoes shaped into roses and carrots carved into goldfish.” When Arun opened a restaurant in a planned Thai market, Taste of Thai Town, the media noted the fact but quickly lost interest in the food.

It’s sad to see a place as old as Charlie Trotter’s end with a whimper, so let’s say goodbye positively: Arun opened minds and wowed the senses with his presentation of a new cuisine in his day, and now Thai food is in the blood of Chicago. That’s enough. (Crain’s)


Phil Vettel gave Next: The Alps three stars—”It must be a disaster,” a friend snarked on Twitter, given that only a couple of Next’s menus have ever failed to reach the summit of four stars. He liked “addictive praline gateaux served alongside goat butter” and “a sinfully good liverwurst rolled in smoked pecans,” but warns off the truffle add-on to raclette and actually calls one sausage a “snausage.” In the end he says “while ‘The Alps’ certainly scaled the peaks, it didn’t quite reach the heights of some of Next’s previous iterations,” and wonders how this “winter” menu will play as it continues nearly to summer.


So is this to be the fate of Intro chefs? Acclaimed for his work at Bay Area new American and foraging-based restaurants like Quince and Commis, Aaron Martinez came to Chicago to cook for Intro, briefly touched down at Elizabeth… and now he has a Lettuce-owned River North Italian restaurant of his own, Il Porcellino, in the former Paris Club, under the supervisory eye of Doug Psaltis (RPM Italian). Excited yet? It opens in spring.


The space where Dillman’s and Cocello both flopped has a new concept… everything Brendan Sodikoff has ever done. 3 Greens Market will include a Small Cheval, the return (this is the good news) of Dillman’s pastrami; a Bavette’s-branded bakery and a salad bar with “globally-inspired entrees.” “We’re finally giving the neighborhood what it’s been asking for,” Sodikoff said in a press release—you judge the tone of voice he said it in.


Jeff Ruby has love for two new spots in Chicago magazine. One is everyone’s new French fave, The Blanchard: “If there’s one man you can trust with cream, butter, wine, and/or garlic, it’s [Jason] Paskewitz… familiar dishes land perfectly calibrated punches strong enough to remind you why they were classics in the first place.”

The other is everyone’s favorite neighborhood steak joint, Boeufhaus: “When Boeufhaus does give in to overkill, it’s delicious, absurd overkill. The hulking 40-ounce porchetta is the belly of a Slagel Family Farm hog that’s been rolled around the hog’s own loin, stuffed with lardo and chorizo, wrapped in crisp bacony skin, drizzled with natural pork jus, and served on a silver platter. It’s like a coliseum of pig.” (Chicago)


Latinicity comes on for more grief from Anthony Todd at Chicagoist, this time for its alleged finer dining tapas offering, Pata Negra, which turns out to be an inferior copy: “Comparisons to Mercat a la Planxa became inevitable, because it began to feel like i was in a strange Twilight Zone version of Garces’ other restaurant. Presentations were similar, but the flavors were all slightly off. Patatas braves ($6) were served in the same individual, orange daubed presentation as Mercat, except they were covered with a huge dollop of almost-inedible mayonnaise that added nothing to the dish. Tortilla espanola ($7) would have been perfect, except that the kitchen had finished it with so much salt that it was difficult to eat (and this coming from a critic who eats salt from the shaker).”


Malaysian food ranks high on the “how come we don’t have…” list for Chicago foodies, and now we have one, or sort of one since Mike Sula admits Serai in Logan Square also has crab rangoon, pad thai, orange chicken, Indonesian gado gado, and a lot of Sichuan dishes. Still, “worthy benchmarks of Malaysian cuisine include the Indian-styleroti pratha, shreds of soft and crispy coconut-scented flatbread meant to be dipped in a thick, sweet red curry with potatoes and chicken. There’schar koay teow, wide, flat noodles that carry the proverbial “breath of the wok” smokiness, tossed with tensile shrimp and squid and seasoned with sweet soy and chile. And there’s nasi goreng, fried rice with the pungent shrimp paste belacan.”


French chef Martial Noguier, last seen at Fooditor here, is consulting on turning around Cité, the restaurant at the top of Lake Point Tower which has long been a testament to the notion that a place with a really good view can stay open through decades of mediocre food. Here’s hoping.


How’s Alinea’s Madrid popup looking? Chicagoist collects a bunch of Instagram photos in one place. Hint: It’s a lot like Alinea in Chicago, but with more octopus.


Nine more Bowtruss Coffees to open! Nine more neighborhoods ruined by the coffee chain which made Pilsen pure gringo, and turned Roscoe Village into a newt (“it got better”).


New feature for Buzz List: short notes on my own dining. Ugo’s Kitchen & Bar: across the street from Osteria Langhe, Italian neighborhood place from a chef with Alinea and GT Fish & Oyster on resume. An arty-looking beet salad stood well above more traditional Italian dishes which need sharpening up. Pleasant enough if you’re nearby, not to drive to.

Cotton Duck: romantic little Wicker Park place, part art gallery and part restaurant, that brought back memories of 80s fine dining, in a good way—unpretentious, small and handcrafted. Apps unpromising—cumin and foie gras turns out to be an off combination—but entrees were very nice, particularly a hearty duck sugo, desserts were pretty.