Chicago Magazine’s Best New Restaurants issue is out, and it’s not too surprising that number one is the French restaurant that almost everyone loves, The Blanchard. Number two, though, will be a surprise to a lot of people—Arbor, the ultra-quirky cafe serving “Midwestern omakase” that’s on the second floor of an Avondale office building. (Well, Fooditor readers won’t be surprised.) After that, it’s more of what you expect—steakhouses, one suburban choice no one’s heard of, and despite the Arbor love, you gotta focus on dinner to make the list, so no Cafe Marie-Jeanne, the comfy all-day cafe that Chicago has said nice things about in recent weeks. Highest profile omissions (some, like Oriole or Duck Duck Goat, were too new to make it): the mix of weird brews and chichi food at Band of Bohemia got no love, Cantina 1910 is obviously in between-chefs limbo, and conspicuously not among the honored steakhouses: Maple & Ash. Oh, and apparently Chicago didn’t like C Chicago…


Also in lists this week: The Big Heat, New City’s idiosyncratic list of the top chefs right now. You don’t have to agree and won’t, but it makes a great cheat sheet for who’s who.


Dave Beran is leaving Next, and the Tribune has the story. Jenner Tomaska is Next’s new executive chef, and Fooditor had the story on him three weeks ago. Did we know that he was likely to take the top spot shortly? Well, let’s just say what’s next is our job.


Sula (who wasn’t as harsh on C Chicago as Jeff Ruby) also has nice things to say about ex-C Chicago chef Bill Montagne and Jennifer Kim’s Snaggletooth, comparing it to another handcrafted hipster hit: “Possibly the best use of those bagels are the tartines on which Montagne builds gorgeous creations every bit as Instagrammable as toast from Iliana Regan’s Bunny, the Micro Bakery. The pastrami-cured trout dotted with microgreens conceals a schmear made up of seared, pureed kimchi piled on pumpernickel—it’s one the most visually stunning and delicious things I’ve ingested all year.”


Mike Sula is in a mellow mood for fish this week, first with praise for the not-too-gussied up sushi at Naoki, next to Intro: “The operating principle is restraint, which doesn’t mean the subordinate details can’t be pretty special too. The tamago at the core of a salmon-miso maki and a separate unagi maki is probably the smoothest omelet I’ve come across in a sushi bar. The black-garlic sauce that may streak across the plate between two maki is there only if you want it. (It would make a good salad dressing.) Fresh wasabi, available for an upcharge, is grated, as per custom, on sharkskin.”


We missed this when it came out a couple of weeks ago, but Lisa Shames managed to pull off getting sent to eat Alinea food in Madrid for CS, and here’s the kind of thing she saw: “Jar Can Jar paid homage to the wonderful preserved seafood of Spain and included caviar, razor clams and octopus. A beautiful plating of rouget, a Mediterranean fish, was inspired by Barcelona artist Joan Miró. Chicago’s urban feel came back into the meal with Graffiti, a mix of wild mushrooms and herbs topped with a thin cement-colored meringue made out of porcini.”


Lisa Shames’ review of Monteverde at CS reads more like a whirlwind Italian romance: “The genius of chef Sarah Grueneberg’s prosciutto butter toast wasn’t a fluke. Rather, the simple-sounding snack of lightly toasted multigrain bread spread with prosciutto-infused butter and topped with dill, candied Meyer lemon and thinly sliced radishes is a dish worth pining over. And the same can be said for pretty much all the dishes at Monteverde, her and partner Meg Sahs’ (Terzo Piano) new Italian-inspired restaurant.”


The first or second thing I ever wrote for the Reader was this piece about a Korean vegan buffet in a dive bar. I haven’t been back in years, but the blog Chicago Agashi checks it out and six years later it’s going strong among the local vegan crowd: “We’re pretty sure we were the only Koreans there; mostly everyone else were Caucasian hipsters.  Honestly, to me it was a surreal phenomenon to see this particular demographic so excited about Korean food.  One attendee looked at the kimchi and asked me what the cabbage was, making me realize that there are still probably many Chicagoans who haven’t tried Korean food.”


Mike Nagrant raves about the crust orientation at Streeterville’s new Robert’s Pizza Company: “Having eaten more pizza than any single other type of food, I thought I’d seen everything. But Garvey’s crust—the result of a three-day cold fermentation and 575-degree gas-fired brick oven—is unique. It has the blistered, crusty edges of a Neapolitan pie and the thinness and sharp angles of a New York slice. But what really sets it apart is its flaky crispness. These slices don’t droop and sag at the tip; they crack when you fold them. Best of all, they maintain their integrity when they’re cold or reheated in a toaster oven, something I did two days in a row with my leftovers.”


Ugo is a Logan Square neighborhood place that doesn’t measure up to the competition, says Elizabeth Atkinson at Time Out: “The heartier dishes on the menu didn’t fare as well, including the black pepper-heavy carbonara pasta, which was only so-so. The lowest point was the pizza, which is troubling, because it’s what dominates the menu at Ugo’s.”


Mike is off to Japan (hence this early posting). Expect the greatest installment of What Mike Ate ever when I’m back!