Galactically famous and fascinating Chicago restaurant Alinea reopened after five months on the road, a pretty wack pop-up and a rethinking of what it’s all about that now offers three tiers of dining experiences. Right before that happened, Sarah Freeman took another stab at understanding what’s going on at Eater. And here’s a gallery of the art collection now hanging there—including over your head at the Kitchen Table. Pretty sure we’re going to keep talking about it for a while, here.


Was it a whole month between the reopening of Alinea and when the same group’s last opening was foisted on us, The Roister? No more than that, anyway, and here comes Mike Sula with heaps o’ praise for chef Andrew Brochu; I especially liked this paragraph, which walks you through so many different reactions (but then I also especially liked the dish, as seen above):

“The very first dish I ate at Roister was something I generally hate every time I talk myself into it. When I see it on a menu I hear a GM at a staff meeting saying, ‘Push the goddamn crudo. It’s got the best margins!’ and I’m frequently confronted with tiny slivers of fish with fussily arranged microgreens garnished with precious dribs and drabs of scented oils. But at Roister the crudo is a masterpiece. Huge chunks of sweet scallop in a shallow bath of sharply sweet and tart, effervescent passion-fruit medium, with slabs of strongly pickled and charred daikon radish sprinkled with mustard seed and dried scallop, reduced to the molluscan version of crunchy bacon bits. Fascinating and crystal clear in intent, it’s the first of many overstimulating dishes I would eat over my visits. (It was also my first hint that Brochu knew there was a critic in the house, since it came out unbidden, along with a few others throughout that particular evening.)” (Reader)


And in case you were wondering about any other Alinea group properties, Phil Vettel reviews the South American menu (three stars) that represents the official debut of new chef Jenner Tomaska (who we wrote about here), and finds it “a strong first effort from Tomaska… Tomaska breaks out the visuals for the sudado, which traditionally is fish steamed in banana leaf; here the fish (paiche, plucked from the Amazon River) is coddled in a pork and coconut broth, but it arrives to the table as a wooden block covered in brown paper (the brown paper substituting for the banana leaf in an en papillote switcheroo). Guests do the paper-ripping honors, rewarded by a waft of aromatic steam.” (Tribune)


You may have trouble keeping track of all the shacks and boiled seafood joints in town, but Minneapolis import Smack Shack—which curiously occupies the same Google building as Cold Storage, the seafood part of Swift & Sons—gets a lot of praise from Michael Nagrant: “The lobster cioppino ($36) is an oval-shaped skillet filled to the brim with a harissa-spiked tomato and tarragon broth overflowing with mussels, shrimp, lobster tails, clams, hunks of flaky striped sea bass and planks of crusty bread. It’s a soulful garlicky brew that’s on par with some of the best bouillabaisse I’ve slurped in my lifetime.” (Redeye)


Restaurateur Tony Hu pleaded guilty to his wire fraud and money laundering charges, will pay over a million dollars in restitution and still faces sentencing in August that could see him spend up to 4 years in prison. (Crain’s)


Baffo, the high-priced Italian restaurant located somewhere on the periphery of the Eataly store, has closed. Chicagoist has a good roundup of the restaurant’s history which suggests (and I’d certainly agree) that the overall quality of Eataly’s accessibly-priced goods were a powerful argument against the need to spend substantially more at Baffo.


Two reviews of new spots amid the breakfast reviews in Ina Pinkney’s Trib column: she hails Americano 2211, in the Birchwood Kitchen space and finds a familiar name helping out: “pastry chef Nancy Silver, who has worked in great kitchens here (Blackbird, Charlie Trotter’s) and on the West Coast,” making cookies and offering her Snookelfritz ice cream (an old favorite which moved to San Francisco for a while).

And while Beurrage’s closing was Pilsen’s loss (I hear the guy went back to being an architect), Spoke & Bird is a thoughtful bakery and breakfast place of which she says, “I was told that the bakery gets everything it uses within an 80-mile radius. I’d gladly drive 80 miles to eat here again.” (Incidentally, I noticed that they have started carrying their baked goods at Local Foods.)


Sula loved that new yakitori joint in Arlington Heights last week, and here’s Steve Dolinsky with two hunger-inducing video segments on the eats and the drinks at Yakitori Boogytori.


Everybody claims to be making street food; David Hammond has a thoughtful piece at New City about why the street food mystique exists (that also namechecks a bunch of street food places to try).


I knew a lot of Japanese restaurants in Chicago were really Korean, but Monica Eng teaches what to look for at Chinese restaurants that are really Korean in disguise at WBEZ (includes audio version).


Damn, that’d actually be a pretty good name for a wine podcast. But John Lenart’s new one is called The Honest Pour, which works too. He chats with winemakers and tastes their wares; in the first two up so far, he talks to Mari Jones of Emeritus Vineyards in the Russian River Valley, and Olivier Souvelain of Chateau Gassier in Provence. Check them out here.