Last night, two of my best girl friends got a craving for Moroccan and asked me if I wanted to come with. I’ve never had Moroccan (one of the joys of growing up in a small town: very limited “ethnic food” options), so I was game. Ashley had heard good things about Andalous, and it always taunted her when she was riding by on the El (I know, right? That’s how I feel about Ethiopian Diamond!). We looked for a few different Moroccan options before deciding that was our best bet.
The restaurant is pretty small, with room for only a few tables in the front of the house. However, it didn’t feel cramped (except for the lack of waiting space - we got shoved by the bathroom for five or ten minutes).
I liked the simplicity of the place. But I have to admit, it was a little loud, so I was really happy that we got seated on the patio. It’s covered in case of rain, but we lucked and had a perfectly temperate evening. The patio is very hippie-ish, with painted murals. I loved it.
The same server took everyone’s orders, and there were only some busboys taking plates and filling water. Our server was nice enough, and he accomodated us quickly when a lot of people came in at once. He also made great recommendations for food. Unfortunately, he did one thing that is on my major list of service don’ts: he hit on my friend when he brought our entrees. The service lost major points with that, along with the huge delay in service. We were at the restaurant for over two hours, and we probably waited an hour for our entrees (thank goodness we ordered an appetizer). My friends also ordered Diet Cokes, and those weren’t brought out until after our appetizer had been taken away.
I’d like to say the food was just so good that it made up for the delay, but it was. It was definitely really good, but not good enough to negate the wait. For our appetizer, we got chicken and vegetable briwate. Briwate are little egg rolls covered in powdered sugar.
They also brought out complimentary pita bread and a white bean…dip? I’m not sure how to describe it. We spooned it into our pita bread and gourged. The briwate was much better. Powdered sugar gave the dish a nice sweetness. I preferred the vegetable briwate, but the chicken was good, too.
For the entrees, we each opted for different types of dishes. Ashley got a chicken pastille, a chicken pastry with powdered sugar. Mallory opted for the famous couscous, an enormous dish with lamb on the bone and thick cuts of vegetables.
I tried Mallory’s because I had never had lamb before, and I don’t know how I felt about it. The lamb was a little fatty for me, but I really want to try it again. The chicken pastille was delicious, and I wish I had gotten that instead of my tagine.
The couscous was very good, but I didn’t really love the spices on my vegetables. It was certainly good enough when I was eating it, but after tasting the pastille I realized there was a more suitable dish for my palate. I did like the melted provolone over my veggies, though.
Overall, it was a nice foray into new territory. I definitely enjoy Moroccan food, but I think I won’t go to Andalous on a Saturday night again. I should note that it is BYOB, and the other tables around us brought wine - that probably helped the time pass faster.
The boyfriend and I went to Opera this past Tuesday. It’s been a fairly stressful quarter for both of us, and we were eager to have a relaxing, stress-free date night in Chicago instead of frantically trying to grab a nice meal close to home. We narrowed down our options to a few places I had found with OpenTable: Cuatro, Opera, and Le Colonial. I really want to go to the two other places at some point, but I’m really glad we selected Opera. We were able to get the prix fixe deal, which Opera offers on Tuesdays and Sundays. I’ll go into that more a little later.
The restaurant caters to all kinds - I saw older people, families, and young couples enjoying dinner together. I was initially a little concerned because the restaurant is so colorful and vivacious - I got used to it after we walked to our table, but it was a little shocking to have so much color when most restaurants stick to a more neutral theme.
I was also a bit worried that the hostess was going to seat us in the open dining area, which I thought was a bit loud for my tastes. However, she took us back to one of the vault areas.
These little rooms are curtained off from the main dining room and contain two tables, with an open corridor through the middle so the servers can walk to and from tables and the kitchen. Our vault was just us for a while, but right before we got our main dish another couple was seated in our room. Luckily, we got the table at the back of the vault and they were closer to the main dining room.
Our waitress was amazing - easily one of the best servers I’ve ever had, hands-down. She gave us great recommendations for the menu and did a great job explaining the specials (which were very complex). The boyfriend and I both opted for the prix fixe dinner - an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. Our waitress told us that specials could be included in the prix fixe option, so I decided to get the soup, a creamy corn chowder with crabmeat and lime juice. The boyfriend got the Crab & Chopsticks, a jumbo lump crabcake and two “chopsticks” (think really thin, long crab eggroll). I loved my soup - I’m such a fan of it in the summer, which makes no sense because I’ve always been stuck in humidity. The crabcake and the chopsticks were also really good.
For dinner, our server recommended I get the Black Tiger Prawn Singapore Noodles and the boyfriend get Beef & Broccoli. We both tried each other’s dish, and found both to be excellent. My prawns were perfectly cooked and unseasoned, which I loved in contrast to the spicy noodles. The boyfriend’s dish was also really, really good. I’m not much of a beef eater so I only sampled a very tiny bite, but I can say that the sauce had a nice zing to it.
The dessert menus reappeared, and there was much debate over what to get. We both wanted the chocolate dish (The Tao of Chocolate), but we didn’t want to get the same thing. In the end, I got the chocolate and the boyfriend got the sorbet selection. That night it was Meyer lemon, raspberry, and almond sherbert. The sorbet plate was light and refreshing, but we both preferred the chocolate. It was moist and absolutely delicious.
Overall, it was a great restaurant that I will definitely visit again. I highly recommend it for anyone in the Chicago area.
Better late than never, huh?
For spring formal, we went to Rhapsody. Now, I know it’s a little uncouth to write a review based on banquet dining, but bear with me. Rhapsody is attached to the Symphony Center in Chicago, so it’s the perfect place for dinner and a show. I was pleased with the sectioning of the restaurant - there’s a bar and lounge area for more casual dining, the main dining area, and a patio.
The patio was certainly my favorite area, although I thought the back room/wine display area was a nice, intimate touch.
The service was pleasant enough. Our waiter quickly resolved any issues we had with the meal preparation, and was prompt bringing out the salad and main dish. Dessert was passed around in the patio after dinner by separate servers, who made great recommendations. I found the salad and dessert to be quite good, but my chicken was undercooked and didn’t sit well with me. I would like to go back to try something different on the menu - I’m not the biggest fan of Amish chicken, but whatever.
Overall, it was a fun dinner and made for a nice formal location - and that’s all one can ask for, right?
This past Saturday, some friends and I went out for dinner and dessert. We heard there was a new Hawaiian place in town, and I was eager to try it since I’ve never had Hawaiian food. I’ve realized lately that I’m more and more willing to try new and slightly crazy things - the idea of eating things like foie gras and pork belly doesn’t faze me anymore. Hawaiian food, I have to say, doesn’t really have anything crazy. Well, except for all the spam.
Big Ka Hoo Na is so new that it doesn’t have a website up yet. In fact, it was only the third day opening. They’re still serving everything in styrofoam take-out containers, which they’ll hopefully replace with something much more environmentally-friendly. The restaurant is in the process of a soft opening for two weeks. I give places credit for taking the soft opening route and getting everything under control. Grand openings for smaller places scare me a lot - most times, they’re owned by people who have never been in the food industry business before and really have no idea what they’re doing. Read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential - the restaurant business is one of the worst markets to get into, with a huge failure rate (something like 60%). I’d much rather see people act smart and logical about getting their shit together than having a miserable grand opening and suffering from the bad buzz.
I was sad to see that the lomi lomi salmon wasn’t available yet, which pretty much guarantees that I’ll be back at Big Ka Hoo Na again. I also really wanted to try the spam musubi since I’d heard so much about it. I wanted to try it with other people, but no one really felt up for having their first spam experience. Instead, I got the Hawaiian pulled pork sandwich, which was served with a slice of pineapple on the sandwich, french fries, and macaroni salad. I, for one, was more worried about the macaroni salad than spam. It was seasoned nicely, but it just doesn’t suit my palate. I loved the pulled pork sandwich and fries, and I will definitely recommend them to a friend.
After testing out the Hawaiian place, we went to get the drinks and dessert at The Celtic Knot. I got a raspberry lemon cupcake, the cupcake of the month. It was really delicious, but I am sad that I missed out on the strawberry shortcake cupcake. I’m still hearing raves about it.
Blu Sushi Lounge replaced a family favorite, Narra, this past fall. I love sushi like no one else, so I was eager to finally get a chance to go with a group of friends.
I’m really partial to the warm colors on cream decor theme, but I hate the blue accents. It makes things feel like an upscale Fourth of July barbecue. I do love those light fixtures, though.
The restaurant wasn’t very busy when we got there, and our server was pleasant enough. We didn’t have any problems with the timing of food, and she gave great recommendations for drinks and desserts. For dinner, I got the spicy tuna roll and a spciy crawfish roll. What can I say - I love spicy, bold flavors. I preferred the crawfish to the tuna - it was definitely different, in a good way. Plus I have weird Southern tastes in that I will always choose crawfish over tuna any day.
For dessert, my friends and I ordered a cappuccino cake and warm chocolate cake. The chocolate was a lot better, even though I enjoyed the caramel drizzle over the cappuccino. I imagine that the warm chocolate cake tastes like the muk muk cake at PGC, which makes me want to go back there even more. Sad.
Overall, Blu is a great upscale sushi option. I doubt it replace my usual sushi places simply it’s so much more expensive.
I am absolutely in love with Jacky’s Bistro now.
The location is close by (less than a ten minute drive), the dress code is casual, and the food is amazing. I was a little turned off by our waitress showing up five minutes after we were seated, but the restaurant was incredibly busy and she was very attentive and friendly thereafter.
I loved the simple yellows, browns, and reds of the decor. There was nothing overly modern or elaborate about it - just classic and comfortable.
For dinner, I started with the Asparagus Salad with Artisanal Cheese, Shaved Fennel and Mustard Vinaigrette. I enjoyed the flavor combinations and the acidic citrus pieces in the salad. For my main dish, I ordered the Sautéed Fresh Gnocchi with Pesto Sauce. The gnocchi was firm, and the pesto was perfect. For dessert, there was a sampler with some mousse, a fruit tart, chocolate cake, and other sweet treats.
I was really impressed with Jacky’s Bistro, and I eagerly anticipate my next meal there to try some of the things I couldn’t try this time around!
Food - 24
Decor - 20
Service - 20
Oh, Flatwater. What a disappointing experience. The restaurant is gorgeous and in a prime spot on the river.
You can even get takeout from your boat! I was in love with the mellow, neutral decor inside - at least where we were. The restaurant was a little too dark for my tastes, and it was clear that the bar area was the happening place for young people.
The service was less than enjoyable. Our waitress was completely disinterested and bland. She barely said half a dozen words to us all night.
The food was also pretty forgettable. Portions were very small, and there was nothing special about the preparations. I was not amused.
Food - 16
Decor - 19
Service - 13
I’ve been intrigued by Union Pizzeria since I drove by it about a month ago. With huge windows in the front and a vibrant bar area, it was certainly eye-catching. I am sad to say that beyond the bar, the decor isn’t as interesting. The lounge area in the front is great - as my boyfriend’s friends pointed out, it makes you feel like you’re sitting in your living room enjoying homemade pizza with friends.
The food itself was pretty good. I ordered the Margherita pizza, and I was pretty disappointed with the lack of basil. However, I tried my boyfriend’s pepperoni pizza and it was spiced and flavored perfectly. Service was fairly lacking - our waitress brought us a random dish and forgot one person’s order, then mischarged us for the incorrect side dish.
I’m glad there’s a brick oven place within walking distance from me, but I think this place needs to be open a little while longer to find its footing.
Food - 17
Decor - 17
Service - 10
I discovered Prairie Grass Cafe entirely through Tumblr when I saw a picture of one of the dishes. I convinced a couple of my friends to go there with me for lunch last Saturday because I loved the lunch menu so much.
Unfortunately, I’m kind of an idiot. Sometimes I forget that people have separate brunch menus that aren’t optional. Where I’m from, most places keep the lunch menu intact and offer a separate menu with a few brunch items. Almost all the food we picked out on the way over (thank you, iPhone, for directions and access to the menu) wasn’t being served. But luckily, the brunch menu still looked pretty good and we decided to just go with it.
Given that it was a dreary Saturday afternoon, we were glad to be out of the rain. The restaurant was fairly empty and we ended up scoring a corner booth so we could see the whole layout. I loved the screens by the bar - we kept watching to see what prairie image they would show next, and evaluated them on whether it was pretty, soothing, or bland.
I really loved the woodsy, earth-y decor because I’m a total hippie at heart. It also reminded me of Montana, where my family goes nearly every year for hiking trips. I definitely want to bring my dad here sometime. I will say that the decor certainly isn’t for everyone, and may be too neutral and prairie-y for some. Additionally, the outside of the restaurant looks very bland compared to the themes and color palette inside.
I ordered the smoked salmon crepe with cream cheese, chives, and cucumbers. It came with a side salad that had a very nice tangy dressing. The crepe itself had a nice amount of cream cheese that didn’t make me feel too full. The flavors came together in a nice way - I was worried that I might find it too bland or find something off-putting about the combinations since I had a very bad experience with a Philadelphia Roll at sushi recently. It helped that the salmon was very fresh and that there was thin portion served on top of the crepe. The portion was perfect for me because I didn’t feel too full or still hungry, and I appreciated that there was a bigger-than-typical side salad.
I will say that I was less than pleased with our service. Our waiter was nice, but he was more interested in flirting with us. Now, we are college girls - but he certainly was not in our age bracket, and it was just kind of creepy when he got another waiter in on the jokes. I really didn’t enjoy it, but he did it infrequently enough that it wasn’t so prevalent that it ruined the entire meal. However, I am a little upset that he didn’t pay attention to some of the details. We tried to order a dessert - the chocolate “muk muk” that I was dying to try after seeing it on my Dashboard. Our waiter told us that it is cooked to order, so it would take twenty minutes to prepare. We were on a schedule and didn’t have that long to wait for a dessert, so we opted for the double chocolate cake instead. It was good, but I am disappointed that the one thing I wanted to try I couldn’t. I wish the waiter had warned us when we got our meals, or there had been some kind of disclaimer on the menu. I imagine it has to be a common mistake - and it could so easily be fixed.
I enjoyed dining at PGC, but I hope that next time I do not encounter the same problems - and maybe I can get my lunch menu fix!
Food - 21
Decor - 20
Service - 14
I found Via Veneto with OpenTable, a cool website where you can make reservations online and get dining points (plus so much more). I had originally planned for a higher-end date night in Chicago, but my boyfriend was concerned with all the work he had to do for classes and asked me to find something a little closer. Thanks to the sweet neighborhood search feature on OpenTable, I was able to narrow my choices down. I was really intrigued by Via Veneto’s website and menu options, and I thought it would be the best bet for us - close and much more low-key.
Via Veneto was practically deserted when we got there. We were the last people to come in for the night since the kitchen closes at an early 9:30. The restaurant itself was simple and lovely - not too dark, with just the right creamy neutrals. According to the website, Via Veneto is a popular choice for weddings and banquets. Judging by the pictures, I did not see the banquet hall area. That, or the restaurant completely transforms itself for special events - perhaps a nice touch for locals who want something familiar with a little more sophistication.
Our waitress was very cordial and pleasant, but there wasn’t anything remarkable about the service. Because we were the only people ordering food (everyone who was there had already been served their orders), the kitchen was incredibly fast. My boyfriend and I ordered our usual calamari appetizer as the test for the restaurant - he enjoyed it, but I thought it was a bit too rubbery and squid-y. For dinner I got the gnocchi. Gnocchi is one of my favorite Italian dishes, and I always look for it when I’m out. It’s a bit of a hidden gem food-wise, because few restaurants prepare it well. Via Veneto, however, served up a huge and delicious bowl of gnocchi that was perfectly cooked. It was just tender enough, and it was paired with amazing Italian flavors. Sometimes the basics just work best - garlic, mozzarella, and plum tomatoes were tossed in with the pasta.
Overall, I found the experience pleasant and welcoming. I am already looking forward to my next visit, and looking for an excuse to make that next visit come sooner rather than later.
Food - 23
Decor - 19
Service - 17
Last night’s dinner at Flatwater was not what I was expecting - in a bad way. Full review to come tomorrow night, most likely.
This week has been insane for work, so I’m behind on posting last weekend’s restaurants. Well, now I have even more reviews! Last night the boyfriend & co convinced me to walk a mile for pizza and meet them at the new Union Pizzeria (funny, because a popular bar for NU students is the Union and I thought they wanted my non-ID bearing self to walk for an hour and meet them there). Tonight I’m going to Flatwater, and tomorrow I’ll be at Atwood Cafe and Jacky’s Bistro. Exciting!
There was a change of plans last night and tonight - thanks to midterms and mid-quarter projects, the boyfriend can’t take so much time for dinner and drive to Le Colonial. I’m kind of disappointed because I really wanted to go, but it’s not a big deal in the long run. We’re going to cute restaurant nearby that we’ve never been to, so we still get the date night experience on a smaller scale. Via Veneto looks promising and fun. Look for a review later!
(reblogged from my personal Tumblr)