Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chicago: David Burke's Primehouse

Restaurant Week excursion #2 was David Burke's Primehouse. I went last year for Restaurant Week with a visiting friend and we enjoyed our meal so much that I jumped at the chance to go again this year:



I love the caricatures lining the wall:



The cheese popover was just as delicious as I remembered:



The presentation was also too cute for words. The servers looked really cool coming out of the kitchen with 5 measuring cups in each hand.

For my appetizer, I went with the lobster bisque with green apple essence and lobster spring roll:



I enjoyed the spring roll more than the soup itself. The soup was a little on the bland side for my tastes.

One of my friends ordered the surf and turf dumplings:



The surf dumplings were filled with "angry" lobster (whatever that means), while the turf ones were made with braised short rib. I tried this last year and remembered not being all that impressed by it, which is why I decided on the soup instead. My friend said it was just "okay" and accompanied that with a shrug of her shoulders. Guess it hasn't improved over the last year.

With my other friend ordering the wedge salad, we managed to get one of each of the offered appetizers:



The sides were brought to us family style:



Both the whipped potatoes and the mushrooms were good, but we wish there was more of both.

Last year, my friend and I split the Delmonico steak and the 40 day dry aged steak "burker", both of which we enjoyed immensely. Unfortunately, the Delmonico is no longer on the menu. That makes me want to cry a little. The fat in that steak was so...beautiful.

I chose the burger over the filet mignon:



Here's a cross section of my medium rare burger:



It was as good as I remembered, with its garlic spinach, crispy shallots, bacon mayo, and toasted potato bun. A little on the salty side, which I like. But alas, where were my truffle asiago fries?! Last year, the burger came with these amazing fries...and this year there was only a slice of pickle. Not cool.

Two of my friends ordered the filet mignon:



The thing about filet mignon that always bugs me is the tiny cut of meat. But I guess meat is meat and quality should trump quantity.

Dessert was interesting. I had the chai creme brulee with candied ginger biscotti:



The chai taste was very strong, which got a little overwhelming toward the end, but still a fun dessert all in all.

My friends were tempted by the tanzanie brownie with kahlua ice cream and banana mousse:



To be honest, I was very disappointed in my second Primehouse experience. Last year's Restaurant Week menu was just so much better. Instead of the 3 appetizer options we had this year, there were 5 before, one of which was the kobe beef sashimi with himalayan salt, mushroom chips, and truffle mayo. I still think about it from time to time. Compared to the 4 entrée options this year, there were 6 last time. In place of the filet mignon, there were the 7 oz NY sirloin, the 6 oz petite filet, and the 7 oz Delmonico steak that I loved so much.

Even the number of sides has been downgraded. In addition to the potatoes and mushrooms, last year we were also brought asparagus with shallots and creamed spinach.

Ahh...such are the times we're living in.

To rub salt in my wound, a friend later told me via Facebook that you can get the Primehouse burger for 1o bucks during their weekend brunch special. And that includes fries!

I can't help but feel gypped. I mean, $22 for lunch is still a good deal, but compared to last year...yea, not so much.


David Burke's Primehouse
616 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 660-6000

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chicago: Grahamwich

On our way to the L after lunch at Naha, we passed by Grahamwich, the very much hyped about new creation of Graham Elliot:



My roommate pointed it out, I noted it, and we almost successfully continued on our way when my friend suddenly dug in her heels and refused to budge until we went in. Because we'd just finished a 3 course lunch just 10 minutes prior, we bypassed the sandwiches and went straight to dessert.

You place your order at the counter, pick it up when it's done, and take it to your seat. There's a little communal table in the back and a staircase hints at additional seating downstairs:



We shared the cinnamon stick soft serve ($4):



I loved the cinnamon ice cream, didn't know how I felt about the crumbled pie crust, and picked around the slivers of roasted apple. Cooked fruit just isn't really my thing, ya know?

According to my roommate, the sandwiches are good but rather underwhelming. As I've never actually tried one, I'll have to reserve judgment on that one.


Grahamwich
615 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 256-0434

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chicago: Naha

We took advantage of Restaurant Week by making Friday lunch reservations at Naha.

Timing was key. After a few tense seconds where it seemed like my professor might go into overtime, class ended at noon on the dot when it was supposed to and I sprinted out of the law school to get home, change my shoes, drop off my backpack, pick up my friend and my roommate, and then catch the L that would get us to Naha around our 1:00pm reservation. Thanks to some fast walking that left us a little breathless, we made it to the restaurant a little after 1:00:



The interior of Naha was simple and clean:



I was particularly amused when I observed a server quickly iron the newly changed tablecloth on an adjacent table. I guess I shouldn't have expected any less from a 1 star Michelin restaurant.

To start off, we were brought 3 kinds of bread:



Don't ask me what they were. I honestly have no clue, but I can say for certain that they were all fluffy and delicious.

We were all very impressed by the Naha menu. Restaurant Week menus tend to be on the sparse side, with generous restaurants offering 3 choices at most per course. Naha allowed us to choose one of 5 appetizers, 5 entrées, and 4 desserts. As usual, we each ordered something different and shared everything. Between the 3 of us, we managed to cover quite a lot of ground.

Our first appetizer was the BBQ glazed veal shortrib "lollipops" "enrobed" in bacon, with sorghum, chestnuts, and sage:



I could smell the smokiness of the bacon the moment the plate touched the table.

Second was the delicata squash soup (poured table-side) with pears, spaghetti squash, and toasted pumpkin seed:



Third were the Cortez Island oysters topped with Pernod sorbet, creme fraiche, and ruby red grapefruit:



I think we all agreed that every single one of the appetizers were fantastic. The shortribs were flavorful, the soup creamy with little bursts of sweetness from the pear, and the oysters citrus-y and refreshing.

One of our entrées was the slowly roasted "Kobe" Wagyu beef brisket with Yukon potato and goat cheese gratin, caramelized brussels sprouts, and mushrooms:



Mmm...fork tender.

We also ordered the pan roasted whitefish with shrimp, buttered leeks, Italian farro, artichokes, grain mustard, and tarragon:



Our last entrée was the organic carnaroli risotto with roasted zucchini, broccoli rabe, charred onions, and fermented black garlic:



The risotto had a lot going on...in a good way. Super flavorful without being overpowering. I enjoyed the brisket, but I think I liked the whitefish more. There's just something about well-prepared fish...

Finally, the desserts. Here's the parfait of Greek yogurt panna cotta, preserved cherries, and pecan streusel:



And the chocolate "mousse" cake with Naha "cracker jack" of peanuts and popcorn:



And the millefeuille of bananas, vanilla mousseline, and salted caramel:



The puff pastry in the millefeuille was amazingly crisp and the panna cotta was bright from the sourness of the cherries. Unfortunately, I don't have much to say about the chocolate cake. It was rather meh from the first bite to the last. The peanuts on the side were good though.

Despite Naha's odd tendency to use quotation marks in its menu, the food is undoubtedly superb (minus the chocolate cake). If we'd gone any other week, this meal would've made quite a dent in my wallet, but thanks to the magic of Restaurant Week, three courses cost us $22 per person. That's not including tax and tip of course, but still an amazing deal all the same.

I don't know if I'll be able to afford Naha on a regular day (especially at dinner), but if someone else is willing to treat, I would more than happy for a second round.


Naha
500 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 321-6242

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chicago: Mayflower Restaurant

My disdain for Chinatown in Chicago is no secret. I've never tried to hide it at all. But sometimes the cravings get too strong and I cave. Or my friends insist that there's something worth checking out and I cave. On Friday it was the latter, which was how I ended up at Mayflower Restaurant for some dim sum despite the snow obstacle course we had to navigate through post-snowpocalypse 2011:



Instead of carts, you get a paper menu on which you write how many orders of what you want (convenient pictures included):



This is what my friend used to lure me back to Chinatown:



Fried sticky rice. Not going to lie, this one plate may have saved Chinatown for me. The rice is fragrant from the Chinese sausage and though I had some misgivings about the peanuts (I was afraid they would be boiled and mushy), they add a nice, salty crunch to the dish.

The fried sticky rice was definitely the highlight of the meal for me. Everything else that came afterward was the usual dim sum fare. As usual, we ordered way too much for the three of us.

Pork spare ribs:



Curry squid:



Yea, let's just say I would never order that again.

BBQ pork buns:



Shu mai:



Rice noodle rolls with shrimp:



The sauce was a little off and I didn't exactly appreciate the greens lining the perimeter.

Rice noodle rolls with some fried goodness inside:



This was probably my second favorite of the meal. I was expecting a simple you tiao (fried dough) inside, but surprise! There were other savory things included that I didn't take the time to identify. The crispy interior and the glutinous rice noodle roll make for the best combination.

Fried taro puff:



Fried glutinous dumpling:



Turnip cake:



Decent food for a decent price. Don't over order. You might not think you're getting a lot, but the portions are quite big.

Chinatown in Chicago is still a bit of an embarrassment, but I will concede that there are pockets of light.


Mayflower Restaurant
2225 S Wentworth Ave
Chicago, IL 60686
(312) 808-1322

Friday, February 4, 2011

Chicago: Sweet Station

After a rather studious weekend, the girls wanted to just get out and unwind. We were all craving dessert and because we didn't feel like traveling too far, we settled on Chinatown. It made sense to get dessert from a place named Sweet Station:



None of us had any idea what feel the interior designer was going for, but we all took it in stride. I've learned not to try to figure out Chinese restaurant decor:



It didn't take me long to decide on what I wanted drink. The minute I saw iced lychee black tea on the menu, I was sold:



So refreshing and not overly sweet. My friends all really liked it too.

The five of us split an order of deep fried man tou:



Man tou are basically plain steamed buns. I don't usually like them because they're quite dense in texture, but fried and dipped in condensed milk? Whole different story.

What drew me to Sweet Station in the first place was its daily sweet soup menu. Each day there's a different sweet soup offered for $1.25. The list can be found on their website, but it's not in their printed menu. Nothing a quick question to the servers can't fix though. Saturday's special is taro coconut and sago:



While I'm not a big taro fan (as I've said many times before), I actually really, really love taro coconut and sago soup. Unfortunately, Sweet Station's taro coconut and sago is far from impressive. The taro pieces are small and not completely cooked. The soup itself is on the watery side. Very disappointing, but I guess for $1.25 it's good enough.

For a place called Sweet Station, there wasn't much of a dessert selection. Can't say much about the food, but I definitely recommend the lychee black tea.


Sweet Station
2101 S China Pl
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 842-2228
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