Dusek’s, Chicago IL

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Dusek’s

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Gemuse Gimlet – Death’s Door Gin, Fresh Line Sour, Ginger, Celery, Hefeweisen

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General Tso’s Sweetbreads – wood roasted shishito peppers, pickled daikon, pea tendril

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Warm Brandade – pickled red melrose, charred cippollini relish, beef fat chips

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Roasted Blue Crab Dip – artichoke relish, housemade pain d’epi

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Stuffed Pretzel – beer cheese

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Choucroute – duck confit, house garlic sausage, fresh bacon, confit red potatoes, sauerkraut, caraway pickled apple

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Iced Coffee

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Cookie Dough – fernet chocolate chips, egg custard ice cream, mint, chocolate cremeux, cookie powder

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Fruit Loop Donut – lemongrass buttermilk sorbet, guava puree, lychee, freeze dried strawberry and grapefruit powder, coconut

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Chocolate sourdough pudding – strawberry water gelee, strawberry air, gingersnap, chocolate syrup, fried strawberry, orange blossom gelato

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Moscato d’Asti D.O.C.G

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Originally slotted as a late night Saturday stop for four only to be replaced last minute by a trip to The Promontory it was perhaps fate that led me and a friend to our seat at Dusek’s on Sunday night, the “Sunday Noodles” menu at Takashi not particularly interesting when we’d originally planned to partake in some of the chef’s more esoteric options that are apparently only offered on other nights of the week. Located in Pilsen and accessed best by Uber it was just after 6:45 that my buddy and I crossed the threshold of the reinvented space and quickly seated at a charming two-top near the windows farthest from the noise it would not be long before our server stopped by, the beercentric menu of mostly sharable plates described at great lengths with a resultant 8 plate order plus a trio of beverages coursed out just as requested, the timing and presentation of all but one item on par with that of Michelin Starred restaurants despite the otherwise relaxed atmosphere. Truly a restaurant where adventurous palates are rewarded for their efforts it was with a sizeable plate strewn with three spicy sweetbreads that our meal began and with the offal impeccably tender beneath crispy coating we subsequently rolled into a duo of spreads, the potato and salt cod composition a reference standard with housemade crisps while the cheesy crab found levity in tender artichokes that worked nicely with whole wheat bread. Admittedly a bit underwhelmed by a pretzel that I felt could use a bit more salt our savories soon culminated with a large plate of mixed meats and utilizing the combination of ‘kraut and pickled apple to cleanse the palate between bites one would be hard pressed to select a ‘best’ amongst the three – a similar circumstance arising amongst the trio of desserts where only the fact that we were not informed that the lychee was still ‘shell-on’ prevented everything from being perfect, a single bitter bite rectified by striking the “froot loop donut” from our bill and sweetening the deal with free glasses of Moscato to pair with two puddings that no one should miss, the ‘cookie dough’ particularly enthralling with textures galore and the fernet chips melding beautifully with the mint and egg custard into a sort of coffee-tinged note than lingered on the palate for nearly the whole ride home.

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RECOMMENDED: Brandade, Blue Crab Dip, Choucroute, Cookie Dough, Chococolate Sourdough Pudding.

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AVOID: The Stuffed Pretzel was simply okay while everything else shined.

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TIP: Offering up brunch on the weekend with several of the menu items also available in the hopping Punch House downstairs Dusek’s is a reason in and of itself to trek down to Pilsen, the general lack of CTA service be damned – with prices this low for food this good even those who dislike paying for transportation as much as myself can justify a Lyft, Uber, or cab to check the place out.

http://dusekschicago.com/

Dusek's on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Chicago, Coffee, Crab, Dessert, Dusek's, Food, Ice Cream, Illinois, Pork, Sweetbreads, Vacation

Pot Liquor CAS, Las Vegas NV

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Pot Liquor CAS

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Pork Belly with Country Grits

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Slow Smoked, Hand Sliced Texas Style Brisket, Louisiana Hot Links, Spicy ‘Cue, Sweet ‘Cue

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“Spare Me Baby” – Dry Rubbed Spareribs, Mopped Baby Back Ribs, Cornbread with Honey Butter, Mac n’ Cheese

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Brownie Bread Pudding – Bourbon Glaze, Sea Salt Vanilla Gelato

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Strawberry Shortcake Sandwiches – Pound Cake, Strawberry Cream Gelato

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Occupying a large space at Town Square and still in ‘soft opening’ stages it was nearly 9pm when myself and two friends arrived at Pot Liquor Contemporary American Smokehouse and although the hip-hop soundtrack trends a bit too loud while service is still green as well as a bit off-kilter I’m happy to say that nearly everything we tasted was quite excellent, a wide variety of barbeque styles represented with sauces and rubs drawing influence from Alabama and the Carolinas to the Lonestar State and even Kansas City. Described by director of development Flip Arbelaez as a ‘fusion’ of styles, both in food and décor, with design concepts ranging from reclaimed barn wood and mason jar chandeliers to a slick marble bar at the restaurant center the majority of our meal at Pot Liquor CAS was paired to sounds far more ‘urban’ than Southern but looking squarely at the ‘cue from a tightly regulated indoor smoker burning a blend of woods low-and-slow at 250°F there was nothing at all to suggest the cuisine to be that of some city-slicker. Unfortunately sold out of the pulled pork given our late hour of arrival and additionally limited on desserts which, save for a few, are not yet available it was with a focus on the remaining variety of smoked meats that our order was crafted and with our server literally cheering us on in phrases like “yeah, I like that” or “that’s totally what I’d do” it was not long before our order arrived, a single appetizer of crisp but under-seasoned pork belly over buttery ground corn plus a large pair of plates featuring more than enough meat and sides to be shared. Beginning first with tender sliced beef featuring a substantial waft of smoke but otherwise seasoned in only salt and pepper I’m confident in saying that Pot Liquor already offers the best brisket in Sin City and moving onward to snappy house-made hot links that paired beautifully with the mayonnaise and horseradish white sauce I was again impressed, the somewhat dry spare ribs a small step in the wrong direction though falling-from-the-bone baby backs were a return to form and easily on par with Rollin’ Smoke, though commanding nearly twice the price even without accounting for the AYCE option at the longstanding Vegas favorite. A bit underwhelmed by sides, particularly the skimpy portion of cornbread that commands a $5.95 menu price, it was in a duo of the three available desserts that we rounded out the night and with each option carrying a $6 pricetag the brownie-beneath-a-croissant style bread pudding proved unquestionably a must order, the nearly molten chocolate base well suited to blend nicely with slowly melting ice cream rife in vanilla amidst ample amounts of butter.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Clearly more corporate than the traditional Southern Smokehouse yet innovative in their scientific approach to barbeque with a controlled temperature in-house smoker it will be interesting to see just how Las Vegans respond to Pot Liquor CAS, the high tariff likely to turn some away in a city where good barbeque is sorely underrepresented and many seem satisfied by the swill being turned out by Famous Dave’s at less than half the price. With everything made in-house including brines, bacon, hot links, and a wide array of sauces it should go without saying that these guys are dedicated to what they do and with a high likelihood to only improve with time and customer feedback I look forward to a return visit sometime before year’s end – hopefully to find the ‘cue consistent, if not bettered by a well seasoned smoker, with sides and the music turned down…or at least tuned to something more befitting the sort of cuisine being served.

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RECOMMENDED: Hand Sliced Brisket, Baby Back Ribs, Brownie Bread Pudding. The Alabama White Sauce and Pot Liquor’s Sweet Barbecue Sauce were also excellent.

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AVOID: Cornbread is small, though quite moist even before adding the honey butter while mac n’ cheese was decent, if not particularly memorable. As noted above, Pork Belly was sorely lacking in seasoning or salinity and all told I’d have rather received a portion of grits in a mac n’ cheese sized bowl and let the kitchen keep the pig.

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TIP: Currently in soft-opening mode some of the items listed on the menu are not yet available but with the culinary team and ownership all present, accounted for, and eager to inquire about the customer experience I’d advise all but those most curious to hold out for the October Grand Opening – this is a place I expect will only improve as they learn the nuances of the smoker and their customer base, the potential for something that is already ‘good’ to become a new reference standard is exciting to say the least.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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http://www.potliquorcas.com/

Pot Liquor Cas on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Cornbread, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Pot Liquor, Pot Liquor CAS

Japanese Cuisine by Omae, Las Vegas NV

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Japanese Cuisine by Omae

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Matcha

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Sakizuke – Ikura and Mushrooms with Grated Daikon, Ponzu Sauce

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Zensai – Amaebi Tartar, Celeriac Puree, Tomato Sorbet, Shrimp Chips

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Mushimono – Steamed Scallop, Mozzarella, Grated Turnip, Golden Brown Sauce

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Sashimi – Salmon, Horse Mackerel, Red Snapper, Scallop from the Tsukiji Fish Market with Japanese Plum, ginger, wasabi

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Sumiyaki – Charcoal Grilled Cod with Truffle Soy Sauce over Rice

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Teppan – Grilled Wagyu Steak with Roasted Onion and Wasabi Mashed Potatoes with Shallot Soy Sauce

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A5 Kobe Upgrade +$80

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Cold Drip Coffee

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Dessert – Greet Tea Tiramisu, Mochi Coated Strawberry, Assorted Berries, Yuzu Cream Spoon, Vanilla Cream Puff, Passion Fruit Gelee

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Toqued by Takeshi Omae, a man bestowed stars from Michelin in Japan and one with plans to expand his culinary concepts stateside, Japanese Cuisine by Omae originally launched at 3650 South Decatur a few months back and with early praise lavished on the $20 lunch it was finally in September that the twelve seat space debuted its true vision, a $100 Omakase to which myself and four friends sat down on Saturday night. Intimate in size with a pair of four-tops and a duo of two seaters set beneath subdued chrome lights in hushed dining area decorated with kimono and koi it was just moments before our 5:30 reservation that our group settled in and with beverage service currently limited to non-alcoholic options green tea and sparkling water ordered, our one-man service team keeping cups brimming throughout our seven-course experience while presenting each dish in great detail. Measured in pace with portions trending small as the two-man kitchen turned out edible works of art without a single detail overlooked it was with a textbook bite of delicate tempura set next to briny baubles of salmon roe that our meal began and progressing next to dishes melding sweet shrimp with tomato sorbet and briny to soft mozzarella the team’s creativity took the spotlight early, a large bowl of elegantly plated, though unfortunately common, sashimi selections reigning things in before moving to plates more substantial. To this point impressed, though not particularly ‘wowed’ by any single course, it was finally the Sumiyaki that saw all five of us swoon as umami-rich rice provided a crispy juxtaposition to flaky fish and finishing up with reference standard beef, simply prepared with a light kiss from the grill, alongside aromatic mashed potatoes preceding a board of small, elegant desserts plus Japanese 6-hour drip coffee the evening ended strong, no one particularly full but everyone discussing how Las Vegas needs more restaurants of this kind.

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FOUR STARS: Undeniably a dining ‘experience’ as opposed to a simple meal it will be interesting to see how well Omae fares in its current format, the pricetag apparently prone to an increase of $50 at the end of the month. Oddly located, though really no more-so than Raku or Kabuto, and easily on par with the skill-set of any Strip-based omakase while proving quite capable of sourcing premium ingredients including A5 Kobe direct from Japan the longevity of Omae will be dependent, largely, on the support of locals and in a city where the ‘next big thing’ is never more than a week away I truly hope the restaurant finds it audience early on and word of mouth spreads quickly, though I must say even the current pricepoint makes me leery.

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RECOMMENDED: The tasting menu is your only choice, though supplements will reportedly vary depending on season and sourcing.

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AVOID: For myself, the difference between well sourced Wagyu and the perfectly marbled A5 Kobe did not justify the $80 surcharge, though the difference was notable from the bite I was offered by a tablemate.

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TIP: Open for two seatings, one at 5:30 and another at 8:00, reservations are most easily made online through the restaurant’s website and confirmed via text-messaging system that alerts you of the event on the day of. Also, with liquor license pending, Omae is currently non-alcoholic.

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DISCLOSURE: Obviously hands-on in all aspects of his business Shinchiro Tanaka contacted me via e-mail prior to our meal and stated he wanted to ‘comp two of the five covers,’ an offer I kindly rejected until the Chef insisted he would have it no other way. Still uncertain as to why this was offered, though the obvious possibilities have been considered, in no other way was our meal any different from that of the surrounding tables.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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http://takeshi-omae.com/

Japanese Cuisine By Omae on Urbanspoon

Posted in Coffee, Dessert, Food, Japanese Cuisine by Omae, Las Vegas, Nevada, Omae, Sushi, Tasting Menu, Tiramisu, Truffle

TC’s Rib Crib, Las Vegas NV

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TC’s Rib Crib

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Sliced Brisket, Pulled Pork, Spare Ribs, Cornbread

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Spare Rib Close-Up

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Mac n’ Cheese

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Sweet Potato Fries

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Biscuit

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“New Orleans” French Toast with Sliced Bananas

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Banana Pudding

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Red Velvet Cake

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Praline

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Located near Norm’s Eggs Café in a strip mall off South Durango and featuring “World Famous” ribs with awards in 2007 and 2010 for the city’s best barbeque it was with tempered expectations that I entered TC’s Rib Crib and although I will say the Motown soundtrack and service were quite pleasant as I watched the Buckeyes obliterate Kent State, little else of my experience was even remotely good – a small, buttery biscuit and a jumbo praline the lone exception. Obviously the sort of place willing to cut corners as condiments include Aunt Jemima and ‘honey’ cut with glucose syrup and starch it was in a wide selection of meats, sides, and sweets that I invested and although costs were quite low for most items, so too was the quality – the ribs clearly parboiled without a note of smoke while thinly sliced brisket and pulled pork were nearly indistinguishable beneath artificially saccharine sauce. Mostly ignoring bland elbow noodles from which I consumed only a few bites and fries that arrived almost at meal’s end as well as the $4.50 French Toast was flat and flavorless even with the $1.50 banana and whipped cream upgrade…the latter not supplied as they were apparently ‘out’…and moving on to dessert, suffice it to say that the boxed vanilla pudding with only a hint of banana beneath ‘nilla wafers is not worth $5.99 and although the frosting on a tiny sliver of red velvet cake was tangy and smooth the cake was so dry it literally crumbled to fork pressure – the majority of it joining nearly half the rest of my order in a waste basket when servers were otherwise occupied so as not to offend.

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ONE AND A HALF STARS: Literally the only patron present just past noon on a Saturday it is shocking to me that a business like TC’s can sustain and as much as I try to support locals I cannot fathom a reason to return, particularly given a pricepoint higher than Rollin’ Smoke despite quality on par with Famous Dave’s.

RECOMMENDED: Biscuit, Praline…maybe the ribs, though the taste more closely resembles slow cooker than barbeque.

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AVOID: Everything else I ordered, particularly the pulled pork, red velvet cake, and absurdly priced banana pudding.

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TIP: Offering a $20 certificate for $10 on Yelp! the cost was slightly less appalling after the discount, but even then entirely not worth it – not when $25 will net you all the quality ‘cue you can eat up at Rollin’ Smoke.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.tcsribcrib.com/

T.C.'s Rib Crib on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Cornbread, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, TC's, TC's Rib Crib

Mr. Mama’s, Las Vegas NV

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Mr. Mama’s

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Buttermilk Biscuit

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Jumbo Cinnamon Roll

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Double Chocolate Chip Pancakes

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Two Eggs and Bottomless Coffee Served with Pancakes (Daily Special)

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Single Serving of French Toast

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One of the longest standing members on my breakfast ‘to-do’ list and a place to which I’d purchased a $20 discounted gift-certificate some six months prior it was finally on Saturday that I drove down to Mr. Mama’s and although the small breakfast and lunch spot is unlikely to win any awards for innovation it can only be said that this truly is a place committed to putting a smile on each patron’s face. Undoubtedly a locals institution in which nearly every other customer was a regular with orders frequently anticipated by staff it was just past 7:15 that I was invited to seat myself and with no less than three servers offering to get me coffee as I perused the menu it became immediately apparent as to why the restaurant was filled to capacity by eight o’clock. Focused mostly on diner staples with a whiteboard of specials just left of entry while prices trend far lower than almost anywhere else in the 702 my meal began with Mr. Mama’s oft-raved $3.50 cinnamon roll and with a soft, yeasty base rife with cinnamon and butter beneath sweet frosting the hype proved justified, a smallish biscuit proving less worthy its $2.75 tab, though still quite good. Preceding next to plates more hearty it was with a thin slice of French Toast that my meal moved on and opting this time to bring my own maple syrup from home the result was improved, though still nothing to write home about, particularly when compared to fluffy flapjacks studded with dark and white chocolate, a daily special matched with two eggs and at least six cups of coffee for less than $9.

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THREE STARS: Likely generating its fan base more through low prices and friendly service rather than by location or particularly excellent food I cannot say I’ll be rushing back to Mr. Mama’s soon, but for locals on a budget or those with little one’s looking for a good breakfast at a great price the restaurant definitely fills a niche – the open-kitchen of blazing-fast line cooks and televisions tuned to college football providing a bit of entertainment for those interested in such things, as well.

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RECOMMENDED: Cinnamon Roll, Pancakes.

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AVOID: French Toast and arriving after 8:30am on weekends.

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TIP: Currently offering $20 gift certificates for $15 through Yelp! (and previously as low as $10 for the same) savvy customers are advised to take advantage, though for solo diners such as myself one may be hard pressed to spend the whole amount, my whole meal ringing up for a mere $16.25 after tax.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.mrmamaslv.com/

Mr. Mama's on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Mr. Mama's, Nevada, Pancakes

Waffles Cafe, Chicago IL

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Waffles Café

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Birthday Cake Wonut / Lemon Blueberry Wonut/ Mexican Chocolate Wonut

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Pound Cake French Toast with Balsamic Berries

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In search of something sweet after our disappointing lunch at Yum Cha it was to trendy hybrid food that we turned and walking from Millennium Park to Ohio Street in just under fifteen minutes our arrival at Waffles Café found the small store empty, a pile “wonuts” lying in wait alongside a menu of items both sweet and savory. Long, narrow, and clearly redesigned from whatever once stood in its place with tables doubling as chalkboards for youngsters and those young at heart it was too off-kilter service that we were greeted and after being grumbled at for filling my own glass with ice and water an order was placed, a trio of pastries arriving moments later while the kitchen readied our menu selection, a twenty-five minute process that made me wonder exactly how the restaurant would keep pace if it were actually busy. Beginning first with a deep fried white waffle lacquered in overly sweet glaze and a dollop of sprinkled frosting suffice it to say that our first bites of the restaurant’s signature item were not only underwhelming but far too oily and progressing onward to a Lemon-Blueberry variant sorely lacking in citrus the theme continued, only the chocolate topped option studded with cinnamon even remotely memorable and still nowhere near as good as many of Chicago’s donuts or waffles. Again turning our attention to newly decorated table while beverage refills languished it was after the aforementioned delay that three slices of ‘pound cake’ French Toast arrived and ignoring the generally unattractive plating I’ll simply say “at least it was better than the wonuts,” as crumbly bits of cake lightly tossed with custard served as a pleasant backdrop to mushy strawberries that very well may have been frozen plus a drizzle of balsamic that helped remedy a spritz of Rediwhip that I’d have refused if it had been listed in the item’s description.

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RECOMMENDED: If you must, the Mexican Hot Chocolate Wonut should satisfy your curiosity.

AVOID: Buying the hype of the Wonut, in general.

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TIP: Apparently one of two Waffles Cafes I’ve been told that the Wonut is better at the Lakeview location but suffice it to say I would neither make nor recommend the trek to find out.

http://wafflescafechicago.com/

Waffles Cafe / On The Bun on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Chicago, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Illinois, Vacation, Waffles, Waffles Cafe

Yum Cha Dim Sum Parlor, Chicago IL

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Yum Cha

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Chili Oil, Spicy Mustard, Hoisin

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Crab ‘Rangoon’

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Har Gow

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Foie Gras Egg Custard Tarts

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Xiao Long Bao

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BBQ Pork Buns

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Creamy Chicken Bun

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Egg Yolk Fried Sweet Potatoes

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Fried Taro and Pork

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Peking Duck with Truffled Gravy

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Walnut Prawns

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Yum-Cha Pressed Duck with Mushroom Gravy

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Said by some to be the best dim sum found in The Windy City while others suggest the slick space just steps from Millennium Park to simply represent an location-based money grab it was with great curiosity that I sat down with family for Sunday lunch at Yum Cha, the eleven dishes we tasted a decidedly mixed bag where unexpected items shined while personal favorites universally fell flat. Admittedly well designed with menu-based orders replacing more traditional carts it was none-the-less to sub-par service that we were treated throughout our ninety minute stay and with forgotten plates plus often-empty water proving the rule rather than the exception the food came in fits and starts, an opening volley of creamy crab in a fried egg-roll wrapper bowl amongst the best plates of the afternoon while Har Gow, XLB, plus a duo of baked buns were mostly par for the course. Largely underwhelmed by the $13 trio of tiny egg custards topped with an undetectable sliver of foie gras but thoroughly impressed by tender fries coated in lightly sweetened egg-yolk it was onward to larger plates that we progressed and although pricy walnut prawns did indeed set a new benchmark the peking duck was a flavorless disaster, the confit filled version pressed into fried taro faring far better but still not something I’d order again as the coating itself was quite thick and thus too starchy, particularly when compared to the far more delicate fried pork and taro dim sum that had proceeded it.

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RECOMMENDED: Crab ‘Rangoon,” Creamy Chicken Buns, Egg Yolk Fried Sweet Potatoes, Walnut Prawns

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AVOID: Foie Gras Egg Custard Tarts and Peking Duck with Truffled Gravy – both under-portioned, under-flavored, and overpriced for ‘exotic’ ingredients that added nothing to the plate.

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TIP: Yelp users can “check-in” for a free item of the chef’s choice, in our case the BBQ pork buns which were quite smoky and, thankfully, none too sweet.

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http://www.yumchachicago.com/

Yum Cha Dim Sum Parlor on Urbanspoon

Posted in Chicago, Crab, Foie, Food, Illinois, Pork, Truffle, Vacation, Yum Cha, Yum Cha Dim Sum Parlor

Nico Osteria, Chicago IL

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Nico Osteria

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Blueberry Coffee Cake, Kouign Amann, Strawberry Cream Cheese Roll

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Ricotta Bomboloni with Fior de latte, Vanilla Infused Honey, Fresh Preserves

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Oven Baked Pancake with Raspberries, Pistachios, Fior di latte, Burton’s Maple Syrup

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Porchetta Autostrada Sandwich with Roasted Purple Potatoes– Marinated Eggplant, Basil Aioli, Pickled Red Onion

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Spaghetti Carbonara – Bacon, Egg Yolk, Bottarga

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Trippa Alla Romana – Chickpeas, Kale, Tomato

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Savory Polenta with Parmesan

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Nico Torte – Lemon, Blueberry, Ginger, Citrus Poppyseed Gelato

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Chocolate Financier – Mission Fig, Coffee, Buttermilk, Hazelnut Chocolate

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Owned by Paul Kahan with offerings of breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus a weekend only brunch it was admittedly a difficult decision to decide exactly ‘when’ to visit Nico Osteria during my seven days in Chicago but largely underwhelmed by crudo or seemingly simple Italian preparations of fish at celebrated spots such as New York’s Marea in the past it was eventually in brunch that my sister, her fiancée, and I invested, the resultant $150 nine-plate tasting proving one of the best brunches in recent memory amidst the confines of a restaurant so well designed that one would hardly guess there was a boutique hotel upstairs. Truly a remarkable space, and well one suited to lingering over drinks or coffee, it was just after 9:30am that we arrived at the entryway podium and quickly seated by a gregarious hostess it would not be long before coffee and water were both filled, our server proving quite friendly though admittedly not exceedingly knowledgeable regarding newer offerings on a menu that changes from week-to-week. Featuring items both raw and cooked with sections inclusive of breakfast, lunch, pasta, pastry, and even offal it was only after several questions that our meal was crafted and requesting that plates be coursed out in three rounds everything from there on would progress smoothly, an opening volley of a three a la carte pastries and a quartet of doughnuts proving quite well crafted, though the later were a bit dull without the addition of the accoutrements including house made fior di latte and locally sourced honey. Sat beside a table clearly partaking in some hair of the dog to follow the previous night’s festivities it was perhaps thirty minutes after the first crackle of kouign amann that entrees arrived and opting for a quintet of plates inclusive of one side only the small plate of oil-soaked polenta would disappoint, the yolky pasta al dente and silky smooth with brine from both bacon and bottarga while spicy tripe was textbook tender and the skillet pancake ate more like a pistachio financier prepared as spoonbread…a good thing to say the least. Admittedly sated after these courses plus earlier doughnuts from Stan’s but unable to resist Amanda Rockman’s well regarded desserts it was with one more duo that our visit to The Thompson Hotel dining room came to a close and as good as the financier teaming with dark chocolate was it simply couldn’t compare to the “Nico Torte,” a dead ringer for Rockman’s Basque Cake that put her on the culinary map at Bristol and still one of the city’s very best desserts.

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RECOMMENDED: Oven Baked Pancake, Nico Torte, Trippa Alla Romana, Spaghetti Carbonara.

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AVOID: Savory Polenta was far too oily and Bombolini were rather dull without toppings.

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TIP: Offering brunch from 9a until 3p on weekends complete with the same dessert menu offered at night those not particularly keen on the limited lunch selections or fish heavy dinner are likely to find a laid back brunch at Nico to be a ‘best of both worlds’ situation. Certainly not cheap but at the same time not overpriced considering the quality of the experience I only wish more restaurants were willing to offer such diversity during a meal often fraught with tedious egg dishes or gimmicks like Bloody Mary bars or bottomless mimosas.

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http://www.nicoosteria.com/

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Nico Osteria on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Chicago, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Illinois, Italian, Nico Osteria, Pancakes, Pork, Vacation

Stan’s Donuts & Coffee, Chicago IL

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Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

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Biscoff Pocket

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Nutella Pocket

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Blueberry Old Fashioned

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Apple Fritter

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Pretzel Twist

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Maple Caramel Pecan Bacon Bar

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Imported from Los Angeles and all dressed up for a Chicago debut on Damen my early morning stop at Stan’s Donuts after a thirteen mile run was assured on entry to be a decadent one but having already experienced the tiny Angeleno original with mixed results nothing could have prepared me for just how good the Windy City storefront would be, each of my half-dozen selections proving nothing short of delicious while friendly service smoothly assisted a trickle of traffic that never seemed to stop rolling through the door. Artfully designed with large windows facing the street and a small seating area to the right of a counter and kitchen where doughnuts are fried fresh to restock supplies nearly fourteen hours each day it was with one eye towards indulgence but the other on an upcoming brunch that I perused the days options and eventually settling on an even half dozen my pastries were soon boxed to the tune of $14 after tax and tip, all but the two filled options still warm with the fritter still too hot to handle without a napkin. Beginning first with a yeasty raised twist beneath a shiny lacquer tinged with cinnamon and then progressing to the reference standard ring of blueberries amidst savory cake infused with buttermilk it was with high hopes that I moved along to the aforementioned fritter and with crispy edges plus loads of apples it seemed as though things couldn’t possibly get better – an assumption that would soon be proved wrong by the cookie-butter filled pocket and a sweet-meets-savory buttermilk bar that somehow managed to remain balanced despite a quartet of toppings including briny bacon that came across up front only to dissipate in smoky notes of pecan and surprisingly natural tasting flavors of maple syrup on the finish.

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RECOMMENDED: Maple Caramel Pecan Bacon Bar, Biscoff Pocket, Apple Fritter, Blueberry Old Fashioned.

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AVOID: Certainly not bad but extremely heavy with at least two full tablespoons of hazelnut spread inside the additionally topped pocket suffice it to say that the Nutella Pocket is an item best shared…or at least not ordered along with five other items.

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TIP: Located just steps from the CTA Blue Line I’ve heard many rumors that lines at Stan’s often extend past thirty minutes around 7:00am on weekdays and even longer at 9:00am on weekends so those in a hurry should plan accordingly or be ready to settle for the consolation prize of a Glazed & Infused window directly across the street.

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http://www.stansdonutschicago.com/

009 - Stan's (14)

Stan's Donuts on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Chicago, Dessert, Food, Illinois, Pork, Stan's Donuts & Coffee, Stan’s Donuts, Vacation

The Promontory, Chicago IL

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The Promontory

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Thursdays on 53rd – Leatherbee Gin, Market Berry Meritage, Lemon, Aromatic Bitters

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Iced Americano

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HOUSE CHARCUTERIE BOARD – pork pate, foie gras wild mushroom terrine, serrano, rillette, mostarda

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GRILLED LAMB BURGER – preserved tomato relish, pickled red onion, smoked feta, black olive tapenade, chickpea fries, olive challah

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BRAISED PORK & FRIED CLAM PO BOY – fermented cabbage slaw, BBQ remoulade, french fries

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QUAIL ON A STRING – asparagus, sunny side quail egg, quail liver mousse, pickled beech mushrooms, vanilla orange gastrique

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KENTUCKY BURGOO – pork collar, quail, house made rabbit sausage, haricot vert, hominy, charred corn, stewed tomato broth

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KALBI SHORT RIB – blistered shishito peppers, cashew, scallion

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SPICED SLAGEL FAMILY FARM PORK RIBS – Spicy Shrimp, Braised Greens, Scallion Crepe, Eggplant Puree, Moroccan BBQ Sauce

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BANNA PUDDING – Honey & summer truffle flan, banana & creme fraiche ice cream torchon, nilla wafer, caramelized banana purée, coconut milk

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S’MORE SOUFFLÉ – smoked chocolate soufflé, graham cracker ice cream, brûlée marshmallow, smoked cocoa powder

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BAKED ALASKA – hazelnut praline ice cream, espresso merengue, white coffee anglaise, hazelnut and tonka bean pound cake, hazelnut dust, flamed bourbon jelly

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Noting up front that many would consider a late night meal after the tasting menu at Brindille gluttonous, if not foolhardy, it was none the less with a group of five and a last minute change of plans that I entered The Promontory, a hopping new South Loop spot sporting a 45 minute wait during which my friends and family chatted at the bar while perusing a menu on which everything sounded delicious while prices seemed too good to be “too good.” Surprisingly filled to capacity both inside and out by a mixed crowd widely ranging in race, sex, age, and style as smiles decorated nearly every face at the dimly lit tables beneath a soundtrack of jazz and blues it was eventually at three compacted two-tops that our group was sat and with menu already well studied an order was soon placed, our server at first a bit condescending regarding the requested coursing of plates but quick to correct his tone when the twelve-item order was made known. Truly a unique menu with plates divided into sections titled “cold/fast/embers/historic/snacks/pastry” it was with items from each area that our meal progressed and opting to double down on both the lamb burger and s’more soufflé so that everyone could get a good taste all ten of the night’s unique dishes would prove exemplary, the aforementioned burger by far the best I’ve tasted with an olive roll and panisse that could have just as easily stood on their own while the substantial charcuterie board was easily shared amongst the table at a cost far less than would be expected for house-cured meats of such quality. Additionally impressed by the stuffed po-boy balancing sweet, smoked pork and briny oysters plus the decadent “Burgoo” chalk-a-block full of meat with just enough acid to prevent the pot from being too heavy it was eventually in sweets that our 150 minute visit would culminate and with the restaurant still three-quarters full as the hour approached midnight it would be nearly impossible to decide which of the three was most impressive, the Baked Alaska unfortunately not flamed tableside but still impressive in its composition while the piping hot soufflé and creamy banana pudding both presented retooled classics with results far outshining their simple origins, the pudding in particular a stunning dish with textures galore and a topnote of truffle left to linger on the palate despite otherwise being expectedly sweet.

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RECOMMENDED: Charcuterie Board, Lamb Burger, Po-Boy, Burgoo, Banana Pudding, S’mores Souffle.

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AVOID: Quail on a String was fine, but presented nothing unique compared to the rest of the food while the Short Rib simply isn’t my style, though others at the table proclaimed it quite good at the bargain basement price of $7.

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TIP: A last minute swap from the previously planned Dusek’s (a place I’d visit the following day) our wait was probably a bit longer than usual but with ample parking in the area, relatively easy access from both the red and green line, plus reservations available through the restaurant website others should not hesitate to make The Promontory a reason to visit a rejuvenating Hyde Park, the concert series available upstairs another impetus to check the place out.

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http://promontorychicago.com/

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Posted in Chicago, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Illinois, Pork, Souffle, The Promontory, Truffle, Vacation

Brindille, Chicago IL

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Brindille

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Jean d’Arc – No. 3 Gin, White Currant Jam, Black Currant Caviar

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Semolina Bread with Honey Butter

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Prince Edward Island Oysters, Eggs Brouilles, Leeks, Oscietra Caviar

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Steak Tartare with Flavors of Rye, Sorrel, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Arugula, Quail Egg

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Dover Sole Meuniere with Rissole Potatoes, Watercress, Meyer Lemon, Horseradish

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Loup de Mere with Summer Squash and Blossoms, Smoked Whitefish, Heirloom Tomatoes, Sauce Basquaise

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Roasted Scallops with Uni Custard, Parsley Scallion Puree, Finger Lime, Dried Satsuma Orange, Cucumber, Tapioca, Marrow Emulsion

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Lobster Brindille with a Remoulade of Parsnip and Celeriac, Haricot Vert, Sugar Snap Peas, Cherry Tomatoes, Fragrant Greens

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Hand Cut Noodles with Foraged Canterelles, Red Wine Braised Snails, Gesier de Poulet, Fines Herbs

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Veal Sweetbreads, Loin and Rillette of Rabbit, Pearl Onions, Purslane, Golden Beet, Ginger and Cocoa

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Foie Gras and Saffron-Poached Rhubarb, Preserved Crimson Sultanas, Scented Brioche, Bourriers de Venise

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Tranche of Duck Breast and Foie Gras, Beluga Lentils, Belgian Endive, Scarlet Turnips, Cipollini Onions, Sutters Plum

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Grilled Lamb Loin Scented with Lavender and Orange, French Horn Mushrooms, Swiss Chard, Young Turnips, Sauce Gribiche

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Wagyu Ribeye – Puff Pastry, Shaved Artichokes, Vin Jaune, Micro Greens, Foraged Mushrooms, Preserved Ramps

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Fantasie au Chocolat

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Warm Baked Cherry & Almond Clafoutis, Crème Chantilly

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Vanilla Bourbon pate de fruit, Raspberry Truffle

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Defiantly French in an era when such restaurants are few and far between dinner at Brindille was planned as the centerpiece of my first day in Chicago and joined by a friend at 5:30 it can simply be said that Carrie Nahabedian’s second restaurant on North Clark Street ranks amongst Chicago’s very best, a seven-course and fourteen plate tandem-tasting for $155 per person allowing us to taste nearly the entire late summer menu with not a single course falling short of expectations that were admittedly quite high. Treated to educated and gracious service with a table drenched in sunlight from the wide front windows it was almost immediately after a brief conversation about likes, dislikes, allergies, and intolerances that our meal began and with a decadent cocktail delivered complete with mother of pearl spoon soon in hand as my friend sipped his well priced Bordeaux even the warm bread and honey butter would prove exemplary, the following flavors of supple tartare with herbal aromatics and briny oysters resting in eggy pudding just a glimpse of things to come. Truly a restaurant rooted in classic technique yet at the same time happy to dabble in unexpected pairings of pristine ingredients it was with perfect timing plus portions amenable to plate-swapping that our evening progressed and although each plate proved excellent in one way or another it was a trio of savories that shined brightest of the night, the tender duck liver richly accented with notes of saffron and cleverly set against citrus while the lightly cooked lamb and a caramelized scallop atop savory custard courses proved equally impressive, the later amongst the sweetest specimens I’ve tasted to date. Without a doubt one of the most refined experiences to open in Chicago over the past few years but not once stuffy or uptight throughout the course of our three-hour stay Brindille is the sort of place that every ‘upscale’ restaurant should aspire to be and as good as NAHA was during my lone lunch there several years ago, Brindille has decidedly one upped its older sister in nearly all ways – a Michelin Star or perhaps even Two seemingly destined to come in next year’s guide.

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RECOMMENDED: With only the Lobster and a few other dishes consistently offered during each season since the restaurant’s inception I’d simply suggest making your preferences known to the kitchen and ordering the tasting menu, the seven courses at $155 a veritable bargain considering the a la carte prices and the experience more than justifying the time and financial commitment.

AVOID: Filling up on the bread…though you’ll probably want to. I know I did.

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TIP: Tasting menu prices and structure vary from night to night and customization is not only allowed but encouraged, savvy diners are behooved to ask questions, make requests, and engage the servers who are not only excellent at their jobs but also impeccably familiar with sourcing and techniques employed in each dish.

http://brindille-chicago.com/

Brindille on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Brindille, Chicago, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Illinois, Lobster, Sweetbreads, Tasting Menu, Vacation

Table, Donkey and Stick, Chicago IL

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Table Donkey and Stick

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Bacon Steak – Fried Polenta, Gorgonzola, Picked Onion, Mushroom Jus, Poached Egg

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Fried Chicken – Smoked Potatoes & Corn, Chard, Spicy Aioli, Fried Egg

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Duck Sausage – Biscuit and Gravy, Caramelized Kale, Poached Egg

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Peach Coffee Cake – Brandy Whipped Cream and Oat Streusel

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Pretzel Bread Pudding – Cherry Jam, Lemon Curd, Candied Pecan

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Originally planned for dinner during my first day in town but later rescheduled to brunch based on a noon-time menu that appeared slightly more interesting than that offered at night it was just after 12:30 that my sister, her fiancée, and I arrived at Table, Donkey and Stick but with the dining room completely empty and only one table seated in back our experience would prove a mixed one at best – the decidedly disinterested service of a questionably stoned server paired with the kitchen’s blunt refusal to serve any charcuterie despite its obvious ease of preparation showing an obvious disregard for ‘customer service’ and thus leaving a bad taste in our mouths despite three excellent savories and a pair of pleasant sweets. Obviously a ‘hip’ place featuring all the right moves to lure in the trendiest of Logan Square diners with hefty wood tables, exposed ceilings, and brick walls lit by Edison bulbs beneath a soundtrack of 80’s pop nostalgia it perhaps should come as no surprise that service at Table, Donkey and Stick is a perfunctory exercise and with a cocktail list nearly as long as the well-culled brunch menu it would take mere moments to craft our order…plus another fifteen minutes to actually place it as our server was self-admittedly (and unapologetically) “chatting” with the table in back as we sat without even water, a young bartender intently polishing glasses and otherwise oblivious to the ongoing abandon. Eventually attended to in an off-hand matter it would fortunately not be long before the otherwise idle kitchen lurched to life in preparing our two-course order and with the trio of savories all arriving as they were readied the skillset of the kitchen and quality of ingredients would thankfully outshine the rest of our experience, each dish a dynamic balance of proteins and local produce prepared with a deft hand and dynamic textures throughout – the tender pork-steak and smooth polenta a particular favorite of the group though the bitter caramelized kale set against fluffy biscuits and gamey duck sausage was quite impressive, as well. Moving next to a duo of sweets it was unfortunately here that the kitchen would falter because as much as the coffee cake would prove reference standard beneath a dollop of aromatic cream the French Toast styled bread pudding would arrive entirely unbalanced with nothing to suggest the savory or saline aspects of a pretzel, the flavor profile instead skewed entirely towards the sweet while excessive amounts of butter rendered the plate far too heavy, a situation that probably could have been remedied by a bit of traditional Kosher salt in the pretzel base or perhaps by stealing a note from the coffee cake and adding a bit of brandy to the excessively sweet fruit.

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RECOMMENDED: Bacon Steak with Fried Polenta, Duck Sausage with Biscuits and Gravy.

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AVOID: Pretzel Bread Pudding was entirely unbalanced by the heavily sweetened cherries as well as the sugar coated nuts, even for someone with a decidedly strong sweet tooth a bit of salt or something savory would have gone a long way to help.

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TIP: For those interested in the charcuterie it is wise to bear in mind that even if the kitchen is entirely unbusy and standing around it is dogmatically only offered from 2pm onward – first at the bar and then as part of the dinner menu beginning at five o’clock.

http://tabledonkeystick.com/

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Chicago, Dessert, Donkey and Stick, Food, Illinois, Pork, Vacation

Miko’s Italian Ice, Chicago IL

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Miko’s Italian Ice

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Strawberry Pineapple

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Chocolate Coconut

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Largely underwhelmed by my previous experiences with Italian Ice both in Boston and The City of Brotherly Love it was entirely an effect of the blazing sun and a long morning walk that led our group of three to Miko’s and although the items selected would prove refreshing enough to quell a thirst triggered by heat plus humidity that had rendered Nate’s T-shirt soaked both the flavor and texture of the products from the Logan Square window were pretty much par for the course. Obviously a no-frills sort of spot and notably cash-only with a single clerk sporting a no-nonsense attitude to pair with a face seemingly incapable of a smile it was just moments after 11:30am that we approached the small space and opting for two “baby” cups at $2.50 each the tariff was paid, a pair of flavors in each densely packed Styrofoam cup with only the Pineapple tasting the least bit natural while slushy crystals quickly melted on the tongue liberating flavors that dissipated nearly as quickly as they arrived, the strawberry particularly weak and the chocolate flavor somewhat akin to a tincture of Hershey’s Chocolate syrup dissolved at a 1-to-1 ratio with water. Clearly one of those places prone to rouse memories of childhood summers and thus no different than Water Ice spots elsewhere suffice it to say that for those raised on the stuff Miko’s may provide a pleasant bit of nostalgia but for those seeking more than an overpriced sno-cone or loosely packed popsicle this is a dollar best spent elsewhere – a single scoop of ice cream or gelato from the city’s best unlikely to set back more than a buck or so more while offering a far more satisfying and friendly experience.

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RECOMMENDED: If you must, the pineapple tastes much like the juice from a can of Dole.

AVOID: Strawberry was weak and chocolate was simply artificial.

TIP: Cash only with nowhere to sit this is grab-n’-go at its most basic, the daily menu largely focused on classic flavors though occasional specials do make an appearance on the dry-erase board.

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https://www.mikositalianice.com/

Miko's Italian Ice on Urbanspoon

Posted in Chicago, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Illinois, Italian, Miko's, Miko's Italian Ice

Bad Wolf Coffee, Chicago IL

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Bad Wolf Coffee

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Canele

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Blueberry Muffin

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Blueberry Buckle

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Cream Cheese Danish

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Located just minutes from Bakin’ & Eggs with Canele de Bordeaux guaranteed fresh from their copper molds at 10am it was only an unexpected closure due to the birth of a child that prevented me from visiting Bad Wolf Coffee in November of 2013 but with no such blessed event to prevent my indulgence this time around it was just after 10:15 that we entered the small space and although slightly put-off by thumping Dub-Step I’d be hard pressed to find fault in anything else about Bad Wolf Coffee, the highly acclaimed space fronted by Chef Jonathan Ory. Considered by some to be the city’s best small-batch bakery and essentially a one-man-show with daily options aside from the canele a veritable “dealers choice” of both traditional and unique recipes it was to a quartet of options that we were greeted on arrival and opting for one of each, plus an additional pair of canele it was not long before we stood at the communal table amidst walls decorated by local artists ready to enjoy – a brief photo-session allowing the buckle, canele and the still-molten danish just enough time to cool as everything but the streusel-topped muffin was mere moments from the oven. Beginning first with fruited options it was a dense crumb seemingly imbued with cornmeal or semolina that greeted the tooth on biting into the fruit-studded muffin and although blueberries here were still snappy and sweet they simply could not compare to the bursting jewels soaking though the buttercake base of the buckle, a messy proposition well worth the subsequent blue fingers and absolute bargain at a mere $2.50. Moving next to crispy canele it should really come as no surprise that as with most French pastries a warm delivery provided for superior results and although sometimes prone to hyperbole regarding the things I love I personally have never experienced a better version of the small round cake – the crispy shell breaking to the tooth with just a touch of resistance and soon giving way to an interior of soft custard almost imperceptibly sweetened, hefty note of vanilla instead perfuming the palate with each creamy bite. Clearly a baker of considerable skill it was only after the danish had finally cooled that we delved into the item Chef Ory had personally sold us as his “best version yet” and although not a typical ‘must order’ for anyone in our party the buttery pocket filled with dense cream cheese and drizzled with frosting was indeed a stunner, the balance of sweet and savory straddling a fine line with results so rich that sharing was almost a necessity…an ‘almost’ that should be qualified by acknowledging the fact that no one really seemed keen on giving up any of their share despite Bad Wolf being the third stop on an early morning breakfast tour that had already seen substantial pastry intake at Cellar Door Provisions as well as Bakin’ & Eggs.

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RECOMMENDED: Canele are available daily. You want several. The rest of the menu is subject to Chef Ory’s mood. You’ll want several of those, as well.

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AVOID: Arriving too late….or too early as there was apparently a Kouign Amann due to come out of the oven around 11:00am that I’d have liked to stick around for.

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TIP: Entirely lacking for chairs with loud music that likely won’t fit the tastes of many Bad Wolf is not particularly a place prone for long stays or a leisurely brunch but at the same time both the young female clerk and Chef Ory proved incredibly personable throughout our visit. Truly a no-frills spot but not at all skimping on atmosphere those who are interested should also be advised that art on the walls is not only local, but also available for sale.

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http://badwolfcoffee.com/

Bad Wolf Coffee on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bad Wolf, Bad Wolf Coffee, Breakfast, Canele, Chicago, Dessert, Food, Illinois, Vacation

Bakin’ & Eggs, Chicago IL

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Bakin’ & Eggs

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Intelligentsia Coffee

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Bacon Donut with Maple Glaze

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Glazed and Raised Donut

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Blueberry Scone

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Earl Grey and Golden Raisin Scone

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Red Velvet Cupcake

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Carrot Cake Cupcake

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Triple Berry Pancakes – Raspberry, Strawberry, and lots o’ Blueberries + Lemon Cream

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Banana Pecan Bread French Toast – Hazelnut Ganache + Butter + Bananas + Banana Rum Whipped Cream

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Lovely French Toast – Bread Pudding from butter, chocolate, and almond croissants + brown sugar

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Southern Comfort Bowl – Potatoes + 2 Poached Eggs + Cheddar + Biscuits + Chicken Apple Sausage

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Located on Lincoln Avenue in Lakeview with a footprint far larger than one would assume from the street Bakin’ & Eggs had long been one of the Chicago breakfast nooks I’d been meaning to visit and with selections at Cellar Door Provisions proving rather limited while the morning was prime for a leisurely walk it was with wide eyes that my sister, her fiancée, and I sat down to dine – a ten part order served across three courses soon to follow with only the overly dense scones and overburdened service proving less than excellent during the course of our ninety minute stay. Owned and operated by the folks behind Lovely Bakeshop with a friendly vibe suited for all ages it was inevitably with several selections from the case of freshly baked pastries that our indulgence began and paired to a bottomless cup of hot drip from Intelligentsia both donuts and cupcakes would show nicely, the bacon speckled base of the brioche donut particularly impressive and the carrot cake defiantly light despite a robust spice profile and tangy cream cheese. Moving onward to things more substantial as a small child beside us plowed through a short-stack of pancakes with remarkable gusto it was with a single savory and three more sweets that we proceeded and although the biscuits of the Southern Comfort Bowl suffered similarly to the scones everything else was exemplary, the weekend-only “Lovely French Toast” a true show-stopper with a dense crumb richly imbued by butter while fluffy pancakes took the opposite approach in arriving so light they seemed to threaten floating off the plate, a dollop of whip and lemon cream acting as both anchor and accent to bursting, fresh berries.

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RECOMMENDED: Lovely French Toast, Triple Berry Pancakes, Bacon Donut with Maple Glaze, Carrot Cake Cupcake

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AVOID: Scones and Biscuits both proved far too dense thus leading me to wonder if perhaps old baking powder was at fault versus a simple difference in technique compared to my personal preferences – either way, with so many superior options on the menu I’d not venture to retry either as there are better versions to be found elsewhere in the Windy City.

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TIP: Featuring a thirty minute queue for a 4-top when we were leaving at 9:30 those in a rush should be aware that although reservations are not accepted there is an express counter for baked goods or coffee and with plenty of indoor standing room plus a few seats at the bar even those arriving later in the morning are unlikely to grow weary with waiting.

http://www.bakinandeggschicago.com/home.php

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Posted in Bakin and Eggs, Bakin' & Eggs, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Chicago, Coffee, cupcakes, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Illinois, Intelligentsia, Pancakes, Vacation

Cellar Door Provisions, Chicago IL

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Cellar Door Provisions

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Kouign Amann

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Ricotta Peach Muffin

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Canele

001 - Cellar Door Provisions (1)

Located in Logan Square, with a wall mounted menu that is rewritten daily, Cellar Door Provisions can best be described as a labor of love; a collaboration of three friends who’ve honed their skills in kitchens near and far focused on making great food “worth gathering around.” Locally sourced and open five-days a week for breakfast and lunch it was just after the small store’s 8:00am opening that our party of three arrived and with items still emerging slowly from the ovens our sampling was somewhat limited, the friendly servers quickly procuring a pair of each warm item and delivering them tableside as a light soundtrack played overhead. Clearly attuned to recent trends in regional French pastry with the oft-praised croissants still thirty minutes from ready it was instead in the creamy canele beneath a golden-brown shell that our tasting began and although a bit sweeter than I’ve come to expect the texture was spot-on, a similar bit of praise befitting a Kouign Amann whose still-molten core of butter ran down my wrist as laminated layers shattered and showered the table. Appropriately impressed though slightly short of ‘wowed’ to this point it was last-but-certainly-not-least that we turned to the cheesecake textured muffin and featuring a deft balance of juicy ripe peaches juxtaposing pockets of creamy ricotta each bite provided a beautiful balance of sweet and savory, a touch of streusel topping tilting the balance ever so slightly towards the former and placing it amongst the best muffins I’ve experienced in recent memory.

001 - Cellar Door Provisions (17)

RECOMMENDED: Kouign Amann and Ricotta Peach Muffin

001 - Cellar Door Provisions (4)

AVOID: Better Canale can be found at Bad Wolf Coffee, though those desiring something more sugary may appreciated what Cellar Door Provisions has to offer.

001 - Cellar Door Provisions (5)

TIP: Items are baked throughout the day, but not all items are available when the restaurant opens its doors. Sometimes baking croissants first, other times preparing them only after other items are readied I was told by the clerk that 9:15-9:30am is generally the best arrival time to assure most selections are ready…and not yet sold out.

http://www.cellardoorprovisions.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, Canele, Cellar Door Provisions, Chicago, Dessert, Food, Illinois, Vacation

Rose. Rabbit. Lie., Las Vegas NV

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Rose. Rabbit. Lie.

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Caviar Tacos – Hackleback Caviar, Yukon Gold Potato Shell, Hamachi

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Herb Brioche Rolls – Bordier Butter, Maldon Salt

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Gougeres – Truffle Mornay

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Poached Asparagus – Fried Egg, Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Herb Salad

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Caramelized Farm Carrots – Moroccan Spice, Cara Cara Orange, Watercress

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Chanterelle Spaghetti – Asparagus, Shaved Pecorino, Wood Sorrel

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Rabbit Fricassee – Vichy Carrots, Rose Petals, Beech Mushrooms a la Greque, Sauce Zingara

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Duck Confit Pasta – Swiss Chard, Parmesan Cream, White Wine

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Crispy Oysters Rockefeller – House cured Bacon, Spinach, Chartreuse, Bacon Dust

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Roasted Foie Gras – Harry’s Berries, Candied Pistachio, Brioche

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Mary’s Free Range Chicken – Roasted Thigh Cordon Bleu, Sous Vide Breast, Summer Truffle, Foie Gras and Spaghetti Squash Stuffing

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Cookie Jar – Foie Gras Macarons, Cake Ball, Rosemary and Basil Truffles, Carrot and Currant Cakes, Biscotti, Brownies

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Chocolate Terrarium – Chocolate Buttermilk Cake, Chocolate Soil, Chocolate Bark, Marshmallow Fluff, Hazelnut Ice Cream, Edible Flowers and Herbs

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Perhaps the most misunderstood restaurant on The Strip and thought by some to have closed down due to its assumed synonymy to Vegas Nocturne it was with little regard for the now defunct show that myself and three friends descended the wormhole of Rose. Rabbit. Lie. and with food and drink as our focus even as various forms of entertainment paraded the dining room I’m happy to report that not only is the kitchen still open, but that it is also turning out some of the most impressive plates in the 702. Considered by some to be misbranded from the start while others bemoan the space as frankly overdone it was just after 6:30 that I arrived to find my friends waiting in the subdued Library Bar and with tab soon settled it was onward to the dining room that we progressed – a cozy fourtop at the center of the room affording us a full view of the well-appointed confines where service would shine brightly amongst the best in the city with a casual wink underlying unwavering knowledge of the menu, ingredient sourcing, and even technique. Often times trending far too loud for casual conversation as acts ranging from a real-life Jessica Rabbit to break-dancing Teens and a Jazz quartet roamed the dining room it was with five small plates that our meal began and with gratis $15 tacos stuffed with roe whetting our palates for more both the truffle imbued gougeres and glazed carrots would prove early favorites, the former an ethereal flavor bomb wrapped in delicate choux while the later deftly walked a fine line between earth and acid. Moving next to two house-made pastas from which the better would be a dispute and then onward to supple sautéed rabbit served alongside creamy fried oysters atop an herbal cream fortified with pork it was finally with the tableside feast of chicken that our savories did culminate and although some may balk at the $98 tab it would be hard to name a better bird in all of Las Vegas, Savoy’s $180 Guinea Hen or Robuchon’s $250+ Pintade taken into account. To this point all smiles it was nearly three hours after our arrival as the band riffed on Elton John that a duo of desserts was presented and although the crowned cookie jar was rather blasé aside from the succulent macarons the much-heralded terrarium was nothing short of a masterpiece; a decadent composition of textures and temperatures with elements both savory and sweet that rivals presentations at Atelier Crenn, Red Medicine, or even Alinea for a finish with flare, an absolute must order for anyone who loves chocolate while though those looking for something more fruit driven (and truly afire) might be wise to consider one of the tableside flambées…something I surely won’t pass up as I plan a return visit before year’s end.

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Balancing a high price point with exemplary ingredient sourcing and service that stands far ahead of its competition Rose. Rabbit. Lie. may be the most underrated restaurant on Las Vegas Boulevard today and although the sound level often proves far too loud for casual conversation the show itself actually proves quite entertaining, as well. Still up in the air in the post-Nocturne era with a lawsuit hanging in the balance one can only hope that when the dust settles Rose. Rabbit. Lie. will continue to thrive and even if the concept should rebrand or shutter that the culinary team will be kept intact – a meal in the library perhaps the best-of-both-worlds for those seeking truly innovative cuisine in space that seems miles from any casino floor but not yet willing to invest in a night at Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist or e by Jose Andres.

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RECOMMENDED: Chocolate Terrarium, Mary’s Free Range Chicken, Caramelized Farm Carrots, Crispy Oysters Rockefeller, Roasted Foie Gras, Duck Confit Pasta

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AVOID: Asparagus was fine, but undersized and not particularly interesting at the $16 price point while the Cookie Jar was perfectly clever but not particularly impressive save for the macarons – an $18 tab averaging approximately $1.50 per bite for a dozen small sweets.

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TIP: Divided into several rooms with entertainment running in thirty minute sessions and short breaks between those adverse to loud or trendy spots are advised to request a seat in the library but for those happy to enjoy the show (and the added LET) be advised that you very well may end up involved, the dancers and singers often finding their way into the dining room and using open chairs, elevated booths, and floorspace to dance, jump, flip, and or flaunt.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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http://roserabbitlie.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Macaroon, Nevada, Pork, Rose. Rabbit. Lie., RRL, Truffle

MADE L.V., Las Vegas NV

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MADE L.V.

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Cheesy Garlic Toast – Four cheeses

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Bacon Cheddar Biscuits – Honey salt butter

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Country House Pate – Pickles, fruit mostarda, grilled bread

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Pimento Cheese – Saltines, pretzel chips, breakfast radishes

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Smokey Bleu Cheese Fondue – Thick cut salt & pepper chips

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Black Mission Figs – Balsamic roasted & fresh, goat cheese, pistachios, pomegranate, arugula

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Baked Artichokes – Freekeh Stuffing, Parmesan, Lemon, Herbs, Garlic

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Bacon & Eggs – Thick cut bacon, deviled egg, red onion jam, grilled multigrain

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Breakfast Poutine – Two eggs, fries, turkey gravy, curds

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Dirty Mac and Cheese – Burnt pork ends, four cheese, peas, Ritz Cracker crust

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Butcher Style Chicken Wings – Hot smoked, flash fried, BBQ

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Bag of Donut Holes – Cinnamon sugar dusted

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Banana Pudding – Nilla wafers, whipped cream, salted caramel

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Loaded S’Mores Nachos – Graham crackers, torched marshmallows, toasted walnuts, Oreo cookie crumbs, chocolate sauce, fluff cream

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The newest addition to Tivoli Village, MADE LV fills the seemingly cursed spot formerly inhabited by Bradley Ogden’s Hops & Harvest and featuring the culinary talents of Kim Canteenwalla it was to a wide sampling of the restaurant’s nouveau-American menu that I sat down with eight friends on Saturday afternoon, the results a resounding success as fourteen plates delivered in five courses arrived to nearly universal praise. Offering a relaxed environment with touchtunes playing at a modest levels beneath a bistronomic tin-style ceiling as the Little League World Series showed on a pair of LCDs it was at a large banquette that our party was sat and with the open atrium bathed in sunlight our meal began quickly, the service spot-on throughout our two hour stay with several visits from the Chef himself assuring all was well. Speaking next to the quality of the food it can only be said that while perhaps ‘simple’ by some standards the execution of nearly every dish of the afternoon was nothing short of exemplary and with much of our order trending towards the menu’s heavier offerings it was perhaps unsurprising that flavors presented with aplomb, the cheddar biscuits a full-frontal savory assault finding levity in the creamy house blended butter while both the pimento cheese and rich fondue arrived in plethoric portions with extra chips and crackers offered compliments of the house. Moving next to things more complicated the very few faults of the meal were found in early-season figs that had not yet found maximum sweetness and fries that trended slightly less crisp than savory toppings would afford but with deviled eggs set aside crisp bacon soon followed by reference standard mac n’ cheese plus juicy wings rife with smoke beneath intensely crisp skin one would be hard pressed to complain – a trio of All-American sweets every bit on par with the savories finally rounding out a meal that more that lived up to the restaurant’s promise of “good food, good drinks, and good company” from beginning to end.

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FOUR STARS: With only the heavy handed poutine’s somewhat limp fries and less-than-perfect figs proving anything short of exemplary it would be difficult to say MADE LV is anything less than excellent considering it has been open for less than one week. Generally giving restaurants time to find their footing, particularly with regard to service, those leery of visiting should take solace in the fact that the team is already very well trained and although one cannot be sure Chef Kim will always be present given the fact that he is pulling double (and soon to be triple) duty with Honey Salt it is clear that this is a project very important to him and one in which he and partner Elizabeth Blau are willing to invest; one can only hope that the locals (and location) will return the favor.

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RECOMMENDED: Bacon Cheddar Biscuits, Country House Pate, Pimento Cheese, Smokey Bleu Cheese Fondue, Bacon & Eggs, Banana Pudding, S’mores Nachos

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AVOID: While certainly not ‘bad’ the Figs were nowhere near as large or plump as some and largely lacking in sweetness while the reinterpreted poutine suffered from fries that were simply too limp to stand up to the substantial gravy and perfectly poached eggs.

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TIP: With most plates served in sharing portions from open to close while ribs and chicken are relegated to dinner only one is best served to inquire about portion sizes with the staff – the bacon and eggs, for instance, a very small portion while the rich pimento cheese, enormous artichoke, and poutine can easily feed a larger group.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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http://made-lv.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, MADE, MADE L.V., MADE LV, Nevada, Pork

The Griddle Cafe at SLS, Las Vegas NV

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The Griddle Café

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Saturday Morning Fever Boozy panCAKE Shake – Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Griddled Buttermilk Cake, Bailey’s, Kahlua, Sweet Cream

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French Press – Medium Roast

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Mouthful of Yum – Godiva Chocolate Liqueur and Crushed Butterfinger with Brown sugar-baked bananas in buttermilk batter, topped with Godiva Chocolate Liqueur Whipped Cream

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Sow Your Oats – Honey, Cinnamon, Rolled Oats, Buttermilk Batter

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Devil’s Daydream Bourbon French Toast – Dark Chocolate Bread loaded with Bittersweet Chocolate chips, dipped in Bulleit Bourbon mixture, topped with Whipped Cream

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Peanut Bubba French Toast – Egg Dipped Sweet French Bread dipped in Peanut Butter Crunch, topped with vanilla whipped cream

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Admittedly taking a risk in visiting any restaurant on its very first day it should only be said that after four excellent visits to the landmark in Los Angeles my expectations were high as I entered The Griddle Café at SLS Las Vegas, the 24/7 space featuring a menu even more adventurous than the original but so dreadfully lacking in service that it almost ruined the work of a kitchen already firing on all cylinders. Ever the trendy space with much of the décor cribbed straight off of Sunset it was just moments prior to 7am when our party of three sat down at a table set for six and with the music a bit too loud but the hostess quite pleasant things were off to a good start, a back-server filling our water and procuring a French Press of bold medium roast coffee before things took a turn for the worst…a twenty minute delay before we flagged down one server to find ‘our’ server who would subsequently fail at nearly every task from taking orders to filling beverages to answering even the simplest of queries. Eventually annoyed enough to demand a manager who would offer nothing but attitude and excuses before finally agreeing to assign us a different waiter it was finally nearly forty-five minutes after we arrived that our first course arrived and decidedly taking the gluttons route with four griddled stacks plus a thick, boozed-up shake the morning improved exponentially with each over-the-top concoction every bit on par with what I’d come to expect from TGC and the all-new Mouthful of Yum more than living up to its whimsical name with light chocolate overtones atop caramelized bananas and Butterfinger’s candy crunch. Faring equally well to the pancakes, and in the opinion of my friends perhaps even better, each bite of French Toast would prove just as impressive as each fluffy flapjack and with the classic Peanut Bubba pairing supple bread to crunchy peanut butter cookies the decadent “Devil’s Daydream” stepped up its game from the City of Angels by adding a woodsy topnote, the warm finish of whiskey finding its foil in intense dark chocolate. Filling out our order, and stomachs, with three pancakes strewn with honey, oats, and cinnamon despite only requesting a ‘short stack’ and liberally topping the buttery cakes with pure Maple Syrup from Vermont as we finished off a fourth French Press it should probably go without saying that our experience was ‘mixed’ but with growing pains perhaps to be expected I can only assume service will get better while the food continues to shine…or at least I can hope…

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THREE STARS: Allowing the food to comprise half of the rating while the rest of the experience makes up the rest I’ll simply say that I enjoyed the food and my friends at Griddle Café enough to make it a ‘good’ experience while each of my visits to the Los Angeles locale trended towards world class. Knowing that ownership was resistant to expanding the concept it is my hope that this was merely opening day jitters and future visits, potentially to be frequent, will fare far better.

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RECOMMENDED: Peanut Bubba French Toast, Mouthful of Yum Pancakes

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AVOID: Priced at $15 the shakes are tasty, but not on the par with the similarly spiked concoctions at Holstein’s or Brooklyn Bowl.

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TIP: While French Toast is only offered in one size the pancake stacks listed price is for a trio and those with more modest appetites can indulge in singles or two flapjacks for $4 or $2 less, respectively.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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http://www.thegriddlecafe.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Griddle Cafe, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, The Griddle Cafe at SLS

The Perq, Las Vegas NV

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The Perq

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Banana Monkey Bread

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Bear Claw

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Chocolate Cranberry Scone

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Located just past the entrance of the new SLS and slinging LAMill Coffee from 6am until ten o’clock in the evening every day of the week it was largely a result of my early arrival for breakfast at The Griddle Café that brought me to the cusp of The Perq and although I knew the meal to follow was bound to be hearty I simply couldn’t resist the combination of warm pastries and welcoming baristas, the results a three part order tasted on site and finished later in the day with across-the-board impressive results. In some ways a bizarre space with a long bar juxtaposing the coffee counter and several small tables laid out beneath a textured ceiling gleaming with light The Perq concept is one set to evolve with progression of the day and reportedly baking fresh every ninety minutes (or faster as supply demands) with breakfast transitioning to lunch around 11:00am it was to nearly a dozen warm options that I was tempted at 6:15 and although a pair of fruit tarts beckoned along with a truffled Gruyere scone my order eventually settled on items far more sweet, the fresh scone pocketed with spots of sugar and dollops of butter alongside dark chocolate and bursting berries providing a lovely first bite before I delved into a well laminated bearclaw filled with dense yet subtle frangipane that stands tall alongside that of Henderson’s Friendly Donuts for best in the city, though the Strip based Casino admittedly commands nearly three times the price. Indulging last in a selection warmed-and-topped-to-order it was finally in The Perq’s caramel topped banana monkey bread that I partook and although rumor has it that lunch fares even better than breakfast with cookies, desserts, and gelato-panini taking center stage I’d be hard pressed to imagine any of them better than the textbook brioche pull-apart studded with caramelized bananas, though I unquestionably plan to return and find out, and next time with a cold-brew in hand.

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FOUR STARS: Obviously trending a bit more expensive than mom n’ pop spots throughout the valley but no more pricey than Press, Bouchon, or Payard with pastries thus far on par with all of the above The Perq instantly ups the ante in the Vegas coffee scene by bringing in LAMill, an 18-hour cold brew option and no shortage of espresso, latte, and cappuccino options set to tantalize palates while those favoring tea will can also find their fix; at least seven varieties offered hot or cold with latte options including a Masala Chai I heard two women raving as they sat sipping at a table across the way.

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RECOMMENDED: Bear Claw, Banana Monkey Bread, Chocolate Cranberry Scone.

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AVOID: N/A, though I cannot yet comment on lunch items, gelatos, or items not procured mere minutes after leaving the oven.

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TIP: The only location I’m aware of within the SLS offering all three forms of artificial sweetener those favoring the pink stuff would be well advised to swing by and grab a handful before heading to The Griddle Café; a large supply vessel can be found along the far wall along with simple syrup and several varieties of dairy and lactose-free creamer.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://slslasvegas.com/dining/the-perq

The Perq on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, The Perq