Monthly Archives: December 2013

Stuff I Liked, and Didn’t Like, in 2013

2013 is at a close. We laughed, we cried, we made fun of Eater, we made fun of Michelin. It’s impossible for me to come up with any sort of top ten list, so here’s a bunch of stuff that I liked (and didn’t like) in 2013.

Stuff I Liked

  • Damn near everything I ate at Vera
  • All things Brendan Sodikoff
  • Finally trying actual food cooked by Brandon Baltzley
  • Grace (even when they’re not making me chicken soup)
  • Next: The Hunt and Bocouse
  • Telegraph’s Sicily wine dinner
  • The continued push, focus, and excellence of Arami
  • The return of BK Park
  • The glorious insanity of Eataly
  • The quiet excellence of Sumi Robata Bar
  • Eating poke (lots of poke) in Kauai
  • The Dutch and Del Posto over Thanksgiving
  • Ceviche and chicken at Tanta
  • Early morning breakfast tortas at Torta Frontera
  • Mortadella pizza at Coalfire, troisi pizza at Pizzeria da Nella
  • Senza getting a Michelin star
  • Seeing Nick Kokonas get confused for a server at The Aviary
  • The solidification of Twitter as the primary source for relevant restaurant news, discussion, and criticism

Stuff I Didn’t Like

  • Manufactured hype
  • Manufactured hype
  • Next: The general customer-facing experience
  • Getting in internet fights over food
  • My most recent meal at Avec
  • The continued popularity of mediocre Japanese food in Chicago
  • Sun Wah being revealed to be juuuust a bit too dirty for my tastes
  • Eater pretending to be OpenTable
  • Judging one level of food to be more worthy of discussion than another (the old high end vs. low end debate)
  • Automatic slobbering over anything involving bacon
  • Automatic slobbering over any sort of protein wrapped in bacon
  • Automatic slobbering over any sort of protein wrapped in bacon and then fried
  • Stupid burgers
  • The food wasteland that is Terminal 2 at O’Hare
  • This thing

I think that about wraps it up. To all of you who have taken the time to read my nonsense, I thank you. A happy and safe New Year to all, and here’s to an even better 2014!

 

Where I’m Eating (December 2013)

Updated version of my original list…

Fine dining – Alinea, TRU, Grace

Sushi – Arami, Juno (added)

Randolph Street area – Vera, La Sirena Clandestina, Publican (removed Avec and Province)

My neighborhood places – Crisp, Pastoral/Bar Pastoral, Del Seoul, Fish Bar, Eleven Lincoln Park (added), Flub A Dub Chub’s (added), Riccardo Enoteca (added)

Pizza – Pequod’s for deep dish, Cafe Luigi or Armitage Pizzeria for NY style, Pizzeria da Nella for Neapolitan. My favorite overall though is Coalfire (specifically their mortadella pizza)

Chinatown – Lao Hunan, Lao Sze Chuan, “Little” Three Happiness (though this is mainly to indulge my wife’s love of their rice noodles with beef & broccoli)

Tacos – La Lagartija

Loop lunch – Hannah’s Bretzel, Cafecito, Ba Le, Benjyehuda, Taza, (removed Pollito’s)

All the rest – Anteprima, The Florentine, Sable, Senza, Maude’s Liquor Bar, The Bristol, Taxim, Tanta (added), Sumi Robata Bar (added),¬†Perennial Virant (added), Telegraph (added)

Tanta

Tanta opened in River North to much fanfare in August. A few years ago I ate at Gaston Acurio’s place in San Francisco (La Mar), which I really enjoyed so I was looking forward to checking out Tanta. It’s been crazy busy and hard to get into on Friday/Saturday nights, so we decided to check it out with some friends last night (a Sunday).

Even on a Sunday the place was pretty busy. I don’t know why but I was expecting the restaurant to be much larger than it actually is. It’s a nice size space, not like the other cavernous trendy feed halls in the area.

We got the usual “have you dined with us before” from our server, but for once I was actually thankful for the menu run-down that followed. Tanta’s menu is divided up into a bunch of sections so it was actually pretty helpful to hear what each one was all about and to hear about a few dishes from each one. It helped that our server was deeply familiar with the menu and wasn’t just pushing what he was told at that night’s pre-shift meeting.

We decided to start with one dish from each of the five sections of the menu that are intended to be appetizers:

Tiraditos (crudo, more or less) – criollo (mahi mahi with aji amarillo)
Niguiris (Peruvian version of nigiri) – anticucho (more mahi mahi)
Cebiche – criollo (mahi mahi, squid, and shrimp)
Anticuchos (skewers) – pulpo (octopus with chimichuri and fried garlic)
Causita (served on top of mashed potatoes) – clasica (crab with avocado and egg)

All were delicious with the exception of the causita with tasted a little bit like tuna salad on top of mashed potatoes. The fish used in the raw dishes was fresh and high quality, The octopus in the anticuchos was cooked perfectly, not rubbery at all. The nice part though was that dishes were brought out one at a time and actually in a thoughtful order. Given a similarly structured menu it seems like most restaurants in town these days would have sent out everything at once (completely overwhelming the table) or in whatever order the kitchen felt like sending them out.

For my main course I went with the half chicken. The place is Peruvian, how could I not try the chicken? This was some fantastic chicken. White and dark meat, both moist. Skin perfectly seasoned and textured. And the chicken comes with a ridiculous amount of other stuff: rice, beans, salad, fried potatoes, and three sauces (which were good but completely unnecessary). At $19 this might be one of the better bargains for a meal in River North. Our table also ordered the pork fried rice to share and it was also great, but in a trashy sort of way. Lots of sauce and scrambled eggs, with the whole thing still cooking at the table. If you go with a group I would recommend getting it but be prepared for a “hate eating” experience.

Tanta could have easily fallen into the trap of being all style and no substance given the area but that is definitely not the case. This is a serious restaurant putting out great examples of higher end Peruvian food.