Saturday, March 31, 2007


This city has some great sushi. Since we've moved here we've really enjoyed how much fresher and more available great sushi is, and Kaze, yet another restaurant just a few steps away from us, is a great example of this.

Kaze's Web site calls its offering "traditional" sushi preparation, but one thing I've been struck by on every occasion we've dined there is just how unique and interesting their combinations and ingredients are. When I first passed this tiny restaurant while strolling down Roscoe I thought it was just another carry-out fast food type of sushi place, but how wrong I was. You enter the door to find a serene, minimally decorated and mostly white room that seems to be so trendy right now. But far from being sterile, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, in part because it's so darn small--there can't be more than 25 tables or so. The flowers that decorate the exhibition sushi bar are perfectly and precisely chosen and placed at regular intervals along the counter. I wonder if they get these at that adorable floral shop down the street I've been meaning to go into?

And the service is equally welcoming. Whether it's a weeknight after work or a fancy night out, we've never felt out of place or inappropriately attired and have always been treated extremely well by our servers. Both times we've gone we've had appetizers and sushi, though the restaurant offers several selections of Japanese entrees that look enticing. For appetizers, I have to rave for a minute about the Carrot Soup Peter ordered on our last visit. I'm highly suspicious of carrot soup as it usually just tastes like mushy baby food to me. And when Peter's small dish of soup arrived in what looked like an espresso cup, I didn't have high hopes. But as soon as I tasted the rich, slightly spicy and smoky soup I wanted more. Not to mention that there was a substantial chunk of crab floating on top. What a great way to warm up the palette. On another visit we had the Sweet Potato Soup, another creamy, delicious, warming creation that features (shhh, don't tell) just a hint of foie gras garnish.

We've sample various rolls (makimono), the best of which have been the caterpillar, soft-shell crab and whatever the special roll of the day is. Far from rolls you get at your local grocery store, these rolls are the freshest and most delicate I've tasted. We had the special last time we went, which featured ahi tuna spiced with jalapeno, and though it was good the taste wasn't as strong as we'd have liked. A colleague told me that the best thing to do here is go in, sit at the sushi counter and just ask them to create whatever specials they feel like. Sitting at the counter and watching the precision of the cuts and skill with which the chefs created the rolls, I could believe that pretty much anything they made would taste fantastic.

Though I've seen it on the menu we've never tried the tasting menu. It changes seasonally and looks delicious, and one night soon I'm sure we'll partake. Apart from this seasonal menu, there's a prix fixe tasting menu offered each Tuesday night. It's a bit pricey at $45 per person, but keep in mind that the price includes both sake and wine tastings. I'm also looking forward to enjoying the outdoor patio now that spring seems to finally have sprung.

Loyal readers will know of my obsession for dessert. Based on our server's recommendation we went with the Black Sesame Flan. This dessert was so unique from anything I've tasted before that I don't know that my description can truly do it justice. The flan was in the center of the plate but surrounded by a green soup of tapioca-like pearls that appeared to have sesame seeds in the center. The really cool thing about this dessert was really its texture, and we quickly lapped up every last bite trying to figure out just what it was and how it was made. It was light and fruity, slightly reminiscent of a lychee, and was the perfect ending to a meal that doesn't leave you feeling guilty for partaking. I'd probably need to sample it again to really describe it better. Or maybe next time I'll try the dessert sample to get a variety of Chef Macku's favorites? Now that sounds heavenly.

In short, Kaze is yet another reason I'm so glad we moved to Chicago. I know I'm going to be surprised and delighted with delicious, fresh food each time. It's the perfect night out to relax during the week or on weekends. And while sitting at the sushi bar is a fun and interactive way to enjoy the restaurant, it's equally good for a romantic night out or an evening with friends. Sure Japonais is more of the "it" place to hang out and be seen, but to enjoy Japanese cuisine that's at least as good if not better in a much more friendly environment, head to Kaze, right here in the Village.

The damage: depends on what you get, but about $50 per person with tip and a glass of wine each

Food: 5 out of 5 forks - seriously, I think this is some of the best sushi I've ever had (sorry to Beluga in Cincinnati--I still really like yours too)

Romance: 4 1/2 out of 5 kisses - I think this would be great for a first date (sit at the counter) or a fiftieth (go for a 2-top by the window). The lovely floral arrangements and candlelight make for quite a nice atmosphere and most importantly it's not too loud to enjoy a nice conversation

Watch out for: the crowd! There have a been a few times we've noticed a pretty long wait and have had to go elsewhere, so do yourself a favor and call ahead--it's worth it

2032 W. Roscoe Street
Chicago, IL 60618

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dining on Captiva Island, FL

I'd like to formally apologize for the delay since my last posting, but for the past week plus we've spent a lovely week on Captiva Island, Florida. For those who aren't familiar with the place, it's located on the southwestern (Gulf) side of Florida, about an hour or so away from the Ft. Myers airport, and after Hurricane Charley basically connected to the better known Sanibel Island. Some describe it as sleepy, but that all depends on your point of view. It doesn't have the hopping nightlife of Daytona or even Tampa, but here's a sampling of some of what you can enjoy: biking, shelling, walking, swimming, tennis, golf, boating, shopping, fishing, kayaking, gator watching, sand castle building and birding. And yes, the islands were hit hard by Charley 2 1/2 years ago, but they've made a striking recovery and with the exception of some mangroves and pine trees, everything is just as beautiful as it ever was. It's a piece of heaven, in my opinion, and just the respite from our busy work lives that we needed.

So while I can't report on any Chicago or Cincinnati restaurant news today, what I can share with you are some of the favorite dishes and restaurants we enjoyed this week, just in case you're ever lucky enough to find yourself on the islands.

The Mucky Duck
- the food is just okay, but this is known as THE place the place to catch a Corona and sunset - this is the kind of island where people actually clap for a great sunset.

The Bubble Room - known for 3-hour+ waits for dinner, we've found a way around this in recent years by getting take out of their two best dishes: the creamy, cheesy, garlicky warm Bubble Bread and a sampling of their enormous slices of cake (get them early in your trip so you can enjoy for many days). Though you'll be tempted by over a dozen cake varieties, don't go without trying the Orange Crunch Cake. The layers of yellow cake with cinnamon and almonds between are topped with orange cream cheese icing. The "Bubble Scout" who cut our cake deemed this dessert to be too sweet, but I disagree--it's perfect as it is and sells out every night, so you know it's great.

Keylime Bistro
- service isn't their strong point, but you're on island time, right? Who's in a hurry? I've only eaten here for breakfast and lunch, both of which offer a range of choices. I've heard dinner is great as well. You'll often be treated to live music, most frequently of the Jimmy Buffet/James Taylor sort.

Sunset Grill - for dinner, this is our favorite of favorites. The service is friendly and welcoming, yet a notch above food-wise the typical casual fare of most island restaurants. The presentation is outstanding and everything we've had was delicious. This trip we had exquisite escargot, seared scallops with lobster risotto, and tender osso buco.

The Lazy Flamingo - there are two of these on Sanibel, and we like the one closer to the causeway. Looks are deceiving here. Though it appears to be nothing more than a typical sports bar, the seafood couldn't be fresher and service is fast and friendly. We enjoyed the grouper sandwiches and the 4-hour old stone crab claws with mustard sauce. Oh, and we polished off a lovely slice of key lime pie.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An Afternoon with Grant Achatz

I've never felt so much like a foodie as I did earlier this month. I got an email one Friday morning that notified me that Grant Achatz (of Alinea fame) and Michael Ruhlman would be discussing "The Making of a Chef" at the Steppenwolf Theater. No, we haven't yet made it to Alinea to use our gift certificate, but ever since Gourmet magazine's Ruth Reichl named it the best restaurant in America I've been following the restaurant and Grant's career. And Ruhlman's book The Making of a Chef is one of the driving forces that caused me to want to attend culinary school. So when I learned about this event I just had to have tickets. Devoted readers and friends will kindly remember how starstruck I get in the presence of celebrities, and to be this close to two celebrities (at least to me) made me giddy.

This might be a good time to pause for a moment to comment on the fact that Mr. Achatz managed to pull in a crowd of over 400 avid foodies, all gathered and paying money simply to be in his presence and hear his thoughts on food and how he got to where he is. Undoubtedly the audience was full of fellow foodies and kitchen professionals (the pre-show conversation eavesdropping was fantastic), but we had to wonder if this kind of crowd would have paid money for such an event even 5 years ago.

It's no small task that he's accomplished all he has in a mere 32 years. He's worked at some of the best kitchens in the country: Trotter's, French Laundry, Trio. He spoke most fondly about his time at FL, clearly a life-changing experience. It was here that under the tutelage of one Thomas Keller that Grant says he gained a mastery and appreciation of the "basics." But when he visited the often cited "El Bulli" restaurant in Spain for a week-long stage, he knew he had to break out of the FL kitchen for a brave new world of an entirely innovative type of food. Though he detests the word, some have termed this cuisine "molecular gastronomy."

It's strange stuff, really truly. If you haven't heard about this phenomenon, it's food unlike any other you've seen or tasted before: a single bite of food perched on an antenna; a spritzer that you squirt in your mouth that contains the essence of shrimp; foams and gelees aplenty; solids suspended in liquids. Interesting, of course, but my main concern about all this cuisine de science has been about how utterly un-filling and un-satisfying I perceive it must be. Food that doesn't require a utensil? My fear is that it's all in the clever, coy and innovative presentation and not about taste.

If you haven't guessed yet, I'm skeptical of this new type of cuisine that Achatz is spearheading in the United States. Could Grant convince me otherwise? We've had a gift certificate for Alinea we've yet to use, but I'm looking forward to it soon.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


The first week of March and I was quite depressed to find that snow and ice were still accumulating on the ground last week. But this weekend the warm temperatures and sunshine finally broke through and the neighborhood was abuzz with adults, kids and pets everywhere. Peter and I headed out this morning (well, it was really this afterNOON given the spring forward time change) for a long walk to take in the fresh air and finally log some miles by foot around our new condo.

We headed straight down Addison towards Wrigley, then made our way south on Broadway. Having come over 2 miles and not eating before we departed, by that time we'd worked up a pretty mighty appetite. Luckily this stretch of Broadway in the Lakeview/Wrigleyville/Boystown area is chock full of restaurants, cafes, grocery stores and other food options. After window shopping several restaurant menus we settled on Adesso, a tiny spot that lured us with its compact yet yummy-looking menu of pancakes and egg dishes. This small spot can't have more than 20 tables, and we were lucky enough to score one right in the window so we could easily people watch and comment on passersby (one of our favorite pastimes).

The menu was small, but Peter is convinced (and I agree) that a small menu means each item is going to be better because it gets more attention from the chefs. There are several egg dish options, each with a twist from the ordinary. Eggs Benedict is served on polenta, eggs are poached in marinara sauce, and the eggs and bacon comes topped with pea puree. Peter chose the Eggs Romana (the one topped with pea puree) and I opted for the more traditional Adesso Salmone, described as a plate with smoked salmon and its traditional accoutrements like capers and egg. Our coffee was good and strong and gave us just the extra jolt we needed to feel more awake as we waited for our food.

We only had time to comment on a half dozen or so dogs and their owners strolling by before our food arrived. Peter's plate looked fantastic: two large pieces of toast covered with thick, wide strips of bacon, over easy eggs, topped with that green pea puree we'd been so curious about, and accompanied by a creamy potato gratin. My plate was lovely, but not quite the portion size my empty stomach was hoping for. Neatly arranged around the perimeter of my plate I had six perfectly cut piece of very thin toast (no crusts), red onion marmalade, grated egg yolk, grated egg white, capers, and mascarpone cream cheese. In the center of the plate was a small pile of strips of smoked salmon. Both our meals were delicious, even if I would've been more satisfied with a slightly larger amount of everything on my plate. I proceeded to make appetizer bites of all the elements on my plate, being careful to divide each one as equally as possible so as not to be left with toast and nary a caper in sight.

All in all, this was a great little brunch spot that allowed us to eat a great meal for a very reasonable price and still have plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine. I'd love to come back for dinner sometime soon to see what other offerings are on the menu.


The damage: about $25 total, including tip, which we considered a steal.

Food: 3 of 5 forks - good (not great), with some nice menu items to make it unique and memorable.

Romance: 3 out 5 kisses - It was daytime and a bit loud, though I can imagine this place would be pretty romantic during the evening

Watch out for: some of the tables can be a bit close to one another, especially the two-tops

3332 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL
(773) 868-1516

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Peter's Votes for Best of Cincinnati

Here are Peter's picks:

Best Overall Restaurant: Boca
Best New Restaurant: Chez T's
Best First Date Restaurant: Boca
Best Restaurant with a View: The Chart House
Best Restaurant with Live Music: Dee Felice
Best Asian (Not Chinese): Bangkok Bistro
Best Bagels: no place in Cincinnati
Best Bakery: Busken's
Best Barbeque: Bar-b-que Review
Best Breakfast: Price Hill Chili
Best Burgers: Arthur's
Best Burritos/Wraps: Don Pablo's
Best Business Lunch: Palomino
Best Cheap Eats: Chez T
Best Chef: Jim Demaree
Best Chili (Chain): Gold Star
Best Chili (Non-Chain): The Tea Room
Best Chinese: Szechuan Wok in Silverton
Best Coffeehouse: Starbucks
Best Deli: Dilly Deli
Best Desserts: The Bonbonerie
Best Italian: Nicola's
Best Mexican: Don Pablo's
Best Outdoor Dining: Chez Nora
Best Pizza (chain): Papa John's
Best Pizza (non-chain): Dewey's
Best Salads: Dewey's
Best Sandwiches: Jersey Mike's
Best Seafood: McCormick & Schmick's
Best Steaks: Jag's
Best Sunday Brunch: Grand Finale
Best Sushi: Beluga
Best Takeout: Bangkok Bistro
Best Waitstaff: Kenwood Skyline
Best Wings: Buffalo Wild Wings

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Angie's Best of Cincinnati

I learned that it's the time of year for Citybeat voting so I'm going to offer up my favorites here. Hopefully Peter will weigh in with his choices in the next few days.

Best Overall Restaurant: Boca
Best New Restaurant: Nectar
Best First Date Restaurant: Boca
Best Restaurant with a View: The Charthouse
Best Restaurant with Live Music: Allyn's
Best Asian (Not Chinese): Lemongrass
Best Bagels: Marx
Best Bakery: The Bonbonerie
Best Barbeque: Walt's
Best Breakfast: The Echo
Best Burgers: Zip's
Best Burritos/Wraps: Chipotle
Best Business Lunch: Jean-Ro Bistro
Best Cheap Eats: Arthur's
Best Chef: Jean Robert de Cavel
Best Chili (Chain): Skyline
Best Chili (Non-Chain): JK's in Madeira
Best Chinese: Szechuan Wok in Silverton
Best Coffeehouse: Awakenings
Best Deli: Dilly Deli
Best Desserts: The Bonbonerie
Best Italian: Nicola's
Best Mexican: El Coyote
Best Outdoor Dining: Ferrari's
Best Pizza (chain): LaRosa's
Best Pizza (non-chain): Dewey's
Best Salads: First Watch
Best Sandwiches: Dilly Deli
Best Seafood: Trio
Best Steaks: The Precinct
Best Sunday Brunch: Teller's
Best Sushi: Beluga
Best Takeout: Bangkok Bistro
Best Waitstaff: Kenwood Skyline
Best Wings: I don't eat them

Another Cincinnati Restaurant Blog!

Wow! I was pleasantly surprised this morning to discover that there's another Cincy restaurant blog on the scene. While I could view this as competition, and had previously prided myself on maintaining the only blog dedicated to this topic, I'm actually glad that the city's dining is growing enough for two blogs. I'm even happier that this blog links to ours and have returned the favor!

So, David Moriarty, I'm going to rely on you to help keep me posted on the restaurant scene there between visits back home. I don't necessarily agree with your assessment of Aqua, but hands down agree that the best pizza in town can be found at Dewey's. My favorite is the Edgar Allen Poe, which I always have to get on just half so Peter can steer clear of the olives he so detests.