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Six New and Updated Chicago Restaurant Reviews

What to get at Cafe Orchid, Oiistar, and more.

Oiimen ramen noodle at Oiistar   Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

New Listings

Cafe Orchid

    

1746 W. Addison. Lake View. 773-327-3808
Turkish. Quietly churning out high-quality hummus and kebabs alongside complex traditional dishes such as the eggplant-mozzarella-lamb entrée Sultan’s Delight, this unassuming storefront deserves more than neighborhood gem status. The restaurant spins Turkish classics with a practiced deftness not seen in lesser Middle Eastern spots. Take the zucchini pancakes called mucver—flavorful filling, fried airy and crisp, served beside sour-strong yogurt-garlic sauce. You may not notice the precise execution, but you will appreciate the delicious results.
L & D Tue–Sun. Free dinner parking, wheelchair accessible, child friendly, BYO (up to $5 corkage), outdoor dining. $

Oiistar

    

1385 N. Milwaukee. Wicker Park. 773-360-8791
Pan-Asian. Sunny Yim operates his $65,000 Yamato noodle-making machine like a Maserati, producing some of the best noodles in town to bathe in his superb 18-hour pork broth for classic tonkotsu ramen. The slim dining room also attracts hipsters for other ramens, including a surprisingly deep-flavored vegetarian one and an Indian-spiced version. Split buns with toppings such as duck breast with raisin jalapeño chutney also demand attention, as does the kicky fried sambal-garlic chicken. The Oiistar Sangría makes an unexpected treat.
L Tue–Fri, D Tue-Sun. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. $

Updated Listings

Chilapan

    

2466 W. Armitage. Logan Square. 773-697-4597
Mexican. Never dumbed down for American palates, Jorge Miranda’s food skirts the border between Mexican alta cocina and the assumptions diners make about BYOs. On one hand, taqueria staples such as guacamole, chile con queso, and cochinita pibil outperform their lesser-restaurant analogs. On the other, baby octopus in guajillo mojo de ajo evinces high aspirations. In its vibrant space, Chilapan blows way past the usual taco joints to rank among the city’s top destinations for Mexican.
D nightly. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, BYO (up to $5 corkage), high noise level. $

Moon Palace

    

216 W. Cermak. Chinatown. 312-225-4081
Chinese. In Chinatown, where to the uninitiated many restaurants look identical, this stalwart outshines the rest. In addition to American-Chinese generalities (such as Tso), Moon Palace features Shanghainese specialties such as the habit-forming xiao long bao (soup dumplings), pork-and-broth-filled pockets that demand a whole ritual: release steam, dress with ginger slivers and vinegar, eat. An untranslated authentic menu holds delights such as braised pork shank and shrimp scrambled eggs, so if you don’t read Chinese, ask for recommendations. Also ask if the fantastic crispy-fried whole tilapia entrée is in season. Consider yourself initiated. Excellent martinis.
L Mon–Fri, D nightly. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly. ¢

Pleasant House Bakery •

964 W. 31st. Bridgeport. 773-523-7437
British. The menu at this homespun tribute to British working-class fare fits on a single blackboard. Scotch eggs. Buttered mint peas. Pot pies. Cornish pasties. A few sides. It seems like a simple affair, but those pies—stuffed with everything from a stew of ale-braised steak and carrots to kale and mushrooms set in a thick Parmesan cream—are nothing short of a revelation. Spoon into one, and all those snide jokes about British cooking become a distant memory. A BYO policy, fine homemade sodas, and daily specials make for hearty meals at slimmed-down prices.
L & D daily. Br Sun. Wheelchair accessible, BYO (up to $5 corkage), outdoor dining. ¢

Schwa

    

1466 N. Ashland. Wicker Park. 773-252-1466
Contemporary. This singular, haute BYO may be named for a neutral vowel, but there’s nothing neutral about the food. Schwa’s distinctive style stems from deft sweet touches in savory courses—such as cardamom marshmallow in an antelope-carrot dish—and mad scientist combinations that spring to life, such as carbonated pear with caviar, white chocolate, malt, and basil. Ingenious tasting menus make $115 seem like a bargain. The seriousness of the food belies the casual-to-flippant (and obnoxiously loud) atmosphere, where chefs serve adequately as waiters and negligently as reservationists. You can only book a table by calling. And calling. And calling. But keep trying. Weekday afternoons offer the best chances of getting through.
D Tue–Sat. BYO (up to $5 corkage), high noise level. $$$$

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