Pollack’s First Impression of Henri in 121 Words
Billy Lawless set out to create an intimate French parlor next door to his adrenalized Gage (24 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-372-4243), and indeed he did. Henri (18 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-578-0763) is one of the loveliest rooms I’ve seen in a long time. The setting is elegant but inviting, refined but relaxed, hushed but sociable. In hazy tones of green and gold, it’s perfect for a tête-à-tête. The well-thought-out tatsoi salad handled myriad textures (soft robiola and crunchy bacon) and flavors (bitter frisée and earthy mushrooms) with assured flair while the house-made pappardelle with Maine lobster in a luxurious seafood bisque made me long for the good old days of classic French. Henri feels out of step with the retro-syncratic moment (burgers, barbecue, beer), but I say, Bravo, Henri.
“Here in Chicago there are a lot of taquerías, very good ones, but they’re not very authentic,” says Laura Cid-Perea. With that shot across the bow, Cid-Perea and her husband, Luis Perea, both Mexico City natives and veterans of Topolobampo, opened the colorful La Lagartija Taqueria (132 S. Ashland Ave.; 312-733-7772) in the West Loop in June. Just down the street from their Bombon Café (38 S. Ashland Ave.; 312-733-8717), the pair make their own tortillas, adobos, salsas, rubs, and marinades and feature a different salsa every day. They must be doing something right: Chicago magazine’s chief dining critic, Jeff Ruby, says Lagartija’s shrimp taco “eclipses 90 percent of what’s out there in Chicago right now.”
“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.” –Erma Bombeck (1927-1996), American humorist
Restaurateurs Claim the Darnedest Things
What once was Shikago is now Ara On (160 W. Adams St.; 312-781-7300), a high-end Korean/Japanese restaurant that claims to have the longest sushi bar in the United States. (“That’s just what my boss is telling me,” says Melia Jones, the general manager.) The bar is 29 feet long, the boss is Jimmy Kim, the man behind Tokyo Lunchbox Catering, and number one in the kitchen is James Okuno, Shikago’s former chef. “We’re keeping a similar concept to Shikago,” says Okuno, who also spent a year at Les Nomades. “But we’re going to make the food more accessible and drop the price points.” Dinner business, always a hard sell at Shikago, "has already picked up dramatically." As for that sushi bar, we couldn’t verify its front-runner status, but a quick search turned up the fact that the longest sushi roll ever was 4,381 feet.
More Maki, More TV
We know what you West Siders are saying: “What’s a hipster gotta do to get an unagi roll around here?” What’s that? You’ve got 7,000 sushi bars to choose from already? Oh. Well, Makisu Sushi Lounge and Grill (1725 W. Division St.; 773-697-9535), an offshoot of a popular spot in Skokie, opens August 26th in the old Fuel space. The managing partner, David Kim, promises a sake and wine bar upstairs in a couple of months; in the meantime, you’ll have to survive on lobster rolls, crayfish salads, seared tuna, and ten sports-showing flat-screen TVs. You know, because you can’t find any of that in Ukrainian Village.
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Things to Do
1. Snag a coveted reservation at Brasserie Jo (59 W. Hubbard St.; 312-595-0800) before the French favorite closes its doors this Saturday—a swan song not to be missed.
2. Catch this sweet deal for the discerning 12-and-under crowd: This Sunday, Home Run Inn (4254 W. 31st St.; 773-247-9696) offers an eight-inch thin-crust pie in kid-friendly flavors (that is cheese, pepperoni, and sausage) for only $1.
3. Test your sparkling wine palate at Boka (1729 N. Halsted St.; 312-337-6070) at a blind taste test with Master Sommelier Fernando Beteta of Tenzing Wine & Spirits Company. Sample four different varieties and guess the grape and/or region of origin. The winner receives a $100 Boka gift card—but if you lose, Boka promises another free tasting next month.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
It’s your turn, River North. Expect long lines on Thursday when M Burger (5 W. Ontario St.; 312-428-3548) strikes again. This time, the Lettuce crew found some space in Osteria Via Stato for their signature burger and its secret sauce. . . . There’s a new deli on the block in Hyde Park, where Z & H MarketCafe (1323 E. 57th St.; 773-538-7372) opened its second location this past Thursday. For now, the menu mimics the original location on 47th Street, but expect unique specials once the dust settles. . . . With two paying adults, the kids eat free at Las Palmas (1835 W. North Ave.; 773-289-4991) from 5 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, Saturdays from 4 to 7 p.m., and all day Sunday. . . . Newly opened, The Kinderhook Tap (800 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park; 708-434-0373) tops their cocktail list with a Dirty Betty White Chocolate Martini to go with a menu of “comfort food done right.” Interesting combo. . . . We got the word: Mastro’s Steakhouse (520 N. Dearborn St.; 312-521-5100), the swanky West Coast supper club–style steak house, will open on October 22. . . .Rhapsody (35 E. Adams St.; 312-786-9911), a restaurant that has been without a chef for far too long, has just scored Dean Zanella (most recently of 312 Chicago and Aldino’s) as executive chef. Zanella will start in mid-September—in time for the concert season, we assume.