Monday, August 23, 2010


3332 N. Broadway

I wanted to like it, I really did. My boyfriend is quite fond of it, and I really love Italian food, and it's on that charming little stretch of Broadway... but it just disappointed me over and over. I really don't want to dog on this place, so I'll try to keep the negatives to a minimum, but there's no avoiding the fact that the food just wasn't very good (I feel like it's perhaps gone down hill - I went there a few years ago, and I remember it being pretty good, though not amazing). The biggest problem was that someone had a very liberal hand with the salt. I like salt, but wow. This was intense.

The problems started with the rolls - pretty uninteresting bread, but apparently heavily salted on the outside. Served with a trio of butters - the pesto butter was lovely, but the other two tasted like they'd been in a refrigerator for so long that they'd begun to morph with it. Gross. I started to feel a bit deflated.

For appetizers, we did the Polenta Due and the Zuppa di Cippole. The polenta was two polenta cakes, one topped with shrimp scampi, one with mild giardinara. A strange combination, no? Indeed. I thought there must be some method to the madness, that it would surprisingly turn out to be a harmonious melange, but no. The shrimp were fine, the giardinara was fine, but the polenta cakes were pretty bland, and the flavor combinations were schizophrenic. The onion soup was covered in a thick layer of provolone, very nice, and had a strong fennel flavor, which was great. Unfortunately, it was also unbelievably salty - after two or three spoonfuls, I drained my water glass.

The mains were likewise uninspired. My boyfriend had the Fusilli del Boscaiolo - fusilli with fennel sausage, mushrooms, and peas in a light tomato cream sauce. He was pretty happy with it, but not thrilled. I had a few bites - it was fine, but nothing to write home about. I had the Pollo Verguvio - a chicken breast in a white wine sauce with roasted potatoes and sauteed spinach. The white wine sauce was - you guessed it - incredibly salty. And also just not that tasty. The chicken was cooked just fine, maybe a wee bit dry. The potatoes just weren't good to me, maybe because I was just utterly demoralized at that point. The spinach was probably the highlight of the meal, and it was just plain old sauteed spinach.

The final blow, of course, was the check. We had a groupon, which lessened the pang, but seriously, if I had dropped almost $30 on that meal, I would have been vexed. Honestly, I'm sad to say it, but I really would not recommend the place.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bon Bon Vietnamese Sandwich

2333 W. North Ave.

Oh man. My friend Dustin took me here today, and it was awesome. Dustin is quite knowledgeable when it comes to banh mi, and he says that unless you're heading up to Argyle, this is the place to go. Time Out Chicago seems to agree. I have no idea if there are better banh mi to be had in the city, but I tell you what - I'm perfectly happy to eat these.

It's a small place, maybe 3 or 4 tables and a menu consisting of 8 sammiches, some soups, drinks, and bubble tea, but the prices are killer: $3.95/sammich. The sammiches are served on a delicious crusty baguette, and come with pickled carrot and daikon (which aren't as tangy as you might wish, but competent), cucumber (which I declined, because ugh. Cucumber.), cilantro, and then your choice of filling. I went with the Ginger Chicken, and oh man. It was juicy and tender and marvelous, not overwhelmingly ginger, but with a gorgeous ginger vaguely caramel-like sauce. Dustin had the Char Sui Pork, which was equally delicious, chewy, salty, and overall great. I got a vietnamese coffee to go with it, which is always a mistake for me, because my stomach starts complaining before I'm even halfway through it, but what can I say, it's so creamy and decadent.

Overall: awesome. You should go.


3346 North Clark St.

I was going to post something about apologizing for not updating, but then the internet at it, and that's probably a sign that I should stop apologizing and just get back to posting. So I will.

So, Bolat. Last Spring, I taught a lit class that had Wole Soyinka's autobiography, Ake, on the syllabus. Aside from being an interesting book, it was a book that featured quite a few rather tantalizing descriptions of food. So when a groupon for Bolat came up, I pounced.

Now, a word about groupon. I love groupon, I really do. But it's also kind of a mixed blessing. For a lot of restaurants, it means a sudden massive influx of clientele - one that they might not completely prepared for. In other words, your dining experience might not be quite as terrific as you might hope. This is particularly the case when you wait until the very last minute to use it (as my boyfriend as I inevitably seem to do). Because likely as not, there's a horde of people in the same position, all clamouring to get in. And if the restaurant is as tiny as Bolat, this is a recipe for disaster.

So, we ended up waiting 2 hours for a table instead of 45 minutes. All the more frustrating because there were three tables open for a good half hour of that wait. But Bolat has one bartender and one waiter and maybe 3 people in the kitchen, so I understand their desire to slow things down a bit. Especially because the people at the tables were already vociferously complaining about how long the food was taking. So yes, the service was not stellar. But maybe now that the groupon deal has ended, it's calmed down a bit. Also, I should add: the room is lovely. Small but very nicely decorated, and very pleasant.

Now, the food. I am not especially familiar with African cuisine, so I might not be the best source of information about this. We started with the Goat Pepper soup. The broth was good, but the vegetables floating in it seemed to be of the frozen variety, and were not so appealing. I was not wildly impressed, but my boyfriend quite liked it. Next, we got the Braised Oxtails with fried plantains. The plantains were delicious (I LOVE fried plantains) and the oxtails were great too - grilled and coated in a zesty sauce that was similar to barbeque, but more sweet than tangy. Very nice.

I'm really not sure what my boyfriend got as his main course. It was a variety of meats and some fish in a green sauce with rice. It was, in my opinion, not so great. He liked it, but didn't love it. I, on the other hand, was thrilled with my entree - the yamashoma, tender chunks of beef in a wonderful spicy sauce, accompanied by a giant ball of a polenta/cornmeal - just wonderful.

The price is slightly steeper than you might expect - it's not a super cheap meal, but not wildly expensive either - you can expect to spend around $25/person, more if you indulge in alcohol, which I rather regret that we didn't, as it looked intriguing. Overall, we're not in a hurry to go back, but I certainly wouldn't object to doing so.