Monday, September 27, 2010


4801 N. Broadway, Chicago

Demera has some of the most delicious Ethiopian food I've ever eaten, and the prices are just awesome. The service leaves a lot to be desired, but I'm totally willing to deal with it just to get more of that tasty tasty food. I'd say it makes a great precursor to a show at the Riv or the Aragon, but it doesn't, because the itis is not conducive to live music experiences. But you should totally go.

While you can order a few dishes, the way to go is clearly the messob, which gives you a giant platter with a variety of things (that you pick). A two person option costs, at most, $32.50 - TOTAL. It's an unbelievable bargain.

We didn't try any of the cocktails, which I somewhat regret - incidentally, I think they're also byob? But I'm not sure. - but we did get the Ethiopian tea, which was wonderful, spicy and warming.

Food wise, we did:

ye-misir wot, ie, red lentils. This was pretty much the standard version you'd get anywhere, which isn't to say it wasn't delicious, because it most certainly was.
gomen - collared greens with onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeno. Fantastic.
ye-doro tibs - chunks of chicken sauteed in lemon and garlic, cooked with onions, tomatoes, jalapenos and rosemary. Absolutely fabulous, spicy and flavorful.
kitfo - Ethiopian steak tartare. We got it raw, and I must say, it was unlike any steak tartare I've ever had. If you're intimidated by the idea of raw ground beef, this is the place to start - in both texture and flavor, it's not much like raw beef at all. It's soft and chewy, yes, but not in that distinctive raw meat way (that I happen to love). Flavor-wise, it's wonderfully lemony and you mostly just taste the various herbs it's flavored with.
We also got a cooked beef of some kind and some shrimps, but unfortunately, I can't remember which ones. I can tell you that I loved both of them, and that the shrimp were perfectly cooked.

Definitely, definitely check this place out, just remain calm when you don't see your server for 20 minutes. It's a little frustrating when you're trying to get more injera, but the food is so good that you'll find yourself picking at it with your bare hands anyhow, clumsy as the process may be.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

90 Miles West

2540 W Armitage, Chicago

I really adore this place. It's BYOB and extremely affordable (entrees are $10-$13), it has a huge, awesome heated outdoor patio so that you can have a little outdoor experience even in the winter, and man - I really like the food. It's not the best Cuban food you can get in town, but it's quite good. I always get the Bistec, a steak with chimichurri served with plantains, rice, and a bowl of black beans. My friend Ruchama always gets the Ropa Vieja, and it's great too. Kelly got the chicken last night, and whadya know, it was great too.

The appetizers are pretty good too. I like the empanadas, though again, they're not the best you've ever had, but they're tasty nonetheless. The yucca fries come with a bowl of garlic and oil that is just awesome. The calamari are kind of peculiar, it's a bowl of tomato sauce with 4 pieces of toasted cuban bread stuck in it. The calamari are floating in the sauce somewhere. Not exactly what we expected, but the sauce is flavorful and the calamari were cooked just right.

The owner is often around and will stop by and ask if you had a good time - they seem to be working really hard to promote the place, and while it was a little overwhelming, I'm glad to extend my assistance. Go check this place out. It won't blow your mind, but you'll have a very pleasant dinner.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An awesome restaurant blog

We can't all live in Chicago. A friend of mine just alerted me to this awesome Seattle blog, Sassy Food. The author blogs about restaurants, but with a twist - she also occasionally approaches fellow diners and asks to taste some of their food. It's a fun blog, with great photos - definitely worth checking out.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mercat a la Planxa

638 Michigan Ave., Chicago

The boyfriend and I had been here awhile back and liked it, and then when we were in Philadelphia in the Spring our friends took us to Amada, one of the chef's other restaurants, and we loved that, so we were excited to come back to Mercat. My mom was in town, and we'd gone to see The Weir (an amazing play which was done quite well by Seanachai Theatre Company) and we - as per usual! - looking for a place open past 10 on a weeknight, and Mercat was it.

Oh man. The food was phenomenal. Seriously, every single dish - and we got a lot of them - was impeccable. We had the pulpo con patatas, perfectly cooked octopus, oily and lemony and spicy and fabulous; we did the rice with morels and lemon, a rich, densely mushroomy risotto with a hint of truffle (Jose Garces is a fan of the truffles, and I love him for it); the braised rabbit agnolotti with brandied cherries (which rivaled the veal heart papardelle from Schwa in terms of quality - it was absolutely gorgeous); the pork belly with apple cider glaze and green apples oh wow, the sweet cider glaze and the wonderfully creamy yet firm pork belly; the flatbread with shortribs and greens and an intriguing hint of horseradish; some cheeses, a bottle of wine, oh, and the chocolate croquettes for dessert - we didn't think we had room for them but we managed, and it was so worth it.

I can't say enough about how pleased I was with the place. It's a lovely room with classy decor; while the tables are somewhat close together you don't feel cramped at all. The cocktail list is quite appetizing, the prices are high but not totally out of control, and the food. is. fantastic.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Girl and the Goat

809 W Randolph, Chicago

We happened in here at 10pm on a Wednesday and discovered, to our delight, that it's open until 11pm on weekdays. He-llo! Immediate points in my book. Of course we'd been wanting to check out Top Chef champion Stephanie Izard's spot, but we were sort of waiting for the early buzz to fade. But given how delicious our dinner was, I doubt that it will anytime soon.

The room is pleasant but not overly elegant or stuffy - it's somewhat bustling, though you're not in close quarters with people the way you are at Avec or the Publican. The decor is dark but there's plenty of light inside to see your food and your partner, and you can see the line where the food is being prepared, which is kind of fun.

Girl and the Goat is a small plate restaurant, with 10 meat, 10 vegetable, and 10 seafood options. Despite the small menu, we had an unbelievably difficult time making a decision, because everything looked fantastic. We were going to get 4 things - we got 6. And a bread.

The bread came with liver. I'm not sure which creature donated its liver to our meal, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank it for doing so, because it was quite tasty.

Our first vegetable was the pan fried shishito peppers with parmesan and sesame. They turned out to be one of my favorite dishes. The sesame didn't really come out strongly, but the flavors were delicious nonetheless, with just a touch of heat from the peppers. Our other vegetable was the strongly recommended green beans with fish sauce and cashews, which I also loved. The fish sauce was aioli-like, which I didn't expect but didn't mind at all. The green beans were crunchy and delicious.

Our seafood were the scallops with veal stock and almond butter and the softshell crab with sweet corn, lime and chili aioli. The scallops were perfectly cooked and very tasty, beautifully set off by the meatiness of the veal (though I admit that I couldn't much taste the almond butter). The softshell crab (which we couldn't resist getting because, as our server pointed out, the season is almost over!) were breaded and fried, which to me seemed like kind of a pity, because although the breading was light and crispy, it still made the crabs a little heavier and greasier feeling than they would have been otherwise. The lime and chili aioli was a nice compliment, zesty and delicate.

Our meats were the rabbit rillete with crisp rice crepe and ginger giardiniera and... and... another dish that doesn't seem to be in any of the online menus! A combination of meats (I want to say goat, veal and beef?) served over papardelle with a berry... gooseberry? No. I want to say it started with a c. Argh. Well! The rabbit, I have to say, was not that exciting. This may be partly because it was one of the last things we got and I was horrifically stuffed (people! 4-5 dishes is MORE THAN ENOUGH for two people!), but I suspect it was just not as amazing as the other things we had. It was basically a crispy crepe - fine enough, but not especially tasty - rolled around the rillette and floating in a nice sauce. So texture wise, it was kind of odd. The crispy crepe started to go soggy pretty fast, and the flavors didn't really sing together.
BUT the papardelle! Oh my goodness! It was incredible! I am generally not that excited about savory things paired with fruits, particularly meat and fruit. But wow, this knocked my socks off. It was so fantastic. I loved it so much that I saved it for last, which, as my boyfriend pointed out, was not a very bright idea, because it wasn't as good cold. But oh man. It was delicious.

We were skimpy on drinks and only got a beer and a glass of wine. But the beer list is impressive for sure, and the wine list certainly seemed fine to me, who is quite ignorant about wine. But I very much enjoyed the glass of riesling I had, and it paired beautifully with the food.

The meal, overall, set us back $120 ($100 without tip). And I'd say that's to be expected for 2 people - while you can certainly get less food than we did (I'd recommend that you do, seriously), you will probably want to get more than 1 drink each. And you might find room for dessert as well.

Anyhow, overall - definitely recommended. It was really delicious.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hing Kee

2140 S. Archer Ave.

We were on our way to Lao Beijing (my favorite restaurant in Chinatown) when we paused in front of Hing Kee, mesmerized by the site of a man making noodles. We drew our eyes away just long enough to see the sign on the window that pointed out that a bowl of those noodles was only $5.95. 'Nuf said. We went in.

We ordered two bowls of the ramen, one with pork belly and one with szechwan chicken. They arrived almost instantaneously, and they were fantastic. The noodles were fresh and soft and delicious - you really haven't lived life until you've had freshly made ramen. It's just an incredible thing, like nothing you've ever had. The broth was admittedly basic pho broth (they offer a lot of pho options), and not even the best I've had, but flavorful. Both the chicken and pork belly were both out-of-this-world fantastic. Either soup, on its own, would make for a great lunch for one person. And both are reason enough to come to this restaurant.

But there were four of us, so we ate more. Everything else sort of arrived whenever, but we didn't really mind. The scallion pancake was chewy and delicious (though it didn't come with any sauce, which was a bummer. It didn't need it, but nonetheless, I do love that sauce), the peapod tips with garlic were phenomenal, and the salt and pepper beef was way, way better than I've had anywhere else - moist, chewy chunks of beef that were beautifully accented with salt and pepper and a hint of soy. I was not a big fan of the chinese broccoli in oyster sauce, but that's because I don't especially care for chinese broccoli - everyone else loved it. The only blemish on an otherwise outstanding record were the pork dumpling, which were basically potstickers, and not especially good ones at that - the dough was too thick, and the filling wasn't that flavorful. The sauce didn't do much to help. Other than that though, it was a fantastic meal, and clocked in at less than $15 per person, which raised it to the level of "oh hell yes we're coming back here".

The menu features a bunch of pho as well as sushi. For my money though, it's all about that ramen. Definitely check it out.