Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mercat a la Planxa

In a Q & A with Chef Jose Garces (A James Beard–nominee) by Chicagomag.com on July 19th, 2007, Chef Garces described Mercat as, "A 162-seat tapas restaurant. Tapas and a big plancha section. Grilled proteins. Grilled meats and fish, à la carte. The menu will be very unique to Chicago. Inspired by Barcelona and the Catalan region of Spain."

What a bright place to enjoy fresh, unique pasta dishes with friends, especially a summer day at 6pm when the sun is still creating a naturally gorgeous light through the big windows.

Higos Con Almendras bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with almonds
bacon wrapped dates (drizzled with cheese sauce tableside)

Arroz Negro Con Mariscos prawns, clams & mussels, with squid rice, calamari-linguini salad

Fideuà Negra baby squid in it's own ink, angel hair pasta & saffron aioli
Yum Yum Yum!! Although the aioli was slightly overwhelming after several bites (aioli (alhòli) comes from Provençal alh 'garlic' (<>òli 'oil' ), the intensely buttery-tasting flavor was divine. The squid ink created a humorous mess in our mouths, but added a sweet ocean-ish flavor to the pasta.

Mar I Muntanya I slow cooked shortribs & diver scallops, shaved parmesan artichokes

Mercat a la Planxa
638 S Michigan Ave, Chicago 60605
Btwn E Balbo Dr & E Harrison St
Phone: 312-765-0524

Breakfast Daily: 6:30am-11am
Lunch: Daily 11am-3pm
Dinner -
Sun-Thu: 5pm-11pm
Fri-Sat: : 5pm-12am


I am a super-duper eggs-lover!! So when I saw the name "Yolk" pop up near my hood, I had to give it a try.

On Yolk's web site:
Come in and experience our newest concept, Yolk. , which pushes the envelope with new and creative breakfasts, specialty juices, and our own private labeled premium coffee. As soon as you walk in this new south loop hot spot, you will not only see but also feel and later taste the difference! With a unique menu and exceptional service in a professionally designed interior,
Yolk. clearly stands above the rest.

I ordered:

Fresh Squeezed Strawberry-Orange Juice

Two poached eggs atop an english muffin with fresh sautéed spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Topped with our homemade hollandaise sauce. Served with red diced potatoes and fruit.

egg-white omelette (forgot what kind)

The juice was indeed fresh and delicious, side of fruits were plentiful and fresh. The dishes itself were well-portioned, solidly made, but nothing over-the-top impressive. I'd return just to try something else on their extensive menu, especially if I'm in the mood for breakfast food close-by. But it's not something I'd strongly recommend someone to make a trip for.

1120 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 789-9655


May Street Cafe

I was never a huge fan of wttw's 'Check Please', but my husband and I were intrigued when we came upon the "May Street Cafe" episode. It took several years before I finally had the opportunity to try this place last weekend.

MSC describes itself as, "Gourmet seasonal cooking featuring Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and traditional American foods with an eclectic twist."

On "Check Please":

What our reviewers said:
Matt recommends it for its phenomenal food and unbelievable atmosphere.
Jenny says it's solid inventive Nuevo Latino cuisine.
And Nick calls it a real jewel, and suggests you make your reservations now.


I wanted to like MSC. It's close to our condo in the city, there's accessible parking, and it's byob. Generally, it wasn't terrible, but it was "okay" at best. Not a place I'd waste another meal on.

First came the corn tortilla chips with homemade salsa. This wasn't bad -- crispy chips, flavorful salsa with a kick of spice. But it wasn't a 'wow' factor either.

We started with the 'french double cream brie with pear quesadilla, $8.95 (according to menupages)
This was actually quite good.. nice flaky crust with a sweet / very slightly tart blend of pear and brie. The sour cream and salsa went with it quite nicely too.

Then came the main dishes. We shared the pork chop with mango salsa(which, the waitress said was a fantastic choice) and a braised pork. Both came with the same sides of grilled vegetables, plantain, rice and beans.

The pork chop was slightly overdone... very, very tough. Braised pork was very tender, but in a tub of grease, seasoned slightly with salt/pepper. The sides of rice was undercooked/tough, beans were average, and most of the vegetables were overly grilled.

The more I'm recalling the experience, the more I'm certain I would not want to give this place another try. It wasn't terrible, but definitely waste of a meal.

May Street Café
1146 W. Cermak, Chicago
(312) 421-4442
Hours- Open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

Nippon Kan Sushi Bar/Chicago Kosaido Sushi Bar at Hilldale Golf Club

Surprisingly not much is found online for this Japanese restaurant at Hilldale Golf Club. Although their sushi's not that great (as with most Japanese restaurant in the midwest), their extensive Japanese menu include delicious home-style and izakaya-style dishes.

Chawan-mushi: silky custard, nice yuzu flavor, fresh ingredients...

ika (squid) grilled with ginger sauce, nameko agedashi tofu, and gyu-tongue were all flavored nicely. their beef tongue is extra thick and chewy, which is interestingly different from the typical thinly sliced. they also have a salt field-chicken yakitori that is pricier, but quality of chicken is better, and it's supposed to be thicker. the waitress told us, "the one on the regular menu is just chicken you find at any supermarket".

I should've blogged about this earlier, because now I vaguely remember the details, but this is somewhere I'd definitely return to, especially after a golf outing!

Nippon Kan Sushi Bar/Chicago Kosaido Sushi Bar at Hilldale Golf Club
1625 Ardwick Drive
Hoffman Estates, IL

Monday, July 14, 2008

Aigre Doux

from Vicarious.com: "Husband and wife culinary team, Mohammad Islam and Malika Ameen, who met while cooking at Chicago’s superlative Ritz-Carlton Hotel and have become rising star culinary wizards ever since. Aigre Doux is their first Chicago venue in River North. Aigre-doux is the French term for the combined flavors of sour (aigre) and sweet (doux); Islam will serve as owner/executive chef and head of the food and wine program, while Ameen, as owner/executive pastry chef, will design the restaurant’s dessert menu and head the adjacent bakery. The couple brings a passion for food and a stellar Chicago, New York and Los Angeles culinary background to the new venture. Aigre Doux is a contemporary, comfortably calm upscale restaurant, yet the couple’s commitment to quality is anything but calm. “We feel so strongly about the importance of serving excellent food,” said Ameen. “We don’t believe people should have to go to a fine dining restaurant to eat well."

aigre doux was exceptional.. we enjoyed everything. nice, clean ambience; exceptional service (everything came at perfect timing, from clearing plates, to water, orders, etc...so precise that I swear there are cameras at our table or something watching our every move).

food: bread wasn't warm, but it was SUPER delicious.. very soft & airy, with salted crust.. reminded me of an asian bread that I can't put my finger on, but interestingly enough, my husband felt the same way... except his is a japanese bread and mine a chinese one. i guess it just tastes very asian. my husband and i stepped into the restaurant, not hungry at all (unfortunately), but we got bread service twice.. each ate 4 pieces of their bread.

Black Truffle Pizza fontina cheese, frisée $16

thin yet chewy dough perfectly cooked in their oven, with slight char at the bottom... truffles, cheese were flavored & paired to make this an exceptional piece.

Crispy Calamari lemongrass, asian influences
we originally wanted to try their rabbit, but the waitress wasn't very encouraging when I asked about it. instead, she recommended their crispy calamari, which was perfectly crisp even though there was a lime/lemongrass based sauce stirred into it. we loved this.

Colorado Lamb Tasting grilled chop, braised shank, crispy sweetbreads truffled grits, fennel, apple, fava bean salad $40

lambchops were the BEST we've ever had, the knife cut into the super tender meat effortlessly, and melted in our mouths. their braised meat was incredibly tender. the grits and vegetables didn't interest us at all... I don't think we even finished it. the sweetbread tasted very intestinal, and had a chewy texture that wasn't very tasty. i muchly enjoyed the sweetbread at Craft, not here.

Sticky Toffee Pudding organic khadrawy dates, devonshire cream sorbet, cara cara orange $11

i had read that their sticky toffee pudding was awesome, and since the wife completes the 'sweet' of the restaurant, i wanted to experience the 'other half'. unfortunately it wasn't on the menu. when we asked about it, the waitress said, "oh you can have it if you want it." so they especially made it for us, just cuz we asked... i thought that was pretty nice. also, when we got out, the valet attendant grabbed our keys the second we stepped out the door (we didn't even have to show him the valet ticket).

With 2 grey goose martinis and 2 grey goose tonics, our bill turned out to be a bit over $160 (including tip). not too bad for the creatively delicious meal and excellent service. We will be back.

Aigre Doux
230 W. Kinzie Avenue
Chicago , Illinois

Tel: 312 329 9400

Note: we had our camera on the wrong setting so the photos turned out like crap. sucks!!

Three Happiness Original Restaurant 三喜

I'm very particular about food (arguably snobbish), especially when it comes to Chinese. I typically refrain from trying Chinese restaurants recommended by the online community (since you never know who has an authentic tongue), but I like LTHforum, and respected their recommendations, so when I saw that Little Three Happiness was highly raved about, I decided to check it out.

The place was very small, decently packed at noon on Saturday, but didn't require a wait (3 ppl). Menu was extensive, but many of which were 'americanized' dishes. We ordered the following:

Dim Sums -
Beef Short Ribs
Shrimp in Rice Crepe
Beef in Rice Crepe
Curry Crisps
Shu Mai
Shrimp Dumplings

Duck, Sausage, Cured Pork Rice Casserole $7.95 (Bao Zai Fan)

Generally, the dim sums were decent, but not nearly as fresh as Shui Wah. Portions were all super-sized in comparison to typical dim sum.

The beef stew soup with thin noodles wasn't that great... came with beef brisket and tendon, again, large chunks. However, the flavor was just average, and tendons overcooked. Since there were three of us, they gave us each a small bowl with soup spoon. My husband's bowl had yellow water inside of it... probably the same 'yellow' water they used to wash everything us. quite disgusting, even for Chinatown.

The casserole was the star of the meal, came in a stoneware pot, filled with a LOT of rice, sauce, and cured meats. We had a bowl each and took the rest home.

The entire meal turned out to be $35.20, so it was definitely an economical lunch. Whether or not this is worth returning to...I'm not sure. I may be willing to give it one more try, but I'm not crazy about returning.

209 W Cermak Rd
(between Cottage Grove Ave & Indiana Ave)
Chicago, IL 60616 (312) 842-1964