Friday, February 25, 2011

Chizakaya Japanese Pub (Harold's Restaurant)

Restaurant Week @ Chizakaya

1st Course
Chicken meatball with warm egg yolk
Puffed pigs ears

2nd Course
Trio of Skewers
Sweet Sausage, Duck Confit, Shishito Peppers

3rd Course
Kakuni pork belly with egg
Grilled Squid

4th Course
Taro Rice Pudding with coconut

VERDICT: interesting enough for us to return.

3056 N. Lincoln Ave
(between Southport Ave & Wellington Ave)
Chicago, IL 60657
Neighborhood: Lakeview
(773) 697-4725

BOKA (Chicago Restaurant Week)

I don't even remember what I previously read about Boka, but I've always wanted to try it. I thought Restaurant Week is a great way to check it out.

A bit of info from their web site:

Progressive American cuisine
Executive Chef/Partner: Giuseppe Tentori - grew up helping out on his grandmother's farm in a small town outside of Milan. Along with an emphasis on local farmers and seasonal ingredients, innovative pairings have become his trademark.

Pastry Chef: Kady Yon - born in Hong Kong, native of McHenry, Illinois. website: "Deriving inspiration from both nature and art, Yon masterfully crafts desserts based on each ingredient's characteristic and loves the unpredictability one batch of product has from the next."

Both chefs worked at Charlie Trotter's.

Ben Schiller: Mixologist - his signature style: progressive and seasonal twists on classic favorites with house-made ingredients. His mission is to have a more personal relationship with the origins of the products behind his bar.

$33 Menu

I've never seen a Mixologist profile on a restaurant's web site in the past, so I was intrigued, and wanted to try their mixed drinks. Our waiter said they stored Manhattan in a barrel for 1 year (I think?) and recently cracked it open, so we definitely wanted to give this a try:

I thought it was smooth & delicious.

Our waiter recommended this for me, which was also flavorful & delicious (I told him that I don't want something too sweet):

Clean Break - Genever, Pimm's No. 1, Cucumber, Lemon, Orange oil

Foccacia served warm (someone walks around to serve 2 pieces/ person via bread basket - they do come around to ask if you want more)
warm, buttery, delcious.

We ordered 1 fresh oyster each ($3/piece?) It was fresh, but not memorable.

First Course:
Maine Diver Scallop, Broccoli Sauce, Sweet and Sour Onions
Scallop was cooked nicely, but this dish wasn't interesting at all.

Crispy Amish Chicken Thigh, Yukon Gold Potatoe Puree, Pickled Celery Root

We liked both the crispy, moist chicken & potatoe puree.
Second Course:
Whitefish, Prawn Brandade, Grilled Fennel
note (from wiki): Brandade is an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil eaten in winter with bread or potatoes. The word brandada is the Catalan and Occitan word for the past participle of the verbbrandar, meaningto beat in oscillations and having a very strong sexual connotation.

Braised Pork Belly, Fried Oyster, Baby Bok Choy, Green Tea Soba Noodle

Both entrees were just alright. Neither were exceptional, memorable, note worthy.

The best part of this meal was surprisingly the dessert (typically my least favorite part of a meal):

Ginger Kulfi, Marshmallow, Espresso, Tangerine, Chocolate
note (from wiki): Kulfi or Qulfi (Hindi-Urdu: क़ुल्फ़ी or قلفی) is a popular frozen milk-based dessert from India and Pakistan. It has similarities to ice cream (as popularly understood) in appearance and taste, but is denser and creamier.Due to its density, kulfi takes a longer time to melt than Western ice-cream.
guy seated at the table next to us was amazed by how intensely flavorful the kulfi was.. he asked whether or not sugar was added, and it wasn't. really was pretty good.

1729 N Halsted St
1729 N. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614-5537
(312) 337-6070

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cafe Hoang

There's something about Vietnamese food that has my husband & I completely hooked. Cafe Hoang isn't the best Vietnamese place, but it's so close to our place near Chinatown, we barely bother to drive out to Argyle. It's definitely our go-to place when we can't decide on what to eat.

Since we had pho the night before, we decided to try something different:

#089 Yellow Curry $8.95 choice of BEEF, CHICKEN, SHRIMPS, TOFU, w/ celery, onion, mushroom, baby corn, slice bamboo, basils leaf, coconut milk,carrot and pea w/ spicy Yellow curry paste

Flavorful, delicious with rice. This curry was very enjoyable.

#062 Combo soup Veggie w/ Mix Seafood $9.95

Soothing, but I really don't like fake crab meat I instantly downgrade when I see it as a seafood representation. There's nothing that interesting about the soup either, no depth. I wouldn't order this again.

Cafe Hoang
232 W Cermak Rd
(between Cottage Grove Ave & Indiana Ave)
(312) 674-9610

Chi Cafe

I have yet to find a late-night Chinatown destination. We've tried a couple of places, but nothing made us want to go back for more. Chi Cafe is no different, but my mom's friend once recommended it. Plus, a random Chinese blog said to order from their "house specials". So I did.

The hubby didn't want to follow my suggestion, so he went with this:

Baby Clam with black bean sauce $9.95
These clams were huge, and the flavors were pretty darn good. We completely cleared the plate!

From the "house special", I chose:

Chives & Bean Curd with Cuttle Fish Roll $8.95
A little salty, but flavorful, with a nice crunch from the fresh chives. We liked it!

I think the problem was, we always chose from their soup noodles, or soup...because it's soothing to drink soup before going to bed, AND it seemed like it'd be less calories (who knows). But apparently, their other dishes are bigger standouts.

The Chinese blog also recommended their desserts, smoked duck, shredded chicken, etc. (菜单里“大江南北巧手小菜”一列的菜式都颇为可口,茶餐厅小吃与各式甜点也不错。熏鸭,手撕鸡,韭黄虾仁滑蛋,牛腩蒸肠粉,芒果西米露)

We may need to revisit again the next time we're out...

Chi Cafe 旺角小廚
2160-A S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
Neighborhood: Chinatown
(312) 842-9993

International Mall

Like other Taiwanese and/or Chinese kids, I grew up accompanying my mother to Diho market, stopping by International Mall to pick up rental videos, and occasionally stopping by for a chow. I haven't been back in ages... just for dim sum next door 3-4 times / year. But when I recently found out there's a Taiwanese restaurant that serves some street food I miss, I decided to check it out. I enjoyed everything the first time I visited, and really wanted to go back for more. Two weekends ago, we did.. and it just wasn't the same.

Oyster Pancake -- It's nice to fulfill my craving partially, but this was overly greasy. I wonder if I can tell them to be lighter on grease...
Even though there's actually a vietnamese stall next door, I persuaded my poor hubby to try pho at this establishment (convenience). It didn't taste like traditional pho AT ALL. The accompanying veggies looked dry. never again.
Another one of my favorite street food.. 'ba wan' or 'meat ball' (direct translation). I love the chewy texture & flavorful meat w/ bamboo shoot center. This one was just ok... there was something off.
Hubby's pho came with a smoothie, so I ordered papaya. Kinda overly sweet, and just ok.
Sadly, I am desperate for these Taiwanese items that I cannot get anywhere else in Chicago, so I will most likely return to try them again (as well as other items). Hopefully they'll make some improvements before my next visit.

International Mall
665 Pasquinelli Drive
Westmont, IL 60559


We loved this place! SOO glad we found a restaurant closer to our hood (in the city). They had a free appetizer offer (anything on the menu) if we ordered shabu shabu or sukiyaki. We usually eat shabu shabu at home, because it's so easy to make. But we had a spectacular experience during our visit to Japan last year, so we kind of wanted to relive that moment (even though we knew this restaurant wouldn't be able to deliver the same). For apps, we chose their scallop sashimi (flown from hokkaido), and set of 5 shio yakitori skewers.

They also had hot sake special & $5 drinks special, so we indulged in both.

Scallop Sashimi from Hokkaido Japan $15.50
Japanese style broiled skewered set (5 skewers) - came with 3 chicken thigh, 2 chicken skin. They also have asparagus/bacon skewers and others, but we just left it up to the chef. The chicken thigh was tender & juicy with good salt flavor. Chicken skin was indulgently chewy & crisp.
Shabu-Shabu (selected rib-eye beef and vegetables to be lightly boiled in a pot by yourself, served with salad, rice and dessert) $56 for two people
Our waiter forgot to bring salad, but we weren't too hungry so we didn't ask for it. The sweet owner / lady came by to show us how the shabu shabu should be done (vegetables first because they cook longer). The beef was flavorful, delicious dipped into sesame sauce/ponzu & eaten over rice. Vegetables were all fresh.

I'm not sure whether or not you can choose off of the dessert menu, but I chose the green tea ice cream, and my husband got the homemade chocolates. She ended up bringing more out for us because we said it was delicious. She said the chef melts meiji chocolate & mixes it with other ingredients to achieve a creamy center that wasn't too sweet.
Hot Sake $7/bottle (originally $8)
Lemon Chu Hai $5 (originally $9.75)
Martini $5 (originally $7.50)
Saketini $5 (originally $8.50)
Apple Martini $5 (originally $8.50)
668 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60654-3717
(312) 943-2220