Thursday, April 28, 2011
I've been meaning to go back to Panes, so I wasn't too disappointed. But for some reason, the Bobcat was very hesitant. I insisted, so we ordered 2 sandwich "specials" -- Prosciutto, olive, pesto, red peppers, cheese.. and Chicken, tomatoes, basil, feta. We also ordered a side of tomato basil pasta, appetizer of stuffed mushrooms, and lentil soup.
First came the soup & bread. At first, I thought the soup was okay. Then I started to crave it... and I couldn't stop consuming spoonful after spoonful...it was addictingly good. The bread wasn't warm, but it was good. It reminded us of something we had, it felt like when we were kids, possibly in asia...the bread was sweet with a nice chew. I couldn've eaten baskets more, but that probably wouldn't have been a great idea, considering how much food we ordered. At this point, the Bobcat asked, "You know how sometimes, when you go back to somewhere you used to like, you realize it's no longer that good..." Ah-Ha. He wanted to preserve the great memory of 1237, Lakeview area, Panes... he was afraid it's end up sucking..but it didn't. We were pleased.
The side of pasta & stuffed mushrooms both came with a tomato basil sauce. The sauce was fresh, flavorful, divine. I can drink that sauce. The pasta wasn't al dente enough for me, but that can be overlooked. Mushrooms were fresh & juicy.
The prosciutto sandwich sounded like it would be very salty, and it was certainly salty, but not overbearingly. It was an interesting combination of flavors, nestled between crusty, warmly baked fresh bread. Their bread is really something. If white bread isn't so bad for you, I wouldn't brought home a couple.
The only thing I wasn't as big of a fan of was the chicken sandwich. Maybe I was overly stuffed, I'm not sure. But the feta made the chicken feel mushy when it wasn't.. at least I don't think.
All of this costed us a whopping $27 (including $2 dollars & change that I put into their tip jar). Ridiculously cheap. I can't believe those sandwiches are $5.99.
Panes Bread Cafe
3002 N Sheffield Ave (b/w Nelson & Wellington)
Monday, April 18, 2011
The space was pretty big -- the entrance leads to a room with sushi bar on one side, and tables on the left (completely empty on a Saturday night). The hostess/waitress lead us to another room where 5-6 out of 12 or so tables were filled. When she lead us to the 2-top tables by the windows, I asked if we can be seated in the half-booths (away from the windows) instead. She said they needed to save those tables for groups of 4. It was 8:30pm, I really doubt all of these empty tables would suddently get filled. Plus, I saw groups of 2 guests seated at those tables (which is why I even asked in the first place). But I didn't want to throw a fit.
Our waiter came around (nice guy) to take our orders. Their main dishes are a list of grilled skewers & sushi rolls, but they also had apps & a "specials" menu. In opposite order:
chicken soft bones skewers -- chewy, crunchy, delicious
grilled whole squid - probably a little too much for us by this time, but it was good.
from "specials" - toro (fatty tuna belly) and fatty salmon belly. $6/piece and $10/piece. Kinda pricy, but we really wanted to try the fatty salmon, since I don't think we've ever had it. Both were soft, fatty, creamy, delicious. It was a big slice of fish on top of a small ball of rice (just the way we liked it).
We always get gyutongue (beef tongue) if we see it on the menu. This was a bit more tender, less chewy. Reminds me more of a lean slice of steak than tongue. A little on the saltier side but good.
We ordered duck & japanese negi (green onions/leeks), dark chicken, chicken skin, chicken gizzard. They serve the skewers with 3 dipping sauces (if you want to use it) -- ponzu, tare, mustard. They also offer homemade soy sauce.
As much as I wanted to use the sauce, I was quite satisfied with eating these skewers as is. They've already been seasoned with salt & we like the squeeze of lemon.
"specials" - giant sea scallops in a buttery lemon sauce. We actually liked the little chewier muscles of the clam on the side, rather than the actual scallop, but it was good.
Thought we'd try the alcohol-free Kirin beer (I believe this is the first time I saw it offered at a restaurant in states). It actually tasted pretty good. I like having beer (or in this case, "pretend-beer") with yakitori. For some weird reason, I started to feel like I'm slightly buzzed after I finished this beer, even though I obviously shouldn't...
hirame (flounder) carpaccio was pretty good. Thick slices of sashimi.
We're excited that the Bobcat found this place, and will definitely be back!
Mizu Yakitori Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge
315 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614
The decor is described as a Cape Cod fish house, but fancier. Large boomerang shaped table created by Boka Group's design team, 555 International and a surfboard company; chalk paintings with interesting lines; Japanese buoy-like glass ball hanging, held by a thick black rope, stuffed tarpon, etc. The exterior is supposed to give the restaurant a New England cottage feel. (note: descriptions found on various web sites)
In opposite order...
Cheesecake with huckle berries & graham cracker-like crumbs: We loved the fluffy texture -- something in between tofu & whipped cream. It was the most interesting, delicious cheesecake we've ever had -- closer to european/japanese pastries than american's dense desserts. We liked that the crumbs weren't attached, so you had the option of eating the cheesecake with or without them (difference is sweetness). This is the perfect type of dessert for us. We enjoyed it with tea (decent, pretty in a see-thru pot) & coffee (ok).
Grilled Mahi Taco - achiote, torreados, smoked crema: The fish was tender & perfectly cooked, with a nice flavor, but standing against so much tortilla -- we felt like the flavor was lost. Either the fish & condiments need to be more pungent, or the tortilla needs to be smaller? Either way, this is not an exciting dish that I'd order again.
Sunfish ceviche - chimichurri, jicama, avocado, radish: It was good ceviche, but I'm not sure what all of the rave is about. It's not something I'd be excited to re-order.
Clam Chowder - Nueske's bacon, house-made oyster crackers: now this was amazing -- a lighter, more brothy version of typical clam chowder, filled with clams, and along with crackers, added various textures to the intense seafood flavor. I've never been a huge fan of clam chowder, but the Bobcat apparently is. He said this is the best clam chowder he has ever had, and he'd be excited to order this again.
Lobster Roll - lobster salad, toasted roll, fried onions: I don't think I've ever had lobster roll, but I've always been excited about the idea of it. I'm afraid this might've set my bar too high, because it was incredible. I'm not sure what I loved more -- fresh lobsters slightly enhanced with a light dressing & veggies...or the toasted, buttery, incredible bread... or the combination of the two. The side of fried onions is also delicious, but I thought adding it to the roll took too much away from the lobster. If there's a lobster roll eating contest, I'd love to put down 5 of these in one sitting.
Fresh Oysters offered the day we were there...
We started with 6, but ended with 12. These were incredibly fresh & delicious oysters -- arguably best we've ever had. Better than what we had at Dominican Republic (STRAIGHT from the ocean), in Baltimore (right next to the port), in Maui, etc. INCREDIBLE.
As described on many sites, the service was extremely attentive, informative, friendly. Waiters are teamed with food servers, water pourers, etc. But everyone was informative. The only time we had to wait was the additional order of oysters, and getting our coffee/tea. We should've clarified that we wanted coffee/tea with our dessert. Instead, dessert came first, so it was just sitting there while we waited (possibly losing a lil bit of deliciousness). It ended up being because they had to brew a fresh pot of coffee for us, so it wasn't their fault at all.
Even though this was obviously a hot restaurant that people were waiting for, I didn't feel like they were rushing us at all. They wanted us to enjoy a great dining experience, which we really did.
I'm so glad I snagged another reservation in a few months, because this place deserves regular visits. LOVE!
GT Fish & Oyster
531 N. Wells, Chicago, IL
Since the Bobcat's originally from Fukuoka (Kyushu), our favorite is naturally the least healthy/most flavorful of them all -- tonkotsu (pork-bone based). When done well, the milky, sticky, intense flavor coats each chewy strand of noodle, delivering an unforgettable umami flavor.
We were ecstatic when the owner of Cocoro told us about their tonkotsu ramen. The master chef prepares a huge pot of bones & cooks it down on a weekly basis for several days. Each batch produces only 30 bowls, so they're often out of ramen by Saturday night (we've already been rejected once..)
For the Bobcat's birthday, we took last Friday off, and called Cocoro to make sure they had ramen available. They start serving it every Friday, so we had one of the first batch:
668 N Wells St., Chicago, IL
saba, my hubby's favorite fish:
Chirashi -- something we never order, but I saw another table order it, and thought it looked delicious (which, it really was):
love the bento container:
I think we like the idea of chirashi, because you can eat as much or as little sushi rice as you want with each piece of sashimi. The only thing is, there's rumors that certain restaurants would serve the "scraps" for chirashi. I don't think Yokohama did, just look at how fresh and beautiful each thick slice is.
Yakitori (shio) -- We strongly prefer "salt" over tare (teriyaki)
One of my most beloved sushi...or even just food in general... uni!!
I've always appreciated the crunchiness & chewiness of octopus. I believe this is lightly tossed witih sesame oil & salt, sprinkled with dried seaweed
the hubby really loved this buttery squid dish:
Yokohama Japanese Restaurant
13 E Burlington Ave.
Westmont, IL 60559
Tuesday, April 12, 2011