peppers, cipollini and oyster mushrooms) is
bound to delight those whose char cravings
sit on the side of extravagance.
And don’t miss the lovely desserts of
pastry chefs George Harris and Megan
Henky, whose hazelnut-filled cannoli,
rolled in pralines, inspired us to say, in the
immortal words of The Godfather’s Peter
Clemenza, “Take the cannoli.”
Antipasti, $10-$16; primi, $14-$32;
Courtesy of Elate
111 West Huron St., at the Hotel Felix
Elate, in the Hotel Felix, lives up to its name
in surroundings reminiscent of private
dining/club rooms with their techno-chic,
where our utterly masculine Uncle Felix
would feel right at home. While bodacious
females such as Queen Latifah and Kristen
Dalton (Miss USA 2009) have graced Elate,
the real star is chef Randal Jacobs, who is
working his heart out creating fresh, clean
food remarkable for its complexity and subtle
grace. In a world of over-the-top mishmash
dishes, this modest chef is devoting every
ounce of his fine-honed energy to making
sure you savor each and every note. Hooray
for subtlety! Bravo, purity! Sure, we’re elated.
Fingers of fried beignet are love dough
designed to be dipped in a pool of pesto. To
keep your senses dancing and refreshed, join
a conga line of warm pink grapefruit sections,
charred trumpet mushrooms, pretty green
Brussels sprouts, grated almonds and spills of
yellowy hollandaise. And now that you’re into
the romance of it all, marry your senses to the
dangerous liaison between the earthy flavors
of seasonal vegetables and white beans (plus
sun-dried tomato spread on toasted ciabatta
bread) and the milky contours of pesto goat
cheese topped with a billowy white pine-nut
foam worthy of a bridal veil.
Dearly beloved, wonderful small plates
include warm duck confit salad, comingling
fresh arugula and frisée with black mission
figs, fingerling potatoes, sherry vinaigrette
and a rain of feta, plus ducky duck in a light
vinaigrette. There’s organic salmon, diver
scallops, skirt steak and mustard-glazed
Courtesy of Elate
chicken, too, but we kept true to a sumptuous
succession of lively, enlivening nibbles.
And for our final love bites, we fell into a pool
of coconut meringue (be still, my beating
heart), lush with raspberries and lime curd.
Starters, small plates, pizzas, fruits and
veggies, $5-$18; large plates, $14-$25
108 W. Kinzie St.
The first person we saw was a bottom-heavy
woman in too-tight jeans jumping out of her
truck and running into Mercadito, toppling
forward on too-tall heels—which should
announce the fun in store at a place where
the noise level is so high you cannot hear
yourself think. But don’t worry. You won’t be
ruminating on the Mayan pyramids or the
Aztec calendar decorating the walls.
Avocado, olé. Yes, we’re bullish on
guacamole so lush it tickles your fancy.
And you can chose from six, running the
gamut from a traditional chunky version to
a macho mango guacamole with jicama,
chipotle and pico de gallo so hot-hot-hot it
brought tears to our eyes.
Chef Patricio Sandoval
celebrates the élan, pizzazz
and sunny disposition of
Acapulco, his hometown.
Served in an elegant
space reminiscent of a
private dining club, this
with citrus, arugula and
pesto comes from the
kitchen of chef Randal
Jacobs at Elate.