Doing Chicago Proud
The city preserves its stellar reputation as a dining mecca with a bevy of new restaurants.
By Ethel Hammer
A CROP of great dining experiences,
many in the neighborhoods, animate
Chicago as chefs calm and succor
bodies and spirits while life baffles with
shortages and excesses side by side.
Whether benefiting from America’s
romance with France, or discovery
of Belgian comfort, Polish invention,
Japanese subtlety, Mexican merriment
or Italian culinary gumption, a host of
charming places are doing Chicago
proud. Here, we explore a half-dozen
venues that have opened since the 2010
National Restaurant Association Restaurant
Hotel-Motel Show, with the exception of one,
featured as a “hidden gem.”
3056 N. Lincoln Ave.
Japanese curry and blue crab, evaporates
cares, transporting the diner to new levels
Subtle Japanese dishes tumble out of the
kitchen like softly falling cherry blossoms.
Japanese food prepared by chef Harold
Jurado takes us on a journey way, way
beyond sushi or fugu fish. Imagine floating
in a magical mid-realm where sea meets
sky, as grey/blue walls and a large smoky
mirror evoke fog and tiny candles twinkle
like stars through mist. But the real magic
lies in how sophisticated, mellow, initially
unassertive offerings palpably melt in your
mouth. Frankly, it’s embarrassing when all a
writer can utter is, “Yummy, oh, yummy, ooh,
goodness, how yummy.”
Eager to take a stab at skewers, standard
fare in Japanese pubs, we bypassed
gizzards, tongue and heart, choosing lovely,
sweet, buttery shishito peppers. And in a
world where many folks flash their pastas,
Jurado’s soba noodles are the daintiest, the
thinnest, the most delicate and refined.
The National Culinary Review | May 2011
Salty Japanese sweet potato fries in spicy
mayo put many other spud-spouters to
shame as mere fried-potato pretenders.
And Jurado’s kabocha squash bisque,
with unexpected flashes of Meyer lemon,
Duck breast with deep-fried chestnuts and
persimmon on a bed of chewy mixed-grain
congee was tender, moist and tasty as
well as succulent and robust. Meanwhile,
vegetarians—and everyone else—will love
wild mushrooms cooked simply in soy,
lemon and butter. We can’t stop recalling
these delectable forest offerings—so
slippery, satiny, smooth.
Melt-in-your-mouth offerings, such
as these octopus skewers, are on
the menu at Chizakaya, courtesy of
chef Harold Jurado.
Among the daily specials, a lovely eel
donburi done up like a Napoleon. Grilled
tofu, extra virgin olive oil, baby sardines
and scallion sounded intriguing, too. And
what luck. Jurado just happened to be
developing a whole head of roasted garlic,
which he served with garlic and duck confit
as well as four types of miso so flavorful
and salty that its bracing daintiness chimed
out to us like bells through fog.
Jurado, who has also worked at Charlie
Trotter’s and at Sunda and Japonais, is a
real talent to watch.
Skewers $3-$5; noodles/broth $8-$13;
hot dishes $6-$12