Yugen

Dessert!
Red snapper
Agnolotti
Mussel
Bread service
A photo at Yugen
Miso soup
Cocktails
Cocktails
Canap├ęs
Exterior
Interior

*** (3 stars)

This is a beautiful restaurant in the former Grace space. It’s difficult to avoid comparisons with Grace, since the owner is the same (but not the chef or GM) and the room is mostly unchanged. It’s soft and welcoming.

I was never a huge Grace fan, so I really wanted to like Yugen. The first impression was good, in that the service was cordial and professional, but not the affected robotic dance that Grace was.

The problem is the food. This is one of those restaurants that prepare a ten-course tasting menu of astonishingly beautifully plated dished, but where the plethora of ingredients rarely adds up to more than the individual components. Highlights were the mussel dish and the dessert, and there was nothing that was bad, just a lot of meh.

This is a huge problem, because Yugen is at a similar price point to two and three-star Michelin restaurants like Alinea, or the amazing Oriole, which is just a few blocks away. But there is simply no comparison in the resulting product.

The wine list is good, if expensive. The wine pairing didn’t particularly match the courses, and was one of those comprised of wines sommeliers love because they are made from unusual grapes at good wholesale prices. I’d rather have half as many actual quality wines.

The cocktail list is cute. It’s currently themed to the films of Hayao Miyazaki, and was probably the highlight of the evening.

The nearly empty dining room on a Wednesday night doesn’t bode well for the future of the restaurant, and I just don’t foresee a lot of return business when there are so many high-end options at this price point.

Yugen
652 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL
60661
(312) 265-1008
https://www.yelp.com/biz/yugen-chicago

Vajra

***** (5 stars)

We ordered food delivered and it was very good. Vegetable Korma and Chicken Tikka Masala were both hot and tasty. The Garlic Naan was also good, but of course it didn’t transport as well. Samosa Chat was an interesting appetizer, very different than normal samosas.

Vajra
1329 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL
60642
(312) 929-4990
https://www.yelp.com/biz/vajra-chicago

Roti Modern Mediterranean

Exterior
Counter

**** (4 stars)

This is essentially the Chipotle of Mediterranean food. Choose you bowl, salad or pita, your protein, and the toppings. The only thing I found odd was the absence of taboule, which seems like such an essential part of, say, a falafel pita.

Service at this location is very fast and friendly.

Roti Modern Mediterranean
200 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL
60606
(312) 332-6013
https://www.yelp.com/biz/roti-modern-mediterranean-chicago-5

The Dearborn

Interior
Bar

***** (5 stars)

I really like the interesting menu at the Dearborn. It has all the classic sandwiches you’d want for lunch, but also interesting appetizers, soups and salads.

It’s fairly large and very popular, so it can get noisy, but there are several ultra-private booths at the very back that are intimate and quiet. We loved the setting, and my curry chicken BLT was superb.

The Dearborn
145 N Dearborn St
Chicago, IL
60602
(312) 384-1242
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-dearborn-chicago-2

Robert’s Pizza & Dough Company

Fennel pizza
Interior

***** (5 stars)

Robert’s is in a lovely spot looking out onto the waterway, with a parade of people walking their dogs outside the large, often open windows.

This place has amazing pizza crust, thin and crisp, with an almost hollow crispy edge, and just the right amount of chewiness. The fennel pizza was delicious. There was fennel in the wafer-thin slices of sausage (not greasy at all) and also both fennel root and fennel sprigs on to. A subtle drizzle of honey really awakened the other flavors. Delicious!

Service was attentive, and Robert himself came by to thank us for coming in.

Robert’s Pizza & Dough Company
465 N McClurg
Chicago, IL
60611
(312) 265-1328
https://www.yelp.com/biz/roberts-pizza-and-dough-company-chicago-2

Francois Frankie

Steak frites
Salmon tartare
Lobster cioppino
Salmon
Interior

***** (5 stars)

This is an interesting almost-French-bistro with some American items as well. A charming carousel bar is the centerpiece; it slowly revolves, about once an hour.

There is absolutely no acoustic treatment anywhere, and the walls are glass, mirror, and metal, so it can get very loud. The environment was much better as the evening went on and it started to empty out.

The triple creme camembert and the crispy brussels sprouts were delicious hors d’eouvres. Caesar salad is a very generous portion.

My entree, the lobster cioppino, was delicious. The broth was redolent with fennel, and the lobster was plentiful.

The wine list is a bit eclectic, but our waiter, who was also the sommelier, did a great job of finding something to our taste.

Francois Frankie
222 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL
60606
(312) 600-9659
https://www.yelp.com/biz/francois-frankie-chicago