Pearl District

Bar
Patio
Duck confit pancake
Ahi crudo
Interior

***** (5 stars)

This cozy, stylish spot offers an interesting menu and an upscale experience at reasonable prices. Be aware that although the food is sophisticated, portions are very large, so don’t over order.

We liked everything we had. My favorite was the duck confirm pancake, which was more like a quesadilla.

Save room for Spanish coffee. How can you pass up anything where the second ingredient is “fire”!?

Pearl District
982 S Westlake BlvdSte 8
Westlake Village, CA
91361
(805) 230-9944
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pearl-district-westlake-village-2

STK Chicago

Brussels Sprouts

Bone-In Filet

Grilled Octopus

Bread service

Interior

Interior

Exterior

*** (3 stars)

STK is the 26th steakhouse I’ve been to in Chicago (not all the same week, mind you!) and I’d rate it somewhere in the second half of that list.

The atmosphere is different from the others, in that it’s trying to be more of a trendy spot with a live DJ in a booth creating a sometimes too-loud soundtrack that seemed to be appreciated more in the open bar area than the dining area.

The wine list is more limited than some of the other steakhouses in town, and prices are the usual River North markup.

Bread was sort of like a pull apart Parker House roll. It was topped with blue cheese butter, so if you don’t like that say so up front.

I enjoyed the grilled octopus I started with, which combined a nicely grilled tentacle with some tender octopus ceviche.

The brussels sprouts where nicely roasted, but were swimming in a sweet balsamic. It was good, but far too much of a good thing.

My biggest bone to pick (ahem) was with my steak. It was a bone-in filet. As you would expect with a filet, it didn’t have a lot of flavor, but it should have had more flavor near the bone. And since it was a filet, it should have been more tender and gristle-free. It wasn’t. At over $70, I think my money is better spent on a place with prime meat.

Service was fine.

On to number 27.

STK Chicago
9 West Kinzie St
Chicago, IL
60654
(312) 340-5636
https://www.yelp.com/biz/stk-chicago-chicago-2

The Barn Steakhouse

Exterior

Interior

Interior

Ceviche

Lamb chops (Saturday special)

**** (4 stars)

This charming restaurant is indeed in an old, two-story brick barn that was a Bordens Milk plant in the distant past. The space has been nicely remodeled while saving its charm.

The Barn styles itself as a Chicago steakhouse, but there is a lot more on the menus, and none of us actually had steak. We really enjoyed the very generous ceviche appetizer. Another favorite is their famous caviar sandwich, which is also a generous serving, and the caviar was quite good for the price.

As an entree I had the lamb chops, which were excellent. Four large chops were perfectly cooked, and served in a wonderfully flavorful sauce that conatined a hint of licorice. The is a Saturday special, so if lamb is your thing, that’s the day to go.

There’s a fairly extensive wine list.

Service was friendly and professional.

Because of the brick walls, the space can get quite loud when busy, so it’s best to go early. The upstairs seating in the loft is a little bit quieter.

The Barn Steakhouse
1016 Church St
Rear
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 868-8041
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-barn-steakhouse-evanston-4

Pacific Standard Time

Interior

Exterior

Mushroom pizza

Duck

Olive oil cake

Huckleberry sundae

*** (3 stars)

This is another good restaurant defeated by its interior design, where no consideration was given to acoustics. You can’t seat 160 people in a glass and tile box and end up with anything but cacaphony. They’ve even put carpet on the undersides of the table to try to fix what shouldn’t have been a problem in the first place.

Some work is needed at the front desk, which is staffed by at least three people. Not sure why it takes a five-minute conversation to decide upon a table when you have a reservation and the restaurant is 1/3 empty.

The food is quite good. The best dishes we had were all raw fish: the Shima Aji Crud, Madai Snapper Aguachile, and the marinated ahi tuna, which was listed under pitas because it was served with one (although probably unnecessarily).

The Harry’s Berries Strawberries and mushroom pizza were also very good.

The Whole Roasted Dusk was an interesting dish, but not a completely successful one. It included, thick who slices of very rare and not particularly tender duck, plus duck sausages served in a tureen with greens and beans and baked covered with pita dough. An odd presentation, and the greens turned out to be the best flavor in the mix.

The highlights of dessert were all the ice cream flavors, including Green Chartreuse served ala cart, the creme fraiche ice cream served with the olive oil cake, and the ice creams in the huckleberry sundae.

There’s a nice list of wines by the bottle at reasonable prices. Food pricing also seems very reasonable, although it should be noted that everything except the duck was really a small serving.

Service was fine, but not exactly enthusiastic. Our waiter seemed like he’d put in an all-nighter, and it was only 6:30.

I would certainly go back for all the raw fish plates that were the highlight, but only if the restaurant was half full. Otherwise the noise level is simply unacceptable.

Pacific Standard Time
141 W Erie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 736-1778
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pacific-standard-time-chicago

Valor

Cheeseburger

Salmon

Sorry, there’s only one rib left for you. We fell on the rest like hungry wolves.

Trio of ice creams and bombe

Brussels sprouts

Broccoli

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This popular cafe serves good food with a bit of a French influence to some dishes.

We started with four appetizers. The one we absolutely loved was the Sticky Asian Pork Ribs, which were coated in a wonderful soy-infused teriyaki sauce. Popcorn Cauliflower was also very good, especially dipped in the leftover rib sauce! Warm Brussels Sprout Caesar and Roasted Broccoli and Grilled (cold) Shrimp were both just okay.

Everyone also liked their entrees, which included the Steak Frites, Salmon, and a Cheeseburger.

For dessert we had a housemade ice cream trio and a Chocolate Bombe, both of which were also good.

The wine list is a bit obscure, but we found some interesting selections, and prices are reasonable.

Service was attentive and friendly.

Valor
667 Vernon Ave
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 786-4324
https://www.yelp.com/biz/valor-glencoe

Blu 57 Seafood & Small Plates

Interior

Scallops

Truffle tuna tar tar

Crab cake

Mussels

Brussels sprouts

Squid ink pasta

Shrimp bombs

Red curry elotes

Tiramisu

Mango mousse

**** (4 stars)

This is a charming small restaurant in a quiet section of Andersonville. It focuses on seafood, with a touch of Thai.

Appetizers are a good way to explore the menu here, and we tried most of them.

By far the best thing we had was the Truffle tuna tar tar. The scent of truffle was certainly there, but the thing that made it outstanding was the complex combination of spicy and citrus flavors and interesting tender and crunchy textures.

Seared scallops in curry were also good, and the crab cake was one of the best I’ve had, with a spicy kick and crusty outside.

Mussels were a disappointment. They seemed fishy, and we didn’t finish them.

Shrimp bombs were probably the most typically Thai dish, with a bite of minced shrimp mixture in a deep fried wanton purse. They were okay, but probably not worth the price for what was essentially three bites.

Squid ink pasta was a very substantial plate of dense, black pasta with rings of calamari. You will look like a goth after eating this dish!

Brussels sprouts was an okay side dish, nothing remarkable about them, and not much of the promised maple syrup flavoring.

Red curry elotes was definitely a Thai-spice-level take on this traditional street corn.

For dessert we finished with the mango mousse and tiramisu. The tiramisu was the better of the two, but wasn’t like what you’re picturing. Instead it is a dome with a chocolate crust encasing Thai iced tea flavored mousse.

Service was good, particularly considering that our server and her trainee were handling the entire restaurant.

Note that it is BYOB, and the liquor store across the street has incredibly poor taste in wine. Best to bring your own.

Blu 57 Seafood & Small Plates
5701 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 944-0575
https://www.yelp.com/biz/blu-57-seafood-and-small-plates-chicago

The Little Beet Table

Interior

Cauliflower hummus

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Madras curry almonds

Chick pea Caesar with grilled lettuce

Crispy rice

***** (5 stars)

If you’ve ever wanted to win someone over to vegetarian food, this is the place to do it. While there are many non-vegetarian offerings on the menu, the vegetarian dishes are so flavorful it’s hard to imagine anyone not liking them.

What’s amazing is that most of the recipes are fairly simple, but there is a depth to the flavors that is impressive.

We started with madras curry almonds, which were nicely toasted, slightly spicy, and slightly sweet.

Roasted Brussel sprouts were simply prepared, perfectly tender yet charred, and bursting with flavor.

The standout dish was definitely the cauliflower hummus. A simple mix of tahini and lemon oil, with some seeds on top, this was amazingly flavorful, the best hummus I’ve ever had. The accompanying grilled pitas (how can these be gluten-free?) were also stellar.

Crispy rice was essentially a mini dolsot bibimbap. The sunnyside up egg and sriracha sauce elevated this dish.

Least impressive but just fine was the chickpea Caesar, the only dish where the combined ingredients didn’t rise above their individual sums.

Service was enthusiastic, and the ambiance is cool without being annoying.

The Little Beet Table
845 N State St
Ste 101
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 549-8600
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-little-beet-table-chicago-2

The Little Door

Door

Exterior

Mussels

Sesame Seared Day Boat Scallops, Preserved Lemon Sauce

Chermoula Marinated Grilled Octopus, Preserved Lemon Sauce

Spicy Ahi Tuna Tartare and Shaved Fennel Salad

Patio at night

***** (5 stars)

The extraordinarily romantic ambiance of The Little Door makes it almost a magical dining experience. Divided into many intimate spaces, it feels like you’re dining in a patio, or a forest, or a cottage, depending upon where you sit.

Tuna tartare was a nice starter, but the grilled octopus was even better, extremely tender and flavorful.

The mussels appetizer which my companion had as an entree was huge; she could only eat half!

My grilled scallops were perfectly cooked and accompanied by carrots seasoned with interesting Morrocan spices.

The extensive wine list is extremely reasonably priced.

Service was professional, attentive, and friendly.

The Little Door
8164 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 951-1210
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-little-door-los-angeles

Bellemore

Exterior

Interior

Shaved Foie Gras

A Winter Salad

Hawaiian Rolls

Guitara pasta

Snapper

Duck

Lemongrass Semifreddo

Chocolate pudding and amaro daiquiri

***** (5 stars)

I was excited to try this latest offering by Boka, and it did not disappoint. The decor is beautiful, and it has a high energy vibe without being deafening. There is a smaller side room that overlooks the kitchen which is a bit quieter.

We tried the eight-course tasting menu, which is a collection of dishes offered on the regular menu, but in smaller sizes. It’s a perfect way to sample many of the menu highlights, and is very reasonably priced compared to other tasting menus around town.

We enjoyed all of the courses, but the stunner was the salad, of all things. It was an intensely complex combination of almost innumerable tastes and textures that came together with a different experience in almost every bite. Sadly, since it’s called the Winter Salad, it probably will be off menu when you read this.

The other highlight of the meal was the accompanying wine pairing. It was priced freakishly low compared to the extensive wines by the glass, and every single wine was a superb match with its course. I always worry about wine pairings, because so often, even in high-end restaurants they seem like really weird finds from a bored sommelier. Not so here! Although the selections are indeed mostly obscure, that was part of the fun discovery process, and every one was a superbly balanced old world gem. And the final selection, an amaro daiquiri, perfectly matched a complex dessert.

Each of the wine selections was presented by the sommelier, Jamel Freeman, who carefully explained the background of the wine and why it had been selected to accompany that course. His encyclopedic knowledge and engaging manner was a real treat.

The rest of the service is provided by a well-orchestrated tag team of servers, runners and bussers. It’s an impressive organization, but I couldn’t help wishing we’d had a bit more interaction with a dedicated waiter who would play host as well as Jamel did with the wine.

Bellemore is definitely another winner, and I look forward to future visits.

Bellemore
564 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 667-0104
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bellemore-chicago-2

Badmaash

Interior

Samosa

Chili Cheese Naan

Yoghurt puffs

**** (4 stars)

Badmaash is REALLY popular, and therein lies the problem for me. We really enjoyed the food, but it was so packed and loud it was hard to enjoy the experience.

I highly recommend the butter chicken, whether as an entree, or in the samosa appetizers, which were the best item we had.

The place has probably the worst offering of wines I’ve ever encountered, and I’m including coffee shops; not sure what’s up there. Beer is a better bet, but also limited.

Service was friendly and attentive.

Badmaash
108 W 2nd St
Ste 104
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 221-7466
https://www.yelp.com/biz/badmaash-los-angeles-2