Kumiko

Entry

Interior

Bar

Interior and bar

Patrick at the bar

Prawns

Eggplant dip

Loup de Mer

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Seamless

p>***** (5 stars)

This brilliant new cocktail bar combines drinks from creative director Julia Momose (GreenRiver, Aviary, Oriole) and food from chef de cuisine Mariya Russell (Oriole). Also involved, of course, are Noah and Cara Sandoval from Oriole, which is almost around the corner.

Oriole earned its Michelin stars in a flash, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some impressive awards coming to Kumiko soon, too.

As at Oriole, your first challenge is to find the place! The unmarked door is at the corner. Your experience begins with a warm greeting and a welcoming beverage (herbal tea the night I was there) at the host stand. Then you are ushered into the intimate dining room with its limited table seating and eight spots at the bar.

The atmosphere is welcoming, refined, and calming, with Japanese influenced simplicity that immediately puts you at ease.

The focus is definitely on cocktails and spirits, with an emphasis on sochu and Japanese whisky. There are also some very interesting rums, and a whole world of aperitifs and exotica.

Patrick, my bartender, was a charming host, and it was a delight watching his meticulous preparation of each drink. The main cocktail list offers a wide range of styles, so I had no trouble finding the bitter and complex flavors I favor. Patrick also helped me choose selections to match the food I ordered.

Speaking of food, the offerings are currently limited to three types of small bites (oysters, prawns, and steam buns), an eggplant dip, and two entrees (loup de mer and short rib).

I started with two of the tempura prawns, which seemed pricey at $8 each, but when they were served I realized we were in Michelin territory. They looked like something you’d find at Oriole, perfectly coated in a delicate tempura and artfully graced with yuzu, mint and edible flowers. Fabulous.

I also had the eggplant dip, which was nothing like I was expecting, but was also excellent. It was served in warm miso, and the primary flavor was of the fresh herbs–especially mint–topping it. The accompanying rice crackers were also wonderful.

My entree was the loup de mer, a delicate fish served with its crispy skin in place, and already sliced into manageable bites perfect for combining with the accompanying ponzu and bok choi. A crunchy mix of furikake (a mixture of dried fish, sesame seeds, and salt) added a great texture.

For dessert I had Japanese milk bread, which is essentially a caramelized French toast served with truffle flakes and ice cream. It was delicious.

The night I was there the omakase tasting was not available, so I wasn’t able to try that, but I’m just as glad I had a chance to explore on my own.

Because there are so many interesting spirits on offer, it’s an ideal place for people who like their drinks neat. I particularly suggest you try the El Dorado 15 year rum aged in dry Madeira casks; it’s a very complex treat.

The combination of great ambiance, perfect service, divine food, and meticulous mixology make Kumiko a winner, for sure.

630 W Lake St
Chicago, IL
60661
(312) 285-2912
https://www.yelp.com/biz/kumiko-chicago

SUSHISAMBA – Las Vegas

El Topo

Peruvian sea scallops

Kanpachi, yellowtail and yellowtail ceviche

Pumpkin spice old fashioned for Thanksgiving!

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Very good sushi with a slight Peruvian spin, such as the sauces used for the sashimi preparations. Fish quality was good, and service was friendly. Chill vibe.

SUSHISAMBA – Las Vegas
3327 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
89109
(702) 607-0700
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sushisamba-las-vegas-las-vegas

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

Gino’s East – Magnificent Mile

Upstairs

Walls

Chicken thin crust

Meaty legend deep dish

**** (4 stars)

Gino’s has a great ambiance, mostly because of the graffiti. It’s everywhere. Well, not EVERYWHERE. The inside joke is that every surface at Gino’s is covered in graffiti except the restroom,s which are spotless.

Oh, and they have pizza. Deep dish pizza. So deep that I can even print the word for how deep it is. But it is as deep as that. It’s also pretty good. I admit I’m not a huge deep dish fan, but the crust here has cornmeal, which helps, and there is lots of good tasting filling. Be aware that it takes a good 45 minutes to cook your pizza.

Their thin crust pizza doesn’t take quite that long. The crust isn’t actually all that thin, though, just thinner.

The place is large and busy, so service isn’t super attentive, but it’s adequate. If you’ve always wanted to try deep dish pizza, I’d say this is your best bet.

Gino’s East – Magnificent Mile
162 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 266-3337
https://www.yelp.com/biz/ginos-east-magnificent-mile-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

Kuma’s Corner

Jalapeno poppers

Kuma burger with impossible burger patty

**** (4 stars)

I’m factoring in the fact that this was delivered by DoorDash, so naturally some things, like fries, don’t travel that well.

I’ve had the Impossible Burger–that vegetable substitute that is almost identical to meat–at several places, and always enjoyed it. This version was about as good as I’ve had. It’s important to order it well or medium well so that it gets a nice caramelized crust.

I didn’t actually order the prefab version of it from Kuma’s because I wanted bacon (call me a hypocrite) and real cheddar cheese. So I ordered the Kuma Burger and chose the Impossible Burger as my patty. This was an expensive way to do it, because the Impossible patty is a $7 upcharge, but I got what I wanted, and it was delicious, with all the fixin’s just the way I like ’em.

I also tried the Jalapeno Poppers. These were large, thoroughly cleaned of seeds (so not spicy at all) and stuffed with a flavorful cream cheese concoction, then deep fried in panko batter. They weren’t oily at all, and reheated in the oven beautifully. The accompanying spicy jam was wonderful.

I don’t know if I would order delivery again, just because of the fragility of the food, but if in the neighborhood I would definitely stop in to Kuma’s Corner.

Kuma’s Corner
852 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 666-9090
https://www.yelp.com/biz/kumas-corner-chicago-5

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Foie gras amuse bouche

Salmon and caviar

Artichoke carpaccio and foie gras

Interior

Scallop

Lobster

Lobster

Black bass with lemon grass

Wagyu

Quail and foie gras

Sorbet with black currants

Chocolate

***** (5 stars)

l’Atelier is my favorite restaurant in London, Las Vegas, Hong Kong and now New York The consistency of experience is phenomenal, and this new location is the most beautiful yet.

Every course is a knock out, and the service, presentation, lighting and bon vivant spirit of the staff all combine to create an exceptional dining experience.

A special shout out to Sommelier John McKenna, who played the perfect host throughout our meal.

A truly great restaurant in a city of great restaurants.

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
85 10th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 488-8885
https://www.yelp.com/biz/l-atelier-de-jo%C3%ABl-robuchon-new-york-5

Noe Restaurant and Bar

Popcorn chicken

Tuna tartare

**** (4 stars)

The bar here offers a delightful intimate atmosphere, with live piano music in the evenings, and a nice outside dining area with heaters. The menu is arranged from tinest to largest “small plates” with a wide variety of nibbles to something enough for a full dinner.

There is a small assortment of wines by the glass, and a lot of spirits.

Service was friendly and efficient.

Noe Restaurant and Bar
251 S Olive St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 356-4100
https://www.yelp.com/biz/noe-restaurant-and-bar-los-angeles

El Cholo

Interior

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been going to El Cholo on Western since I was a child, and it defines Mexican food for me, even if their idea isn’t perfectly aligned with what has come to be known as Tex-Mex, and even if it’s not all authentic Mexican either. I love it.

This location is just as good, if lacking a bit of the small house ambiance. Have a number 1 and original nachos. You won’t be sorry.

El Cholo
1025 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 899-1106
https://www.yelp.com/biz/el-cholo-santa-monica-2

Saké

Dragon egg

Dragon egg

Short rib

House salad

Bass grouper

Dining area

Beef tataki and popcorn shrimp

Kingfish

Sashimi appetizer

Sake wall

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This very stylish restaurant in the Rocks is surprisingly large, yet intimate, with romantic lighting levels, and a modern club type soundtrack.

We had the “Chef’s New Classics” tasting menu, a mixture of raw and cooked dishes that included fish and meat. They were all good, but I actually preferred the sashimi appetizer we also ordered, as the fish was of excellent quality, and my preference runs to sashimi.

The Dragon egg is an interesting dessert option. It is presented at the table with an interesting flourish, as warm sauce breaks open the candy egg to reveal the inner Dessert.

Saké
12 Argyle St
The Rocks
Sydney, New South Wales 2000
+61 2 9259 5656
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sak%C3%A9-sydney