Pea Soup Andersen’s Restaurant

Exterior
Interior
Placemat
Crackers
Quesadilla

*** (3 stars)

A flashback to the 50s in every way from decor to menu to the cracker basket on the table. Even the placements are unchanged! Anderson’s has never been my favorite soup, but the other food on the menu is quite good. My tuna sandwich was just like Mom used to make, and the quesadilla (which I’m pretty sure wasn’t on the menu in the 50s) was huge.

Pea Soup Andersen’s Restaurant
376 Avenue Of
Buellton, CA
93427
(805) 688-5581
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pea-soup-andersens-restaurant-buellton-3

Funkenhausen

Exterior

Interior

Interior

Surfenturf

Skatewing schnitzel

Weisswurst

Black forest pots de creme

Underberg

***** (5 stars)

Funkenhausen offers a modern take on German food. They say it’s served with a Southern twist, but I didn’t really detect that aspect in what I had.

The menu is divided between smaller plates and larger ones, but all are sharable.

I started with the surfenturf, a delightfully creative and flavorful combination of seared scallops and braised short rib. This was my favorite dish.

The skate wing schnitzel was an interesting take, more like a breaded and fried fish filet.

The most German item I tried was the weisswurst, nicely seared sausages.

The black forest pots de creme is heavier than a normal pot de creme, essentially a fudge, topped with marinated cherries.

The wine list focuses on German and Austrian wines, and there is also a nice assortment of interesting German beers. The cocktail list is also creative. I really liked the German Visits Mexico, a blend of tequila and cucumber, rimmed with fennel salt.

The dining room probably gets noisy when busy, in the beer hall tradition, but I went early and enjoyed the funky soundtrack.

I’d rate the food a four, but the service was a solid five stars. My water glass never got more than an inch below the rim!

Funkenhausen
1709 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL
60622
(312) 929-4727
https://www.yelp.com/biz/funkenhausen-chicago

Fig & Olive

Exterior

Bar

Interior

Assorted crostini

Olive oil tasting

Hamachi crudo

Roasted cauliflower

Lamb

Cafe Gourmand with pot de creme

**** (4 stars)

Pros and cons, but my experience was at least three and a half stars.

First, this is a gorgeous room. It’s much nicer than the website photos suggest. It has a great central bar and some cozy corners.

When I arrived there was a DJ playing loud rap. Uh oh, I thought, not my style. But then a foursome sat near me and asked them to turn it down. Bless them! The DJ must have been about to go off shift (it was before 5pm on a Saturday), so they just put on some chill music and left. What an improvement in the place’s ambiance!

The wine list has some very well thought out selections, by the bottle and the glass. They even have Dom Perignon by the glass at a reasonable price! I haven’t seen that before.

I started with three crostini, and all were excellent I also tried them on different “platforms” to compare, and those were good, too. My favorite was the salmon on traditional toast.

The complimentary olive oil tasting was also nice. I loved the blood orange olive oil and bought a bottle to go.

Hamachi crudo was disappointing. There was nothing wrong with the hamachi, but it had been so thoroughly buried in a variety of sauce that the fish was lost.

Roasted cauliflower was a delicate preparation that works best as a starter, because it would be too subtle as a side dish.

The highlight of my meal was the rack of lamb. It was perfectly cooked medium rare with a great char on the bones, and served with a wonderful rosemary and garlic oil.

I finished with the cafe gourmand, a nice idea that combines a cup of coffee with your choice of mini dessert (I chose the pot de creme) and a bit of praline.

Excellent professional service was provided by Danilo.

Fig & Olive –
104 East Oak St
Chicago, IL
60611
(312) 445-0060
https://www.yelp.com/biz/fig-and-olive-chicago-chicago-5

La Casa De Isaac & Moishe

Interior

Bar

Exterior

Chiles Rellenos

Enchiladas

Duck tacos

**** (4 stars)

This is a pleasant family style restaurant serving all the standard Tex-Mex dishes. The place is surprising large, with the dimmer, more intimate area being on the bar side. They did a great job with the decor and acoustic treatments.

La Casa De Isaac & Moishe
2014 1st St
Highland Park, IL 60035
(847) 433-7400
https://www.yelp.com/biz/la-casa-de-isaac-and-moishe-highland-park-2

Bill’s Bar & Burger

Interior

Exterior

Ranch hand

**** (4 stars)

This place is a complete remodel of the Italian place that was here before. Although I miss that place, this is probably a better space for serving three meals a day for the attached hotel. It’s lighter and more open, and looks more like a diner.

There’s a large selection of various burger styles, but you can get pretty much anything you like on them. The patties are the smashed kind, so they’re all cooked all the way through. I had the Ranch Hand, basically a BBQ bacon cheeseburger, and it was very good.

The accompanying fries weren’t very exciting, but a side order of onion rings was nicely done.

Service was friendly. The kitchen was a bit slow, considering they weren’t busy, but we weren’t in a hurry.

Bill’s Bar & Burger
30 E Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-0446
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bills-bar-and-burger-chicago

Georgie

Pate

Salmon

Salad

Crudo

Scallops

Oysters

Interior

Outside

**** (4 stars)

If you’re looking for a romantic outdoor dining experience in Beverly Hills, this is the spot. It overlooks the park, is away from the street, and it’s dimmly lit. It’s really the perfect spot for a quiet and intimate dinner.

That the food never quite lives up to its ambitious aspirations is really beside the point. It’s nicely presented and pretty good, if not exactly superb. But given its location, and the excellent service, it is reasonably priced.

The wine list, which has to be requested, is extensive and interesting, with many big names but also lots of obscure gems. There are no deals on the list, but you’ll find some very intriguing selections.

In short, this is a great place to come with someone when you want the focus to be on your time together. A lovely experience.

Georgie
225 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 860-7970
https://www.yelp.com/biz/georgie-beverly-hills

Bouchon

Steak frites

Mussels

Interior

Pate

**** (4 stars)

There are three Bouchons at this location and Google maps, for one, is very confused about that. The Bouchon Bakery is a counter serve and Bar Bouchon offers downstairs patio seating on the park. But the real Bouchon is upstairs, and offers a brasserie-like atmosphere plus outdoor balcony seating.

The menu is similar to Las Vegas, but not to Santa Barbara. A bouchon is a cafe typical in Lyon that focuses on meat-based dishes, and that is the case here. The French classics are all exceptionally well prepared, from mussels to onion soup, pate to salade Lyonnaise.

As is typical in France, the meal begins with bread served on the paper table covering. Be sure to order something to use the wonderful pot of mustard on; there’s nothing like pate and genuine Dijon on fresh crusty French bread.

Service is professional yet friendly.

This is actually one of my favorite of Keller’s restaurants. I even like it better than Per Se. The only negative is that the room has no acoustic treatment at all, and even when half empty it is very loud.

Bouchon
235 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 271-9910
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bouchon-beverly-hills-4

Ladurée Beverly Hills

Breakfast

Interior

**** (4 stars)

I’ve never been a fan of macarons, so I was pleased to see that this Ladurée, which looks like a confectioner’s shop, serves the full range of authentic Ladurée croissants. I was also pleased to discover they are just as good as the ones in Paris. The plain is still the best, with the pain au chocolat and the rose coming in second and third.

What’s not as good as Paris is the coffee. It’s just typical American coffee. Perhaps a double espresso would be better, but I was hoping for authentic French coffee. No such luck.

If you’ve been to the Ladurée in Paris on the Champs Elysee, or the original one on the Place de la Madeleine, this one is a sort of cross between the two. It’s certainly much larger than the one at Harrod’s in London.

The service was fast and friendly, and with just enough of a French accent to whet the taste buds.

Ladurée serves hot items for breakfast, too, but of course the emphasis is on the baked goods. And the case of macarons.

Ladurée Beverly Hills
311 N Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 623-1100
https://www.yelp.com/biz/ladur%C3%A9e-beverly-hills-beverly-hills-2

Portsmith

Exterior

Interior

Parker House roll and sourdough

Fancy oysters

Fried oysters

Octopus

Cacio e pepe

Charred shrimp cocktail

Foie gras donut

Chocolate, tobacco and black rice ice creams

**** (4 stars)

It’s always amazing to me when a restaurant that has only been open a few days is running smoothly, because it’s such a huge task to get the food, service, and ambiance right. But that was the case when we visited Portsmith during its first week.

The theme here is fish, and it is carried out in almost every course. Even the sourdough bread has bonito flakes in it. That bread was a bit chewy for my taste, but the flavor was good and the accompanying black garlic butter was delicious.

I preferred the Parker House Roll, which looked more like a pita and tasted like cheese bread.  Its companion old bay butter was also very tasty.

We tried both the fancy and the fried oysters. Fancy oysters include a bit of foie gras, but the primary flavors are yuzu and green apple. They were delicious, but pricey at $5 each. Fried oysters coated in squid ink panko and topped with trout roe looked more interesting, but were just okay.

The crispy octopus was indeed crispy, as it was completely coated in crunchy flakes. The accompanying citrus mayo and jam offset each other very nicely. One of the best octopus preparations in town.

The best thing we had was the Cacio e Pepe, a pasta dish traditionally combining cheese and pepper, but here it was Uni butter and pepper. The fettucini was perfectly cooked, and the sauce was rich and delicious (although it needed additional salt and pepper to bring out the flavor).

Charred shrimp cocktail was fairly conventional. The charring made the shrimp a bit too sturdy, but the cocktail sauce was excellent.

The least successful dish was the Foie gras and donut, which sounded really fun, but wasn’t. It was a generous serving of perfectly seared foie gras, crisp and caramelized on the surface, and runny on the inside. But the other ingredients on the plate didn’t really work. The donut was small, tough, and flavorless, and was no substitute for a more traditional brioche or even pear or apple slice. And the strawberry “jam” was really bits of marinated strawberry, too chunky to provide the needed sweetness in each bite. It was also nearly impossible to combine the disparate ingredients into a composed bite, something essential with foie gras.

The dessert list is very interesting, with each one accompanied by a different ice cream or sorbet. I opted instead for a sampling of those accompaniments. The chocolate sorbet was excellent, and the black rice ice cream exotic and intriguing. Tobacco ice cream was the most exciting idea, but just tasted like vanilla.

There is an interesting wine list, with a small selection of nicely varietal wines by the glass.

Service was almost too attentive. Three waiters, two bus boys and a manager kept clearing away every dish and glass, even when we wanted to hang onto them, and often while someone else was still eating. The restaurant wasn’t very busy yet, so perhaps they just needed something to do, but it became funny after a while. It’s commendable that they want to provide good service, but I think they need to relax just a tad!

About half the tables are round and half are rectangular, and they’re pretty small. This works okay for the rectangular ones, but the round ones don’t work well for sharing plates. They don’t take up any less space, and I think should be jettisoned in favor of the rectangular ones.

One pet peeve is that at the beginning of the meal we were told that “Chef wants you to order everything at once.” That’s simply not acceptable in a sharing plates restaurant. You don’t know everything you’re going to want at the start of the meal, or what order you’ll want it in. I’ve played this game before and ended up with a table full of food that the chef was supposedly going to course out for us. I’d rather do that myself.

Portsmith
660 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 202-6050
http://www.yelp.com/biz/portsmith-chicago-2

Bridge House Tavern

Exterior

Interior

Tots, blue cheese on the side

Carpaccio

Shaved salad

**** (4 stars)

Bridge House Tavern offers the best outdoor dining space along the Chicago River, plus an indoor ambiance that is more pub than sports bar. But don’t expect a simple pub or sports bar menu. There are some really interesting offerings here, both healthy and otherwise.

We started with some tater tots, a very generous serving, and one of the most pub-ish offerings. The serving was huge, and they were nicely crisped. I was glad we got the blue cheese on the side, as I think it would have turned them into a sodden mess. They were great on their own, and the crispy Brussels sprouts added a nice zest.

Beef carpaccio was also good, and another generous serving.

The shaved salad was fantastic. It’s a huge mound of sliced zucchini, cauliflower, fennel, radish and Brussels sprouts, tossed in a tasty dressing that doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavors. Truly, this is one of my favorite salads in town.

There’s a good list of beers, a somewhat more limited list of wines, and also a daily drink special.

Service was good, even though the place was hopping, both indoors and out, on a nice summer day.

Bridge House Tavern
321 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 644-0283
http://www.yelp.com/biz/bridge-house-tavern-chicago