Gene & Georgetti

Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Bacon

Potatoes

Creamed Spinach

Broiled Bone – In Rib Eye Steak

1/2 wedge salad

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

A lot of Chicago steakhouses aspire to be “old school,” but Gene & Georgetti really is, having been established in 1941, and little changed since. The traditional dining room, muted ambiance and white-jacketed waiters definitely take you back.

I loved the wedge salad, which we fortunately split, as it was huge. The creamed spinach was flavored with tarragon, and was perhaps the best I’ve had. My companion’s melted cheese, bacon and tomato sandwich was huge and absurdly inexpensive, and came with a plate of fried potatoes.

In fact, everything was great except the steak. There was nothing obviously wrong with my bone-in ribeye, it just wasn’t very interesting. It lacked the usual ribeye marbling, and hence any flavor. And it wasn’t particularly tender, either. It was, however, perfectly cooked.

Gene & Georgetti has some of the lowest prices of any steakhouse in Chicago, and lunch and brunch are even better deals. I will definitely return. I probably won’t have steak.

Gene & Georgetti
500 N Franklin St
Chicago, IL
60654
(312) 527-3718
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gene-and-georgetti-chicago-6

Michael’s Gourmet Room

Exterior

Interior

Scampi fra Diavolo

Mixed green salad

Petite filet mignon

Bone in filet mignon

Bananas Foster for one

Fruit and chocolates parting gifts

**** (4.5 stars)

If you are over a certain age, you will remember what fine dining restaurants used to be like, before they were, bright, loud and trendy. Visiting Michael’s is like stepping back into that era. The decor and the menu are exactly what we would have encountered in the 60s or 70s at the finest places in town. Well, except for the prices, anyway.

That said, while the menu prices might seem high, it’s important to note that there is a LOT included that isn’t on the menu. You start a basket of parmesan toast, a basket of lavash, and a generous relish tray with everything from pickled vegetables to quail eggs. And the meal ends with an enormous fruit bowl and an array of hand-dipped chocolate fruit slices. Of course, no one can eat all that, so you end up with a five pound to-go bag–snacks for a week.

In between all that free stuff are some great starters and steaks. Mixed green salad was simple, fresh, and enough for two. Scampi fra Diavolo had perhaps the best marinara sauce I’ve tasted (although it wasn’t spicy at all).

My bone-in filet was a superb piece of meat, and came with a lovely mushroom and red wine reduction. My companion’s petit filet seemed a bit mealy and flavorless in comparison, but the accompanying Bernaise sauces was wonderful.

For dessert we shared Bananas Foster for one (not on the menu, but nice of them to suggest the smaller serving). There was also a very tempting array of pastries on the cart.

I would have finished with an espresso, but at $16 that just seemed over the top, price wise.

The wines list focuses on many well-chosen California selections at reasonable prices.

Service was friendly, but also offered with the high degree of professionalism one would expect in a restaurant that so perfectly recreates the golden age of fine dining.

Michael’s Gourmet Room
9777 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV
89183
(702) 796-7111
https://www.yelp.com/biz/michaels-gourmet-room-las-vegas

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

Gibsons Italia

View

Interior

Exterior

Chef’s Crudo Selection

Lettuce and herb salad with Meyer Lemon vinaigrette (off menu item)

New York Strip Bone-In

Grilled Romanesco

Grilled asparagus

Affogato

Good view, rain or shine

***** (5 stars)

The original Gibson’s is a good restaurant, but this one is a great restaurant. Every element of my meal was about as close to perfection as I can expect from a steakhouse. Of the dozens of steakhouses I’ve tried in Chicago, it was clearly the best.

Of course, there is the view, perhaps the best in the city, looking out at the junction of the Chicago River. And the room itself is also gorgeous. It’s on the third floor, with a bar on the floor below.

The service was also impressive. Not only were the waiters professional and friendly, but they were genuine hosts, with several of them stopping by to chat.

The menu includes the full range of Gibson’s branded prime steaks, and they are just as good as you would expect. But it’s the other dishes that impressed me most. The chef’s selection crudo was a wonderful starter: three sashimi preparations of tuna, kanpachi and fluke, with amazing and surprising accompaniments.

An off-menu salad of lettuce and herbs dressed in Meyer Lime vinaigrette was a perfect break before tackling the steak. For sides I couldn’t decide between the grilled romanesco and grilled asparagus, finally ordering the asparagus. To my surprise, my waiter also brought the romanesco so I could try it. Both were excellent.

I finished off with the affogato, which was served deconstructed, so you could add your own coffee to the ice cream. The coffee was laced with Averna, which imparted a delightful bitterness to offset the sweet ice cream. The homemade cookies that came with it were also amazing.

The wine list is also top notch. There’s a great variety, and some reasonable prices. The Morey Saint Denis I had was a gem.

I can’t ask for much more than the meal I had at Gibson’s, and it’s perhaps the first Chicago steakhouse I’ve been to that will keep drawing me back rather than always trying new ones. Highly recommended.

Gibsons Italia
233 N Canal St
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 414-1100
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gibsons-italia-chicago-2

BIG & little’s Restaurant

Raw ahi tuna taco

Samurai taco

Cheeseburger

Deep fried grilled cheese

**** (4 stars)

In all fairness I ordered this food delivered, so I’m not going to comment on aspects that didn’t travel well (such as the fries), as I’m sure they’re much better at the restaurant.

What did travel well was the raw ahi tuna taco. The tuna was obviously excellent sushi grade, and the large chunks were still cold, and the fried taco shell crisp.

The other noteworthy item was the deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich. It was essentially fish and chips, except instead of fish there was a grilled cheese sandwich in there. The batter was nice and crisp, but I felt it needed a bit of seasoning, or perhaps the Swiss cheese version (rather than American cheese) is more flavorful.

The cheeseburger was a bit of a disappointment. It basically tasted exactly like a Big Mac.

I also sampled the Samurai fish taco, which was an okay combination of fried fish and pickled jalapenos on flour tortillas.

BIG & little’s Restaurant
860 N Orleans St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 943-0000
https://www.yelp.com/biz/big-and-littles-restaurant-chicago-3

Chicago Chop House

Exterior

Cold seafood sampler for one

10 oz Wagyu NY Strip

Creamed spinach

**** (4 stars)

In a city seemingly overflowing with steakhouses, Chicago Chop House has a few unique things to offer.

First off is the ambiance. Located in a 120-year-old townhouse, it’s definitely cozier and more historical than the competition. And if you’re into Chicago history, the walls are covered with more than a thousand old photos, stock certificates and other ephemera, many with labels denoting their significance.

The third floor, called the “skybox,” is the quietest place to sit. It’s divided into small spaces that work well for intimate conversation. The ground floor bar is by far the liveliest space.

The menu offers the fairly unique option of ordering nearly identical steaks handled differently. There is a section of wet-aged meat (usually my preference), dry-aged, and also American Wagyu.

I tried the Wagyu New York Strip, and it was just okay. It was thinner than the other steaks, and wasn’t as tender or fatty as I would expect from Wagyu. Perhaps that was the result of it being cooked closer to medium well than the medium rare I ordered.

Far better was my wife’s dry-aged New York Strip, which was very tender, juicy, and perfectly cooked.

We started with a cold seafood assortment for one, which was actually enough for the two of use to have a bit of tuna and crab, and to split the oyster and shrimp according to our preference. Then we also shared a Ceasar salad, which was more than enough for two.

Sides are also large. We shared creamed spinach, which was a bit more to the cream side than I prefer, but tasty.

There’s a nice wine list, with a few older gems that are reasonably priced for Chicago.

Service was friendly and attentive, and we enjoyed our very relaxing and intimate meal.

Chicago Chop House
60 W Ontario St
Chicago, IL 60654
(888) 592-8471
https://www.yelp.com/biz/chicago-chop-house-chicago

The Grill On The Alley

Crab shrimp and lobster louie

Tuna sashimi

Caesar salad

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

If you like old-school places, you’ll probably like The Grill on the Alley. It’s pretty much unchanged since it opened in the 80s, and it was designed to be retro even back then. It’s a bit like more recent retro steakhouse concepts such as the Palm or Mortons, but somehow lacks the upscale feeling of those.

I didn’t find much that was remarkable on our visit. The best thing I had was a shrimp, crab and lobster Louie salad, which was very generous in its seafood portion, as it should have been for almost $50.

The service was–and I’m being charitable here-uneven, to say the least. We seemed to be handed off through a succession of at least four servers, and the people delivering the plates and bussing the table were all in rotation, too, so it wasn’t exactly conducive to feeling like a guest–more like part of an assembly line.

The clientele here is even older than the restaurant — by about forty years, I’d guess, and seems to be devoted, so perhaps they see something in it that I didn’t.

The Grill On The Alley
9560 Dayton Way
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 276-0615
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-grill-on-the-alley-beverly-hills

Quay Restaurant

Dulcey

Strawberry

Duck

Lamb

Smoked pig jowl and razor clam

Uni

Smoked wagyu

Carrots

View

**** (4 stars)

Usually restaurants with great views are on the top of tall buildings, but Quay is in the middle of its view of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. And usually restaurants with great views don’t strive to provide particularly great food. Quay does try hard, though, and sometimes succeeds.

Every course is certainly beautiful, but not everything tastes quite as good as it looks. The tasting menu is the way to go, because its many courses offer the best shot at finding something delicious. Our favorites were the smoked pork jowl, the lamb, and an amazing strawberry snow egg.

The wine list is extensive, and although the markups are pretty high, it’s a brilliantly constructed list, divided up by wine styles, varietals and regions in the most organized fashion I’ve ever encountered. The Champagne section even has two-page spreads that lists winemakers, grape percentages, and other vital statistics. I wish all wine lists were like this.

Quay Restaurant
Overseas Passenger Terminal
Level 4
Sydney, New South Wales 2000
+61 2 9251 5600
https://www.yelp.com/biz/quay-restaurant-sydney-4

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

Acadia

Interior

Caviar and beef tartare

Mini lobster roll

Pizza

Bialy

Salmon

Ice

Cucumber

Scallop

Buckwheat

Lobster

Pork cheek

Peach melba

Chocolate

Hysop ice cream

** (2 stars)

I have struggled to figure out how to give Acadia three stars, which Yelp defines as “A-OK”, and I just can’t do it. It was not okay, and here’s why.

Acadia is trying to operate at the Alinea, Oriole, Grace level, and it’s not even close. At this level a meal needs to be an experience. The food needs to make you pause in wonder. We found ourselves doing a lot of wondering last night, but not in a good way.

The decor is fine. They’re definitely going for an Alinea vibe. And the service was fine, too, although we got the impression they’d sent someone over to Grace to take notes, and then imperfectly shared them with a less experienced staff. But the problem was the food.

Course after course we were presented with gorgeous dishes–some of the prettiest in town, no doubt–that went nowhere. Rather than ingredients coming together to create something greater than the individual parts, there were a series of disjointed, sometimes even flavorless creations that left us wondering if the chef had gone on vacation and left the restaurant on autopilot.

We knew we were in trouble when we started with not one but three amuse bouches, not one of which was special. They included a meat with caviar on it–not the last time this mistake would be made. Who does that, and why? The flavors aren’t complementary, and each ruined an otherwise fine ingredient. A two-bite mini lobster roll was just that, but not a particularly good lobster roll. And the “pizza” was a nice cracker with some cheese on it. This would probably have been the best choice as the amuse bouche course.

Bread service consisted of a bite-size pretzel roll with truffle butter. Honestly, you can get a better pretzel bite at Bar Louie, and I found myself yearning for their mustard.

The first true course of the night was good quality salmon. As with nearly every course, something was poured on it table-side. This was a delicious broth of osmanthus and charred pineapple, which did nothing to enhance the salmon, but was wonderful to sip from the bowl once the salmon was gone. The course is accompanied by a durable bialy.

A bowl of shaved ice appears, and vinegar is added. Hmmm.

Cuttlefish and cucumber is an attractive dish, but with very little flavor.

A scallop is not seared quite enough to make it interesting, although one of our party of three likes the weird dehydrated crispy/gummy orange segment served with it.

The pretzel roll reappears, this time without the truffle butter. Was the first one a mistake? This one is accompanied by a dry, too tough miniature biscuit. Seriously, I can make a better biscuit with Bisquick. This one looks like a huge amount of effort went into it with nothing interesting to show for it, a metaphor for the meal itself. The breads are accompanied by a dish of buckwheat groats soaked in a generous amount of butter, one of the most savory dishes, and one that required nothing to be poured onto it.

The lobster course is the most successful. Although the small lobster tail is a bit tough, the lobster bisque (poured over the plate, of course) is delicious, and really complements the other flavors on the plate, especially a half spoonful of corn nibblets. This is what all the courses should have been like.

The last savory course is a nicely cooked piece of pork cheek which has plenty of flavor without the dollop of osetra caviar ruined by being placed on top. (Again, who does that, and why?)

Three desserts follow, all along the same lines of a bowl with ice cream or chocolate pudding topped with random flowers and bits of this and that. They are all fine, and the fact that most ingredients don’t compliment each other would have been overlooked save for the preceding parade of mismatched items.

About halfway through the meal we lapsed into a sort of stunned silence. Having been to nearly every fine dining restaurant in Chicago, how could this possibly be? I suppose the tip-off should have been that we were able to purchase tickets the night before. And in fact the room was half empty, so word may be getting around. It’s certainly hard to imagine repeat visitors.

So let’s talk about the tickets. When I purchase a meal and wine pairing through tocktix, I don’t appreciate an attempt to upsell me as soon as I sit down. If you want to offer an optional wagu, add it as an option on tocktix.

Nor do I appreciate the effort to sell me additional wine or cocktails to “start” the meal. With a nine-course wine pairing for $125, it shouldn’t be 15 minutes before the first wine shows up. Every other restaurant in town brings out a sparkler with the amuse bouche. There’s a reason. And the high-acid, mineral-focused wines didn’t really match the food anyway. For the same $125 Oriole manages  a pairing of entirely old world gems, so it’s not impossible.

In short, this meal didn’t remotely justify its $1200 price tag.

Acadia
1639 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 360-9500
http://www.yelp.com/biz/acadia-chicago