Bar Ramone


Citrus-Cured Hirame

Bigeye Tuna Tartare

Parmesan & Manchego Marshmallows

Bloody Mary Shrimp

Duck Confit Poutine*


Japanese Ice Fish*

Galician Octopus*

Lamb Meatballs*

Basque Cheesecake

Crema Catalana

***** (5 stars)

This is definitely another win for Lettuce Entertain You, much better than Bottlefork, which it replaced. The space is largely unchanged, narrow and deep, with a bar along one side. It’s not just a small plates restaurant, but actually closer to a true tapas bar, with many traditional Spanish dishes, and a few twists or completely new creations.

Our favorites were the tuna tartare, which was particularly savory as a result of being mixed with black rice and garlic aioli, and the Japanese ice fish, tiny little fish served in an udon-like broth.

We also liked the duck confit poutine, with its crispy potatoes and rich sauce; I thought it would have been just as good without the duck!

Octopus, lamb meatballs, bloody mary shrimp, and caulini (a cauliflower broccolini cross) were all good. Parmesan & manchego marshmallows were interesting, a jiggly cube of cheese-flavored goo. The only dish that left us cold was the rather flavorless hirame crudo.

Desserts were also standouts. We couldn’t pick a favorite between the creme Catalana with its bitter orange flavor and the Basque cheesecake, which was infused with amaretto.

Although it’s a wine bar, you won’t find very many familiar choices on the list. Wine by the glass are on the back of the one-page menu, but there is a more extensive bottle list. I’d say the emphasis on both is fairly obscure.

Service was good, especially considering we were there opening night and the place was packed. This is definitely a welcome addition to the River North dining scene, and especially to the local Spanish tapas selections.

Bar Ramone
441 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 985-6909

Blu 57 Seafood & Small Plates



Truffle tuna tar tar

Crab cake


Brussels sprouts

Squid ink pasta

Shrimp bombs

Red curry elotes


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

The Bazaar by José Andrés



Scallop ceviche

Caviar and lox cones

$9 a bite x 4

Foie Sandwich

Smoked oysters

Pork Bahn Mi Bun (3 Each)*

Octopus Toast

Squash Tempura Squash Blossoms

Philly Cheesesteak (signature dish)

Dessert room

Mille-Feuille, Caramel Cream and Salted Caramel


***** (5 stars)

The is an enormous restaurant that feels surprisingly intimate due to clever use of draperies and display cases as partitions. It definitely has an upbeat vibe, but isn’t deafening, and doesn’t make you feel like you’re not cool enough to be there.

Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s not cheap. In particular I thinking of the “cones” that look like little ice cream cones but are filled with ingredients like caviar. The operative word is “little”. They are literally smaller than your thumb, and couldn’t possibly be considered more than one bite, and not a very big bite at that. At $9 each they simply aren’t worth it, even if they are good.

But moving on, there are some much more noteworthy items on the menu. It’s divided between traditional tapas and modern tapas. The modern items were so interesting we just kept exploring, and never got to the traditional side of the extensive menu.

Scallop ceviche was Peruvian style with an unusual creamy but very tart broth. There were only a few bites of fish in the large bowl, but the tart broth made that seem like plenty.

The most inventive item we tried was the foie sandwich, which looked just like a Wonder Bread sandwich, but the bread was made of a somehow soft apple meringue! A thin layer of foie gras and jam was just enough.

Four raw oysters were served under a smoke-filled glass dome. The released smoke makes everyone around you want them, too!

Pork Bahn Mi Buns were three mini sliders with traditional flavors.

The octopus toast was extremely tender, and a generous serving. Raw jalapeno slices added a kick.

Squash tempura blossoms were stuffed with a cheese and olive mixture. The pungent olives overwhelmed the delicate flavors of the squash.

Philly cheesesteak is their signature dish, and it’s easy to see why. Four thin slices of wagyu are served atop a football-shaped pastry filled with a sharp cheese sauce. Eat this over a plate!!! It was delicious.

The wine list is fairly extensive, although most prices are pretty high. However, the Spanish wines are priced quite fairly, and there are some real gems.

A large section of the restaurant has been devoted to a separate dessert room, so at the conclusion of your meal they can transfer your drinks over there for a second experience that is seamless. The only other place I’ve seen this done is Berns in Tampa.

The dessert room lets you survey an array of dozens of items to help decide what you want to order. The rose filled with chocolate mousse was good, but the mille-feuille with salted caramel filling was even better.

Service in both parts of the restaurant was professional, attentive and pleasant. This is definitely one of the more interesting dining experiences in LA.

The Bazaar by José Andrés
465 South La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90048
(310) 246-5555






Raw tuna


Pork Jerky

Mexican Chocolate semifreddo

**** (4 stars)

I liked Proxi, Andrew Zimmerman’s new restaurant around the corner from his stalwart Sepia. In fact, I liked Proxi considerably more than Sepia. It’s lively without being deafening, and the small plate format provides the opportunity to taste many very different and varied dishes.

The menu is more or less in three columns, vegetarian, fish and meat.

From the vegetarian column of the menu, we loved the grilled sourdough that came with the burata, and the Asian take on corn elotes was also spot on.

From the fish column of the menu, raw tuna incorporated a lot of nice flavors, and was inventively served with a sorbet. The cobia in curry sauce was also very good.

The meat column was a bit less successful. The pork jerky was pretty good, but the short rib in curry didn’t have much flavor beyond everyday pot roast, save for the very spicy peppers on top.

For dessert, the Mexican chocolate semifreddo was very tasty; I’m a sucker for cinnamon with chocolate. However the meaning of semifreddo seems to have been lost somewhere along the line, as it was frozen rock solid.

Service was fine, although there were long pauses at various times, partly due to the disconnect between a server taking the order and others delivering it and clearing plates, and partly just due to a lot of business.

The only thing I really disliked was the wine list. Why someone would decide they need fifty wines from France’s Loire Valley and NO wines from anywhere else on the planet is beyond me. The wines from the Loire are fine, but they are limited in style. I could pick six to ten wines that would reflect the entire scope of the region. That leaves forty others that could better be replaced by other varietals and styles from around the world… just like a real wine list. In fact, although I liked the food, this bizarre wine list would be a serious stumbling block to me returning very often to an otherwise very good restaurant.

565 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 466-1950



Tuna tartare

Spicy crab mini tacos

Banging sweet Thai chili chicken

Spicy salmon, kiss of fire, black diamond

*** (3 stars)

Jellyfish is divided into two distinct spaces. The inside is a long bar with facing booths. The bar is backlit with a spectacular wall of sliced geodes, and the blue lightning is very cool. Then there’s a sort of outside space that is like a solarium, with a glass ceiling that lets in the sun. It’s like sidewalk dining, but indoors.

The highlights here are the small plates, both cold and hot.

Our favorite was the tuna tartare, which was served on very tasty guacamole, accompanied by wonton chips.

The mini crab tacos were also very good.

We also tried the “bangin'” chicken with a sweet Thai chili sauce, which was fine but not remarkable.

Much of the menu consists of sushi, of course. Prices seem very high, with each individual piece of fish costing about $5. There was nothing we observed about the quality of the fish that seemed to justify the premium.

We opted for three rolls: spicy tuna, kiss of fire, and black diamond. All were fine, but none were that magic combination of flavors that would qualify them as “signature” rolls, as listed.

Service was good, as it should have been, since we were alone during Sunday at lunch. I suppose this is due to the second floor location, which makes it a bit non-obvious to the casual traffic on the busy street below.

1009 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 660-3111

Moe’s Cantina- River North


Chicken Mole tacos



**** (4 stars)

I went a long time without trying this place because the name is similar to a chain I despise, but there’s no relationship.

The cavernous space is neat looking, and has pretty good acoustics from what I could tell, although I was there during a fairly quiet lunch hour. The are several long bars and some tables big enough for large groups.

We really enjoyed the nachos we started with. They are definitely non-standard, almost more like a salad in some ways, with lots of pickled onions, lettuce and jalapeno. We got them without the beans, which I think would have just made them messy.

The menu is mostly tacos, and I enjoyed the chicken mole variety I tried, although I would have liked a variety rather than four all the same. My companion liked her ceviche.

Service was friendly and attentive.

Moe’s Cantina- River North
155 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 245-2000

Babalu Tacos & Tapas

**** (4 stars)

This very popular spot offers a combination of Mexican inspired dishes and small tapas plates. As noted elsewhere, the table-side guacamole is extremely good, and I really liked the homemade tortilla strips served with it.

Ceviche is actually diced tuna with citrus and avocado. Shrimp and grits we classically prepared.

Service was very friendly and our server was obviously very proud of the quality of her restaurant.

Babalu Tacos & Tapas
622 Duling Ave
Jackson, MS 39216
(601) 366-5757

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!

**** (4 stars)

This bustling tapas restaurant is larger than it looks from the outside, and is consistently busy.

The menu has a reasonably broad selection of tapas and also paella. There is also a substantial wine and sangria list, and a separate cocktail menu.

I particularly enjoyed the house smoked salmon.

Bacon wrapped dates were nice and crisp on the outside without being mushy on the inside.

Buttermilk chicken thighs seemed mis-named, and were more like chicken tenders with a wing sauce on them.

Beef skewers were tender and nicely charred on the outside, although the horseradish sauce could have used more kick.

The empanadas had a delightfully flakey pastry.

Service was friendly and attentive. Dishes are delivered by runners, and come out as they are ready, so don’t order everything at once or you will be inundated in food!

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!
2024 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 935-5000

Emilio’s Tapas Sol y Nieve

**** (4 stars)

Wow, this place was packed, even on a rainy Thursday. Great vibe, just like Spain. The menu is a bit more limited than some Tapas places, but there is a nice variety. We really liked the beef dishes; very tender and good quality. There’s also a nice selection of Spanish wines. Service was very friendly, and noise levels are reasonable, even when busy, particularly at the window tables.

Emilio’s Tapas Sol y Nieve
215 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 467-7177

The Purple Pig

**** (4 stars)

Despite the name, this place is also a good choice for vegetarians. We had six courses, and aside from a little bacon in one of them, there was no pig or other meat involved. The highlights were the peas (because of the fresh mint mixed in) and the leeks.

There is a great selection of both pasteurized and raw milk cheeses, which made a wonderful dessert plate for two.

For me, though, the reason to go is the remarkable wine list, with hundreds of selections, all from countries bordering the Mediterranean. Nearly every selection is available by the glass, demi, half or full bottle, and they’ll even open a bottle of any of the wines priced under $50 (which is nearly all of them) and pour you just half. So it’s a great place to explore varieties and appellations you’ve never heard of.

One word of warning: the atmosphere is vibrant (read that as LOUD) to say the least, so it’s not a place for intimate conversation. It’s somewhat better on the patio, but even there it’s pretty boisterous.

The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 464-1744