Streeterville Pizzeria & Tap

12 inch pepperoni and green pepper

Half Caesar salad

Exterior

Bar

Upstairs

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Streeterville pizza is a small, airy pizzeria on two levels with a full bar. Their pizza is “tavern style” a Chicago specialty, with thin crust and cut into squares. The pizza was liberally sauced, which I like, and well-topped. The crust was nicely singed as I requested.

I also enjoyed the half Caesar salad I started with, which had a good dressing and some sun-dried tomato for color.

Service by Dylan was friendly and attentive.

Streeterville Pizzeria & Tap
355 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL
60611
(312) 631-3877
https://www.yelp.com/biz/streeterville-pizzeria-and-tap-chicago

TAO Chicago

Exterior

Interior

Interior

Interior

Satay of Chilean Sea Bass with miso

Eight 8 Greens Fried Rice

$99 omakase

Special dessert stout cake with chocolate soft serve

**** (4 stars)

Obviously, TAO is stunning. It’s probably the most impressive dining room I’ve been in, and that is steep competition. Of course, that makes one all the more suspicious that the food and service don’t need to live up to the decor. I’m pleased to say that was not the case, and I came away from TAO a fan.

I went at opening on a Sunday because I wanted a quieter environment and to avoid the club scene that develops next door later in the evening. And indeed, it was a reasonable noise level until near the end of my meal.

The compact wine list has some nice choices, including a stellar Gruner Veltliner that was wonderful with my first course, a miso crusted satay of Chilean Sea Bass (okay, Patagonian Toothfish if you want to be pedantic). It was probably my favorite item of the whole meal.

The other dish I really loved was the 8 greens fried rice, a succulent blend of veggies that I had to push away from myself to keep from finishing the whole bowl!

Tao is kind of expensive, so I ordered the largest omakase figuring it wouldn’t be all that big. I should have known I was in trouble when my waiter suggested I change tables so he’d have room to put it down! I ended up at the under-used sushi bar on a corner for four people. Holy cow that was a lot of fish for $99! Two people would have been pressed to finish it.

The various sashimi slices were good, but the highlight was the nigiri assortment, each topped with a different relish or pepper. I was less enthusiastic about the specialty rolls, which both had an almost pureed inside consistency. The “tacos” also seemed superfluous. But I would definitely get nigiri sushi here again.

Service was friendly and attentive.

I highly recommend TAO if you’re looking for wow factor, and the food is almost as good as the decor.

TAO Chicago
632 N Dearborn St
Chicago, IL
60654
(224) 888-0388
https://www.yelp.com/biz/tao-chicago-chicago-2

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

The Bamboo Room at Three Dots and a Dash

Main entry to Three Dots and a Dash

Back of the bar

The bar

My rum tasting plus The Black Tot

A “modern style” tiki cocktail

An experiment concocted just for me

Zombie

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been to many tiki bars over the years, including originals back in the ’70s and many new ones created during the current Tiki revival. But I’ve never been to one as spectacularly wonderful as the Bamboo Room at Three Dots and a Dash.

If you’ve been to Three Dots and A Dash, you know it has some of the greatest Tiki decor anywhere, and some very good cocktails. My problem with it has always been the cacophonic noise level, the result of its great popularity and high seating capacity. So even though I only live two blocks away, I only visit at off hours (which there aren’t many of!)

The Bamboo Room solves all of that. It has nice decor, and the perfect Tiki bar ambiance, with appropriate surf music and other interesting selections and an intimate volume level conducive to conversation and learning.

And learning is really what it’s all about. I can’t urge you strongly enough to opt for the $50 guided tasting at the bar. You will experience cocktails assembled at a level seen almost nowhere, and you will be guided through a sampling of different styles of rum.

Your visit will be tailored to your tastes, interests, and level of experience. Mine began with a complimentary daiquiri, then a spectacular zombie, a rum tasting, and then several other wonderful cocktails that I’m glad my camera remembers! I was also able to taste (at extra charge) a small sample of the famous “Black Tot”. If you’re a true Tiki aficionado, you know how special that is.

At the Three Dots and a Dash main room there is a somewhat limited selection of cocktails, and by necessity, they can’t all be prepared from scratch. Here every component is lovingly assembled. My bartender described himself as part bartender, part florist! I really appreciated the way the component rum bottles were displayed with each cocktail, so I could understand where the flavors were coming from. And there are plenty of non-rum experiments as well.

The food is the same as in the main room, and is not a highlight. If you want a Tiki bar with interesting food, check out Lost Lake. But here it is all about the art of the perfect Tiki cocktail.

You will definitely get your money’s worth in the Bamboo Room, and if you can keep your head about you, it will come away with a new understanding of the whole tiki experience.

The Bamboo Room at Three Dots and a
435 N Clark St
Chicago, IL
60654
(312) 610-4220
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-bamboo-room-at-three-dots-and-a-dash-chicago

Lao Sze Chuan

Exterior

Interior

Chef’s Special Stir Fry Three Delight (shrimp, squid, scallop)

Mega menu (there’s another side, too!)

Northern style pancake

Elevator

Salt and Pepper Three Delight (shrimp, squid, scallop)

Lamb with Pure Cumin Powder

*** (3 stars)

This restaurant, part of a small local chain, is popular with American and Chinese tourists. The menu is enormous, so there is room for some selections you don’t see at most American Chinese restaurants. But for truly authentic and great Chinese food I still think it’s best to head to Chinatown.

I started with a northern style pancake, which is crisper than a typical pancake, and more like a bakery item than an omelet.

Unfortunately, although it was ordered long before my entrees, and the restaurant was almost empty on a Friday afternoon, everything showed up at once.

This is a Szechuan restaurant, so anything with a pepper next to it on the menu is going to be hot, as was the case with the Lamb with pure cumin powder. The heat was from the Szechuan peppers, raw jalapenos, and chili oil, not the cumin. I can only imagine what the two pepper dishes on the menu must be like!

I ordered the Salt and Pepper Three Delight, a combination of shrimp, squid, and scallops, but I got the Chef’s Special Stir Fried Three Delight. The mistake was corrected, but I actually would have preferred the Chef’s Special, as it was light and nicely sauced, whereas the salt and pepper dish was heavily breaded and fried, and had no sauce, and not much evidence of salt or pepper.

I ordered jasmine tea, but they were out, so I had green tea, which was nicely served in a pot with whole leaves, but it seems odd for a Chinese restaurant to be out of jasmine tea.

You can access the restaurant from Michigan Avenue via a fairly seedy elevator, or from the mall on the fourth level. The space is, frankly, looking a little tired, and could probably use a bit of polish.

Lao Sze
520 N Michigan AveSte 420
Chicago, IL
60611
(312) 595-0888
https://www.yelp.com/biz/lao-sze-chuan-chicago-5

Kumiko

Entry

Interior

Bar

Interior and bar

Patrick at the bar

Prawns

Eggplant dip

Loup de Mer

< Bitter Trade[/caption]

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

Lost Lake

cabbage slaw with chicken

drink menu 3

sipping rums

A photo at Lost Lake

A photo at Lost Lake

exterior

drink menu 2

drink menu 1

back room lighting

interior booths

bar

***** (5 stars)

The three most important characteristics of tiki bars, in no particular order, are drinks, food, and ambiance.

Lost Lake scores particularly high in the drinks category, with some of the most complex, subtle, varied and interesting cocktails I’ve encountered. Also, be sure to request the rum list. Although it has not been kept up to date, there are hundreds of interesting rums to choose from. About half are available, and there are many more that haven’t been added to the list. If you’re a true tiki fan, then rare rums are a particular delight.

Most tiki bars offer the same pseudo-Polynesian fare, so it was interesting to see the menu at Lost Lake, which avoids all of that, and has some truly nice offerings. I hear from regulars that the food has improved over the years, and we certainly liked everything we tried. The Orange Sesame Cabbage was a particularly good slaw, and didn’t even need the chicken we added. Pork dumplings and chicken wings were also both good. Our favorite was the green chili dip, which had just the right spice level. It was served with crispy wontons, radishes, and sweet potato slices. It was so good we had two orders.

The weakest aspect of Lost Lake is the decor, which is okay, but not at the spectacular level of Three Dots and a Dash or the Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale. The bar area theming is little more than banana leaf wallpaper, but the farther you go back the more interesting it gets. The back room has rock walls and puffer fish light fixtures.

For tiki mug collectors note that they offer unbranded tiki mugs; only the glassware carries the Lost Lake branding.

Service was friendly and attentive. If you’re a tiki drink fan, Lost Lake is definitely a place that should be on your list to visit.

Lost
3154 W Diversey
Chicago, IL
60647
(773) 293-6048
https://www.yelp.com/biz/lost-lake-chicago

Eiffel Tower

Frozen soufflé

Ocean seafood salad

Cream of onion soup

Torchon

View

Interior

**** (4 stars)

I was expecting this place to be very touristy, so I’m shocked to come away feeling it is one of my favorite restaurants in Vegas. In fact, I enjoyed it more that Jules Verne in the real Eiffel Tower!

The room is beautiful, and the view of the Strip and the Bellagio fountain can’t be beat. The atmosphere is sophisticated without being stuck up.

The lunch menu offers a nice assortment of French-inspired cuisine focusing on the lighter side. I loved the torchon appetizer and my Ocean Seafood Salad (btw, what other kind of seafood is there?)

The frozen souffle was an interesting dessert. Try ordering a glass of Amaro and pouring into the ice cream at the bottom–delicious!

The wine list is decent, and the prices normal for the Strip.

This is one of the few Vegas restaurants I think is worth a return visit, because it is about more than just the novelty of the experience.

Eiffel Tower
3655 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
89109
(702) 948-6937
https://www.yelp.com/biz/eiffel-tower-las-vegas

Petrossian Bar

Caviar sampler

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This is a delightful piano bar just off the Bellagio lobby, and next to the casino. Despite its location, it is neither noisy nor smoky.

Many creative cocktails are one offer. One of the most interesting items is the caviar sampler, which includes a taste of three grades of caviar, and a glass of Champagne. I suggest ordering it with the creme fraiche on the side, though, as the way it’s served it’s almost impossible to keep it from getting mixed into the caviar, which makes them all taste the same.

Petrossian Bar
3600 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV
89109
(702) 693-7111
https://www.yelp.com/biz/petrossian-bar-las-vegas

é by José Andrés

Cream Catalana custard

Fluke

Caviar

Freezing sangria

Four gras

Cheeses

Spanish pizza

Preparation of cava sangria dew drops

Interior

**** (4.5 stars)

This is one of the more unique dining experiences in Las Vegas, with only nine seats at a counter in an intimate room. The experience is as much or more about the presentation as the actual food. Twenty or so courses are meticulously assembled in front of you. And unlike, say, l’Atelier, where there is a server between you and the chefs, here the chefs do that interaction as they work. It requires great talent and personality to fill that role.

Several levels of wine pairing are available here, and the wines are masterfully chosen to match the food. While it is expensive, I must say that the highest level wine pairing offered the best wines Ive encountered on a paring menu, with selections such as Unico and Chateau d’Yquem.

While none of the courses contained that home run of flavors that would stick with me in memory, I think the experience is well worth it, because of its unique intimacy.

é by José Andrés
3708 Las Vegas Blvd SLevel 2, Boulevard Tower
Las Vegas, NV
89109
(702) 698-7950
https://www.yelp.com/biz/%C3%A9-by-jos%C3%A9-andr%C3%A9s-las-vegas-4