May 142014
 
Crab Cake | Joe's Fish

Crab Cake built for two.

The folks at Rosebud Restaurants invited me to try their latest venture, Joe Fish, a new seafood restaurant in River North. It’s a beautiful, classic space that manages to be airy and light at the same time. It’s at odds, however, with a vibe that’s a bit stuffy and formal. I can easily picture high-powered business lunches or fancy dinners for out-of-towners filling the restaurant.

Thankfully, the bar had a different vibe. My half-dead iPhone and I arrived a little early for dinner, and the bar staff let me plug in, order a beer, and quietly Instagram until my friend arrived. I ordered a glass of Really Cool Waterslides from 3 Sheeps, nibbled on goldfish crackers, and watched as the staff helped tourists make after-dinner plans. It was a pleasant place to loiter.

Bang Bang | Joe's Fish

This Bang Bang Biscuit was amazing.

My friend ordered her drink after we were seated, which was notable only because she was given an iPad to do it. We became distracted by gadgets for longer than intended — that just doesn’t happen with a regular menu. BTW, the house-branded Sauvignon Blanc she got tasted like a light, fruity wash of spring in a glass. Surprisingly good.

On the waiter’s recommendation, we ordered the crab cake for an appetizer. It was $21. It was huge. It was the best effin’ crab cake I’ve had in a long time — no filler and tons of fresh, flaky crab. The only disappointment was the side of slaw drowning in Catalina sauce beside it. I’m very happy we decided to split that monster because I wouldn’t have had room for the other appetizer, a Bang Bang Biscuit.

Joe Fish decided to keep their focus on seafood and outsource baking to local favs, Bang, Bang Pie Shop. Good call. The biscuit was amazing — huge, like the crab cake, but light, too. We dabbed more butter onto its already buttery texture along with heaping spoonfuls of apricot jam. This is one appetizer should also be on the dessert menu.

Black Cod | Joe Fish

Black Cod

Since we had plans now had firm plans for dessert, we also decided to split the black cod entrée. Served with a hunk of under-done bok choy, the fish was a delightful, melt-in-the-mouth experience. A light miso sauce complemented the buttery fish nicely. As with the appetizer, the serving size was more than enough for two people. Well, for two girls anyway. I admit to eating like one.

We selected another appetizer instead of a side dish to accompany the meal. Why the roasted cauliflower wasn’t consider a side was a little baffling. I expected the cauliflower to be caramelized, instead it seemed have been browned had a watery consistency. The heat of the chilies was concentrated in their infrequent appearance of the dish. In all, a little disappointing.

Cauliflower | Joe's Fish

The roasted cauliflower appetizer makes a better side.

The first plan for dessert was to scarf down slices from Bang, Bang Pie Shop. When I think pie, I always think fruit — it’s how I’m wired. So I was a little sad about pecan and cheesecake instead of berry or apple. I almost ordered another biscuit, but decided to forge ahead with ricotta topped with fruit compote to get my fix.

Let this be a lesson: when thinking about great pie, don’t order a substitute. This dish was doomed from the start. The ricotta wasn’t smooth, came as a giant blob, and the fruit did not pair well with it at all. The peanut droppings and mint sprig added nothing.

Ricotta | Joe's Fish

Dessert lacked.

Service at Joe Fish was impeccable all night, especially the bar staff and our waiter. He accommodated requests to let me take photos before splitting dishes, made recommendations, and fielded questions throughout the meal. Magnus, you were a champ.

I would recommend Joe Fish for those who have the coin for its convenient location, or for tourists who are timid about venturing out of the downtown area. The atmosphere is classy and the seafood is excellent. However, if you want more adventure and local flair for your budget, join me. I’ll be in line for pie.

I was not financially compensated for this post. Access was provided to me as a member of the media. The opinions are completely my own, based on my experience.

[GARD]

May 012014
 

Last night’s relaunch party at Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush gave friends, family, and media a chance to enjoy the fresh, new space as well as the revamped menu of this River North stalwart.

Passed hors d’oeuvre and small plates included a scrumptious wild boar pate dotted served on polenta bread toast, spiced ahi tuna, lobster bisque, and succulent burger bites. The spoonful of al dente pasta I had was the perfect foil to the savory lamb and freshness of the arugula pesto on top. I loved it and wanted more.

However, that dish may need to wait until I’ve filled up from the Salumeria, a new addition to the restaurant. Guests can now order selections of speciality meats and watch as the Chef slices thin strips of meaty heaven. Though I tried my best to stuff myself with prosciutto and mortadella al pistachio last night, a return trip will be necessary.

With a clean, modern atmosphere and a fresh take on Italian classics, 437 Rush is a great choice for fine dining in River North. Make plans soon to experience the best of the new menu.

I was not financially compensated for this post. Access was provided to me for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

[GARD]

Apr 182014
 
Bloody Mary Bar | Davanti Enoteca

Bloody Mary Bar

If you love Bloody Mary’s like I love Bloody Mary’s, then consider a visit to Davanti Enoteca (30 East Hubbard). Their massive Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar makes an appearance on Saturday and Sunday between 10am-3pm. It’s worth getting up early to go.

For only $10, you can build the drink of your dreams. Plan on spending more, however, because you’ll need at least two trips through the bar to overcome decision paralysis. Why? The bar comes with conceivable ingredient you could possibly put into a Bloody Mary.

Choose between jars of meat straws, carrot sticks, or bacon-wrapped asparagus, and then skewer as many peppers, tomatoes, stuffed and unstuffed olives, or cheese as you wish. The back of the bar is lined with too many hot sauces to name. You even have your choice of salt.

My Bloody Mary Masterpiece was loaded with spicy mix, shrimp, bleu-cheese stuffed olives, as many stalks of celery as I could stuff into the glass, and two dashes of bacon salt and hot sauce. I half-expected the glass to topple over!

Pecan Praline French Toast | Davanti Enoteca

Pecan Praline French Toast

You need a few items to nibble while enjoying the Bloody Mary, right? Davanti has a lengthy selection of brunch dishes to try.

Highlights of the menu included a savory Pork Belly and Potato Hash with soft poached eggs that added a runny umami quality. Paired with a full-on slab of Thick-cut Bacon, dotted with tomatoes, it’s guaranteed to complete your morning.

On the sweet side, the French Toast with cinnamon butter and a bourbon-infused maple syrup will satisfy, but don’t stop there — the Davanti staff can reach into Glazed & Infused‘s kitchen for your favorites. The Maple Bacon Long John should be something everyone tries once, though I’m a particular fan of the lowly Vanilla Bean Glazed Doughnuts and Apple Fritters.

Love coffee? Davanti serves their own blend from Sparrow Coffee. No matter how you take your coffee, this is an incredibly good cup from an amazing local roaster. I’ll see you there!

Enjoy more brunch…

I was not financially compensated for this post. Brunch was provided to me for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

[GARD]