Monday, February 28, 2011

Chicago Dining

Most of my friends know I love to eat... so they often come to me for restaurant recommendation... and I can usually give it to them, except when they ask me about Chicago...  since I cook when I am in town...

On the rare occasion that I don't feel like cooking, 90% of the time I go to Sushi Para, an all-you-can-eat quality sushi buffet for around $20 and it's right across the street... I went there so often I am treated like a regular so I don't experience the common complaints other people have... haha~ (they put less rice in my rolls and they come to refill my tea more often - they probably know I will eat a lot no matter how much rice they give me so they must be thinking, why waste the rice on her... LOL... my personal record - 6 rolls + some nigiri)

Anyways, I felt the need to expand my horizon...  afterall, Chicago is supposed to be one of the best cities for fine dining... it's just embarassing to live here for so long and not know... so I decided to embark on a tasty trip...

1. Mercat a la Planxa Mercat a la Planxa on Urbanspoon

It's owned by Iron Chef Jose Garces and I have been wanting to try this restaurant for a while.  Since my friend told me they don't like Spanish tapas and with my brother backing out the last minute, I actually went solo during RW.  It's right off Michigan Avenue inside the Blackstone Hotel and I was planning to go to the Art Institute that day so it worked out perfect for me.  Decor is nice and food is good.  The prie fixe was $18 which includes 3 course and a drink - not bad and you actually have a lot of options to choose from :)

Truita de Patata con Espinacas
The Mercat Burger
Croquetas de Xocolata
2. Intelligentsia Coffee Intelligentsia Coffee on Urbanspoon

After a big lunch, I was hit with food coma... but I proceeded to the Art Institute anyway... so by the time I was done, I was so sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open... I knew I needed coffee but I don't want Starbucks, Caribou, etc. so I went here after some "yelp"-ing.  It's just off Michigan Avenue on Randolph near the Millenium Park so the location is perfect.  The coffee is delicious... I saw a lot of people ordering the cappuccino / latte but the Burundi blend caught my eyes... I remembered there was a time I was at my friend's house (she is originally from Burundi) and that coffee she served me was out of this world... so I had to get it... it wasn't the same but it's still very good coffee.  (I think even if I was ever served the same coffee again it wouldn't taste the same... some food taste different with experience... /sad)

3.  Friends Sushi Friends Sushi on Urbanspoon

After walking some more up Michigan Avenue, I decided to get a light dinner at Friends Sushi.  It's about 6pm when I got there and lucky me - no line!!  (As soon as I placed my order, there was a line already)  It's a very small restaurant so reservation is highly recommended (unless you went there at an off-hour like I did and there is only 1-2 of you) A lot of people just do take out.  Sushi is good and as long as you are not too hungry, prices are reasonable (no, I can't eat like I would at Sushi Para but the rolls here are different.  This is also a "date-certified" restaurant - no, Sushi Para is definitely not a place you would take your first date...)

Tobiko nigiri w/ quail egg and Summer roll
4.  Cafe de Architectes Cafe Des Architectes on Urbanspoon

Another RW venture, I actually had to make the reservation a month ahead because people in Chicago are just as food-crazed as I am... there are 2 prie fixe - 1 at $33 and the other at $44.  It was a very good meal.  No one needed dinner #2 but it wasn't as "french" as we hoped... haha~ I heard they are famous for their Sunday brunches as well.  They are located right inside Sofitel so I guess if you are staying in the area, it would be a good choice!  (I wonder when I can stay in Sofitel too for my business trips...)

5-hr Braised Beef Short Ribs
Carpaccio of Hamachi
Stuffed and Braised Quail
Roasted Monkfish

14oz Prime Delmonico Steak
Veal Tenderloin
Sea Salt Braised Pave of Barramundi 
Chocolat Moelleux
Valrhona Caramelia Cremeux
Extra Desserts
5.  Volo Restaurant and Wine Bar Volo Restaurant Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

I am naturally attracted to these types of restaurants... in three words, dark, intimate, and fancy... it's pricey but I had a Groupon so it makes it a little bit better.  Food was good and they do have an excellent wine list.  My reservation was early enough I was actually able to street park right in front of the restaurant!  Lucky!

Steak Tartare
Beets Salad
Duck Confit
Steak Tenderloin
With all my little food excursions, my wallet definitelly hates me now... good thing I will be travelling for work a lot in the coming months :) Hopefully I can save up so I will be ready for my next round of adventures: Goat & the Girl, Gyu-Kaku, Carnivale, Purple Pig, Hot Chocolate, Piccolo Sogno, etc. /drool

I am also looking for the perfect St Patty's bar and I am dying for a real crawfish boil (so bad that I have considered flying to the south for the real deal) - so let me know if you have any recommendation!


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