Food & Dining - Phil Vettel recommends

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Food & Dining -
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Phil Vettel recommends
30 Jun 2011, 3:35 pm

Inovasi ✭✭✭ 28 E. Center Ave., Lake Bluff; 847-295-1000. The name is Indonesian for "innovation," and that's pretty much what John des Rosiers delivers in this North Shore gem. Asian, Latin and Mediterranean influences abound in his melting-pot-American menu, where you'll find surprises like walleye sashimi and poached grass carp (plucked from a downstate lake) with chimichurri sauce. The interior decor includes echoes of the building's origins as a 1920s school, very much in character for a forward-looking concept that honors its roots. Recommended: Jackson Pollock foie gras, sweet shrimp in lobster broth, "dueling grains," pork shoulder, Scarborough Fair ice cream. Open: Dinner Monday–Saturday, lunch Monday-Friday. Entree prices: $12-$22. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-friendly. Other: Wheelchair accessible.

Abigail's ✭✭ 493 Roger Williams Ave., Highland Park; 847-849-1009. The downsides to this 48-seat American restaurant are the lack of reservations (save for the 5-6 p.m. seating) and the extremely loud noise that 48 seated and 24 hopeful diners can create in a small room. Chef/owner Michael Paulsen offers considerable compensation in the form of ingredient-dense but cunningly balanced fare, from daily flatbread pizzas piled high with goodies to memorable fish entrees in a sea of crispy/crunchy/smooth vegetables. Very good service and a smoothly professional hosts (who manage to seat people efficiently and who play fair) are big pluses as well. When summer rolls in and the season renews at Ravinia (about a quarter mile away), this place is even more popular, though sidewalk tables at least boost capacity some. Recommended: Fennel-crusted scallops, Moroccan-spiced whitefish, duck with corn-ricotta ravioli, sticky toffee cake. Open: Dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch Tuesday-Friday. Entree prices: $11-$21. Credit cards: DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Accepted from 5 to 6 p.m. only. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible.

Xni-Pec ✭ 3755 Grand Blvd., Brookfield; 708-290-0082. This Yucatecan restaurant moved from Cicero to Brookfield in early 2010 to get closer to its west suburban customer base. It did so on a shoestring budget, so don't come expecting elaborate creature comforts. Do expect interesting, cliche-free Mexican food at very low prices. There is the occasional jolt of spice (the name comes from the Mayan term for "dog nose," a reference to some folks' reaction to hot peppers), but in general the food is gentle on the tonsils. Recommended: Empanada trio, vaporcito, papadzules, mole rojo, pok chuc. Open: Dinner Monday-Saturday. Entree prices: $11-$18. Credit cards: DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Recommended weekends. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible.

Redd Herring ✭ 31 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, 630-908-7295. Roger Herring of Wrigleyville's Socca restaurant set out to create a low-key, family friendly operation in Clarendon Hills, and he has largely succeeded. The menu is familiar and modestly priced (the Allen Bros. steaks excepted), there's a respectable kids' menu in addition to pizza choices and the wood-and-chocolate dining room is cozy and relaxing. The small-capacity dining room tends to fill quickly, even mid-week, so plan accordingly. Recommended: Hen House pizza, mussels in ale, smoked pork chop, short ribs, apple crumble. Open: Dinner Monday-Saturday. Entree prices: $13-$35. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-friendly. Other: Wheelchair accessible.

Courtright's ✭✭✭✭ 8989 Archer Ave., Willow Springs; 708-839-8000. A stellar, sophisticated restaurant that radiates country charm, thanks to its tucked-away, forest preserve location, and an Arts & Crafts-style dining room whose picture windows overlook manicured gardens and the untrammeled nature beyond. To that add chef Jerome Bacle (ex-Le Bec Fin), a one-time pastry chef who still likes using fruits and nuts in even his most savory dishes. His Friday themed menus — three courses built around a single ingredient — are cunning and creative and bargains ($35) to boot. Uber-attentive service and a spectacular wine selection push the operation into the realm of the spectacular. And with a la carte and prix-fixe options offered every night, Courtright's is one of the most price-flexible experiences (especially at this level) around. Recommended: Scallops with rhubarb puree, walleye with chorizo-peanut fricassee, butter-poached lobster, angel food cake. Open: Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Entree prices: $28-$38, five-course tasting menu $75.Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended weekends. Noise: Hushed. Other: Wheelchair accessible, parking lot.

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