mity nice grill

11:50 AM sians 0 Comments

whenever i am in the mood to eat out with friends but at a place not too far from my apartment, i always fall back to my regular places. in the past weeks, christina and i tries to meet up on weekends to get in some japanese language practice before our next class. since it was a friday night so why not get dinner together as well. so i asked her to suggest a new food place we could try and mity nice grill was where we ended up going. christina's been here once with lyle a few weeks before and they both liked it so i was looking forward to it.

mity nice grill is part of the lettuce entertain you enterprise empire. conveniently located in the water tower place on michigan avenue, i wasn't sure where it was exactly. i think if i came to this on my own for the first time, i'd probably be so lost.  it is nestled within the foodlife food court at the water tower place and in order to get to mity nice, we asked for dining receipts from the foodlife stand host .

surprisingly, we didn't have to wait for a table on a friday night and as we were shown to our booth, we walked passed a bar where the game was on. it wasn't too crowded but there were a considerable number of diners. the decor was simple, minimal and casual.

christina raved about the basket of cheese popovers they serve pre-meal. and with good reason. those were yummy :) and addictive (which is so bad). the cheesy popover is hollow in the middle and then soft and chewy at the same time. we were so proud of ourselves because we managed to decline when the waiter came by and asked if we wanted a bread basket refill.

instead of ordering two entrees, christina suggested we could order an appetizer and an entree to share since the serving size was decent.

appetizer | spicy shrimp & avocado cocktail . corn tortilla chips ($11)

when i think of shrimp cocktail, i imagine the generic whole shrimp arranged along the rim of cocktail glass with the usual sauce in the middle. their take was more of a mexican style with chunks of avocado in a sweet tomato sauce but with a spicy bite. the shrimp was fresh and pairs well with the creamy avocado (both of which i love) scooped up with those crunchy corn tortilla chips. it was messy to eat though cos the sauce was on the thinner side so it threatened to spill over as we tried to scoop everything onto the chip. i thought it was a great interpretation though and it was difficult to stop snacking on these.

big plate | cedar-planked maple-glazed salmon . fresh market vegetables ($20)

i guess we were in the mood for a seafood dinner :) we were torn between the two fish dishes but upon our waiter's recommendation, this was the dish of choice. when the salmon was served at our table, i was semi disappointed cos i expected the whole cedar plank presentation but it was served on a cedar grilling sheet. taste-wise, it was pretty good. i like the maple glaze for the tasty flaky salmon although i would probably prefer salmon to be a lil rare in the middle. not sure if i tasted the smokey or the flavor a cedar plank would usually impart on the salmon. i loved the roasted vegetables of cauliflower, carrots and sweet corn which were seasoned well and delish in my tummy. overall, a good dish.

at the end of the meal, we were glad we shared the dishes cos it was a good amount of food. mity nice grill's motto is good food. served right. they held true to their promise with attentive and friendly service and good food. it's worth a visit if you are in  the area and in the mood for an all american fare.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

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11:59 AM sians 0 Comments

since my delicious visit to the publican ages ago, i added blackbird on my restaurant wishlist. what they have a common is paul kahan. paul kahan is also the mastermind behind avec and big star, all of which have built quite a loyal fan base of their own. morever, two of my friends  recommended the food at this michelin guide one star restaurant so i was more than thrilled to include blackbird on my food itinerary when ryan came to visit me in chicago.

it was a monday afternoon. blackbird offers a three course prix-fixed lunch menu on weekdays for $22 but we decided against it and ordered from their regular menu. 

while waiting for our food, it gave me a chance to look around the restaurant. its decor leaned towards minimalist with a modern and classy touch. the tables were spaced too closely to each other and i could do with more personal space since it felt rather uncomfortable to talk to my own company. one good thing was they have these special hooks that allows us to hang our bags/purses at our table instead of placing on the floor or taking up more space on the bench.

appetizer | coffee-scented fluke tartare . lemon cucumber . saffron . bread sauce . ($11)

the fluke tartare had a very light flavor with the occasional rich notes from the fish itself. the crunch of the chip and the seasoned cucumber were nice additions of texture and different flavors to weave between the bites of the smooth fish which almost seemed like it melts in my mouth. ryan thought he was underwhelmed by the flavors. i liked it, he thought it was alright.

entree | blackbird classic bouillabaisse . daily selection of fish and shellfish. fennel . potato . saffron . garlic . thyme . grilled crouton . ($15)

the only other bouillabaisse i've had was from cafe des architectes and the two were very different. i guess i had my expectation before this dish even hit the table. this is a much lighter interpretation and soup is thinner with a predominant fennel flavor. since the seafood included are daily selections, the fresh ingredients were cooked perfectly - flakey fish and the mussels were cooked well. and the shrimp was sweet and succulent. the element that i really love was the toast with a spread of truffle aioili that gave the richness this dish needed.  while this dish was good, i was left wanting something more - somewhat unsatisfied and it felt like something was lacking.


entree | wood-grilled sturgeon . ham hock . red beet . cabbage . smoked dates . walnut consomme . ($15)

this was delicious - probably my favorite dish of the day. it was really awesome, satisfying, succulent played beautifully with complicated layers of flavors from the other elements on the dish.  i had one of those case of dish envy and although ryan was willing to exchange this dish for mine, i couldn't bring myself to do it. after one bite to taste and couldn't resist to ask for another. haha. it had some nice grill marks and very subtle and light smoky flavor. one complaint we had was probably that the serving was a bit small.
dessert | cocoa gateau . goat's milk . kola nut . fresno . hibiscus sorbet . ($10)

such a lovely presentation. this dessert was sooo yummy. the rich crumbled gateau reminded me a delicious flourless chocolate cake with some occasional surprise crunch from the other ingredients in the dessert. the hibiscus sorbet adds a refreshingly sweet with some tart flavor which acts like a palate cleanser. a fantastic way to end our meal.

however, the service was left much to be desired. ryan was rather upset because our whole meal took almost two hours which is quite long for lunch. we had a long wait before our entrees got to our table and we were starving by then. the service was quite formal which oddly made me feel a tad uncomfortable but that could just really be something  i am not used to. but even with their standard of service potrayed, ryan's glass wasn't refilled for a good thirty minutes (he was waiting to see when they would notice) and that was because he asked for a refill. who knows? maybe we just got unlucky with the service that day.

minus some of the misses, the food at blackbird was delicious. in the matter of if i'd return anytime soon, it's still on the fence for me.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

Blackbird on Urbanspoon


minghin cuisine

2:25 PM sians 0 Comments

originated from a chinese custom, dim sum is linked to the tradition of yum cha which  translates to drinking tea. based on, dim sum is defined as small dumplings, usually steamed or fried and filled with meat, seafood, vegetables. condiments, etc.

dim sum holds very special position in my heart because the childhood memories it invokes - a dim sum session was always a special family event (with aunts and uncles as well) whenever we return to my mom's hometown, ipoh which happens to be the home of the best dim sum in malaysia. i remember when i was really young, i would always request for fish ball out of all the other menu options (i was a sucker for that fish ball cos it was yummy!) but could never pick it up with my chopsticks (i was young!). my parents would make a fish ball lollipop with one of the chopsticks and i would run along (not exactly) and be happily gobbling it down. <3

anywho, i digressed.

i enjoy the occasional dim sum with friends in chinatown - it is not something i can do frequently just because it's usually a meat overdose experience for me. my boss (who is chinese) recommended a dim sum place that was opened not too long ago,  minghin cuisine which happened to be her favorite dim sum restaurant in chicago. ryan has always loved dim sum so i suggested for us to try this place during his last visit. this is my second visit to the restaurant so i kinda knew what i was going to order this time around.

the restaurant was tastefully decorated in modern decor highlighting chinese culture accents through arts and carved woodwork. this two-floor restaurant is steadily gaining popularity and was bustling when we got there at about noon. they told us it was about half an hour wait as we put our names down.

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typically at dim sum restaurants, the baskets of dumplings are pushed around in a cart around the restaurant so patrons could stop them and look at what dumplings are offered. however, minghin omitted the cart system and provides a menu with pictures of the dumplings on which you can indicate how many of each you would like in the tiny white box at the bottom left of the menu item.

there were a few must haves and there was one particular baked bun that i've never had at any other dim sum restaurants before. and another must have is a pot of warm chinese tea to go with the meal - well wasn't dim sum originally linked to drinking tea?

steamed | pork & shrimp dumpling "siu mai" ($3.25)

siu mai is one of the classic dim sums that i would always order. seasoned well and moist. i could taste both the pork and shrimp flavors which was great. yummy.

steamed | minghin shrimp dumpling "har gao" ($3.25)

another one of the classics and always on my to order list. i thought the shrimp was pretty fresh and the wrapper was at a good thickness. it was hard to eat this in two bites since it tends to fall apart.  this dish is very simple so it depends heavily on the freshness of the ingredients. i liked it :)

steamed | stuffed bean curd skin with shrimp and pork  ($3.25)

this dumpling is a regular appearance on my must order list at dim sum restaurants. it comes with a light and flavorful sauce at the bottom. minghin stuffed a generous amount of meat in the parcel of bean curd skin. similar to other dishes, this was also executed well. 

steamed | spare rib and rice noodle roll in pot ($3.65)

this is not a typical dish that i can find at all dim sum restaurants. i can usually find rice noodles but never cooked this way. the spare ribs are really tender and goes really well with the rice noodles. there were also cubes of taro which is soft and creamy. to offset the savoriness of the dish, it was topped with slices of pickled green chillies. i had the beef version of this dish my first visit and my personal preference would be this one.

bun | baked creamy egg yolk bun ($ 3.65)

another atypical item that i've never had before coming to this place. the bun itself has an almost crusty top with buttery and soft texture. the inside was almost hollow but that is were the salty/savory rich egg yolk is hidden. it's a play on texture and contrast of sweet - savory flavors. overall it was a tad rich for me but still delicious. on the other hand, ryan liked it a lot and so does my boss. 

at many other dim sum places, hoisin sauce and chilli sauce for dipping are served with the dim sum but not at minghin which we found ourselves wanting some in the middle of our meal. dim sum is offered from 9am to 4pm but they also offers a la carte dishes throughout their operating hours. 

regardless, minghin cuisine promises good dim sum but at a slightly higher price than their counterparts in chinatown.  but if you'd like some of the atypical dim sum such as the creamy egg yolk bun, this is a destination worth trying.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

MingHin Cuisine on Urbanspoon



5:24 PM sians 0 Comments

it was one of those friday nights when i meet up with one of my favorite girls, mary beth for an evening of shopping, dinner and catching up. unfortunately, it was raining that evening and we were both starving after we finished shopping at our first store so we decided to go straight for dinner.

with the bad weather and all, we decided to go to somewhere close to my apartment so we could hang out at my apartment after dinner until the rain subsided (or so we hoped). and to markethouse restaurant in the doubletree hotel we went.

it was my second time here but first for mary beth. my first time dining here was with christina which also marked the first time i've ever had meatloaf. the dish is called meatloaf "markethouse way" which is one of their signature dishes and i remembered enjoying it with deliciously roasted seasonal vegetables. christina had their seasonal risotto which was the chanterelle mushroom risotto which was comfort food at its best - very delicious!

markethouse restaurant promises the use of fresh and local ingredients, hence quite a few of the dishes on their menu are seasonal and changes frequently. i, for one, love that in a restaurant cos ultimately fantastic dishes starts from fresh and great ingredients.

the restaurant itself is dimly lit. decor is simple but rustic and cozy with a few art pieces by the booths and the walls. there are two entrances - one through the lobby of the hotel where you would have to walk past the bar area to get to the maƮtre d. the other entrance is on fairbanks street.

after placing our orders, they started us off with a piece of freshly baked soft whole grain bread with softened butter and homemade bread&butter pickles (my fav type of pickles!) which they served in the cutest lil le creuset pot. i thought what a good way to start the meal.

entree | miller farms rotisserie half chicken . wild honeycomb - cayenne mop . candied lemon . asparagus ($20)

i wanted something simple and this dish fit the bill. plus, our waiter recommended this dish when i asked for his opinion between the two choices that i narrowed down. i especially liked the honeycomb - cayenne sauce/glaze which was a nice balance of sweet and subtle spicy kick although i don't mind it being a tad more spicy. the chicken was still moist which was lovely.  i was left wanting more of that sauce to pair with the chicken. the peppery flavor of the arugula countered the sweetness and i actually liked the candied lemon slices. the asparagus spears were cooked beautifully but i wished there were more. was i blown away? not exactly but it was good.

entree | pot pie . artichoke, black trumpet and hedgehog mushroom . asparagus . fingerling potato . celery root . truffle cream . crispy golden brown puff pastry . ($13)

i had a bite or two of mary beth's pot pie in which she asked them to hold any kinds/forms mushrooms in the dish (since she doesn't like them). i thought it was slightly bland and could have used more salt. the cream sauce is on the looser and lighter side but was still hearty. mary beth told me she liked the dish which reminded her of the pot pie her mom makes. i guess i'd have to partially agree when she said it was a bit messy to eat since the puff pastry crumbs were all over as she tried get through the dome of pastry.

dessert | butterscotch bread pudding . a la mode . ($7)

their signature dessert. and very rightfully so. we were stuffed after our entrees (i even had to get the rest of my chicken in a to go box) but i insisted mary beth to try this brioche bread pudding. a portion huge served in a le creuset ramekin pot enough to be shared by two (or even three actually). served warm, fresh from the oven and almost bruleed on top, they drizzled some butterscotch and finished it with a huge scoop of cold pecan-praline ice cream. i love the contrast of the warm and the cold and how the ice cream melts into the bread pudding with time.. the crust formed on top is probably my favorite part with the soft, creamy inside and pair it with some ice cream. it was very rich, decadent and almost borderline too sweet for me but interestingly enough, it was difficult for me to put down my spoon and stop eating. be aware though, since they bake these bread puddings individually and to order, it takes several minutes to come out to the table. regardless the wait, do not pass this dessert up.

markethouse restaurant celebrates fresh local ingredients through their well executed traditional american cuisine at slightly pricey costs. while i enjoyed the good food there, it's far from being exceptionally fantastic. however, the convenience of it being so close to my apartment might see to my return visit sometime soon.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others 

Markethouse on Urbanspoon