of restaurants past :: three in one

3:56 PM sians 1 Comments

i mentioned in one of my past entries that there are a few restaurants that i have tried months ago but have yet to write about. it's  been so long ago that these experiences are considered obsolete since a lot of restaurants update their menu to match the seasonal ingredients or just to switch things up a little.

i blame me and my slacking with updates. i've looked it up and this list includes dinner at hopleaf and brunches at sola and sable kitchen&bar. in view of this, i've decided to write a concise compilation of these three restaurants (which i hate doing hence i promise to try to not do this again) since it's been months i've eaten at these restaurants, take these reviews with a grain of salt.

to jump to these specific restaurants sections in this entry, these are the links you could click on::
{dinner at hopleaf}
{brunch at sola restaurant}
{sunday brunch at sable kitchen}

when :: thanksgiving 2011
meal :: dinner

ambience :: loud bar scene up front. in contrast, it is quieter in the dimly lit dining area out back where its decor is simple with a touch of vintage. there is a semi open kitchen where you can watch the chef prepare your food. there is limited seating so be prepared to wait if you are planning to go there during dinner rush.
note :: must be 21 with valid id to enter the restaurant.

food :: defines gastrotavern at its best, serving great new american with their personal twist and influence from different cultures. their specialty is mussels.

mussels for one ($13) or mussel for two ($22) | served with frites and aioli. it comes in two ways :

o1| belgian style :: steamed with witterkerke white ale with sliced shallots, celery, thyme and bayleaf
o2| white wine :: steamed in white wine and pork broth with white beans and tasso ham

since there were four of us, we ordered both styles. belgian style is reminiscent of the publican mussels are made out of. the mussels were delicious but it is a bit salty for my liking. R thinks it's normal level of saltiness for american food. great for dunking the chunks of french baguette. the frites were crispy and seasoned well, pairs well with the mild, creamy aioli. personally, i like publican mussels better over these.

the entrees (no longer available on their current menu as of the time this was posted) | i shared black earth farms lamb stew with moroccan spices, carrots, parsnips; cous cous with slivered almonds and golden raisins ($18) with R while R's sister and her friend shared the gunthrop farms duck leg confit :: crispy skinned with beluga lentils, braised cabbage, glazed baby carrots. ($18)

the lamb stew was hearty with the tender chunks of lamb, seasoned with the right balance of warm spices. the unexpected crunch of the almond slivers and sweetness from the raisins made this surprisingly delicious. the duck leg confit was as described - crispy with succulent, gamey dark meat with great flavors. even though they are no longer part of the menu, the excellent execution of these dishes probably reflects what hopleaf can do with their current offerings.

hopleaf was one of my co-workers' favorite hang outs and they've always recommended the mussels, cb&j sandwich and the reuben. definitely a place worth trying for their yummy interpretation of pub food with great selection of beers to boot.

Hopleaf on Urbanspoon

{return to list}

TWO | sola restaurant

when :: end of fall 2011
meal :: brunch

ambience :: not quite sure what i think of the place in terms of decor which was simple and with hues of warm colors such as orange and beige.. i thought the open bar counter was a bit out of place. i love at the fireplace at the front of the dining area which makes the place a lil cozier.

food :: asian fusion cuisine with hawaiian influence and new american fare.

entrees we ordered were short rib benedict :: prize-winning short ribs, eggs, cheddar biscuits, pesto, hollandaise sauce ($12) and breakfast wrap :: flour tortilla, beans, kalua pork, eggs, spinach and avocado mango ($9)

from what i remember which is vaguely was that i enjoyed the short ribs which was tender and the eggs were poached beautifully. always a great plus when the yolks oozes its richness on the tender meat and savory cheddar biscuits. this is the dish to get if you tried sola for brunch. xy was disappointed with his selection of breakfast wrap and thought it lacked seasoning. i gave him almost half of my entree (since i was full) which was what he wanted to order in the first place but passed on it since i decided on it first and he was late to brunch.

Sola on Urbanspoon

{return to list}

THREE | sable kitchen&bar

when :: summer 2011
meal :: sunday brunch

ambience :: loved the modern contemporary decor with deep green, black, and silver being the main hues - definitely my cup of tea. natural light streaming through the ceiling high windows - sucker for both the modern contemporary and natural lighting.

food :: new american cuisine.

savory entrees that kf and i selected were smoked bacon omelet with asparagus, chives, brie, home fries and choice of toast ($14) and wild mushroom-spinach eggs benedict with home fries ($14) respectively. i was terribly underwhelmed by the flavors. my eggs benedict was missing seasoning and the only good thing was the poached eggs were done correctly. kf's dish was better probably due to the bacon to provide the smoky and saltiness to the dish and he was kind enough to offer half his dish to trade with half of mine since he noticed how miserable i was with my dish.

i would definitely love to give sable kitchen and bar another try but not for brunch. i have read great things about their lunch/dinner menu and would love to see if it could redeem itself in terms of flavors.

Sable Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

{return to list}

there you have it, three reviews in one.

p.s. there might be a couple more compilation entries to make up for more-than-postponed-for-too-long entries . however, this is definitely not my style since i prefer to dedicate an entry each to a restaurant experience but i gotta do what i gotta do :p

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


chicken & waffles

6:01 PM sians 0 Comments

i posted {the list} a couple of months back (refer to top right of the page for link as well). i first discovered the list of {1oo things to eat before you die} via facebook and was intrigued to see how many i have checked off - my number is 78, if you were wondering. 

one of which was #18. the unlikely pairing of chicken&waffles. i've heard about it before and have always wanted to try it. the first time i've heard of this marriage of sweet + salty in breakfast + fried chicken meal was from food network's throwdown with bobby flay where melba's chicken and waffles which is a big hit in new york city. there wasn't any melba's here in chi-town so xy and i made our way to chicago's home of chicken & waffles instead.

located south of the loop, i was starving for some good southern comfort. the place was packed and there was almost a line our the door when we got there about noon. xy and i felt a tad awkward/left out cos we were the few rare asians at the restaurant. its decor exuded a traditional southern diner style with a hint of tropical feel. the atmosphere was a bustling and a lil loud with jazz music playing in the background. what more can you ask for? southern fried chicken and jazz music goes hand in hand :)

there were so much that i wanted to try but i just can't get it all in my belly. i had to settle with my entree and i had to convince xy to share a side with me.


to make this meal as what i would call a complete southern comfort meal, i ordered a glass of miss kisha's southern iced tea ($2.80). sadly the tea was too sweet for my liking :/

entree :: the saint | a quarter of dark fried chicken with 2 waffles ($9.95)

i know that the best way to determine how skillful a chef is at cooking fried chicken is how moist they can keep the white meat cuts but gosh dang it, i wasn't going to settle for second best! (in my book, dark meat trumps white meat!). as two waffles topped with scoops of butter accompanied by two pieces of dark meat fried chicken with syrup on the side served was in front of me, i was a tad upset that i had to wait a few minutes before i could dig in for pictures (the sacrifices i go through for blog entries ;) hahah)

i'll start with the not-so-good aspect of the dish: i was disappointed with the waffles. it didn't have the crispy exterior with fluffy insides which is usually how i love waffles to be. this was definitely compensated by the very very yummy fried chicken - moist and succulent, seasoned perfectly with the awesome crispy skin (oh how i love the crunch but oh so bad for you ><). what i'd classify as perfectly done southern fried chicken. now if you put them all together, the chicken, the crispy skin, the waffle and the syrup - LOVE! you get that textural differences of the skin with the waffles then you get the moistness of the chicken. the flavors of slight sweetness of the waffles echoed by the syrup is counter balanced by the savoriness and saltiness of the chicken. beginning to understand the reason behind the success of this unexpected marriage. but overall, i have to say the fried chicken outshone the waffles. regardless, definitely a must try combination!

entree :: carol's treat | a quarter of dark fried chicken smothered in gravy and onions with 2 waffles ($10.45)

xy's pick of the day. the same as the saint only instead of syrup it comes with a gravy ladled over the chicken. i think he had the same sentiments as i did :  chicken > waffles.  the gravy was delicious too and he really enjoyed the dish he ordered despite our disappointment with the waffles.

sides :: mac&cheese ($3.50)

nothing i was too crazy about. it wasn't the type of mac and cheese i was thinking of - if you are looking for creamy, oozing cheese kind of mac and cheese, you might want to skip this one.

if you think that fried chicken, waffles and syrup do not belong together, try your first chicken&waffles here before writing it off completely. history has shown sweet and savory pairings work heavenly together and this dish is no different. if not for chicken and waffles, try this restaurantout for the fried chicken and who knows, you could change our mind and be checking off one of the items from the list of 100 things to try before you die when you get here :)

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

Chicago's Home of Chicken & Waffles on Urbanspoon


NoMI kitchen

2:05 PM sians 1 Comments

having a beautiful, not-so-cold day in the midst of the winter season in chicago is very rare. and the best way to celebrate it is by finding a great brunch place to enjoy the lovely day. xy and i narrowed it down to NoMI which had been my place of interest since i found it on this year's restaurant week list.

located in park hyatt hotel, smacked right in the middle of michigan avenue just across from the famous chicago water tower, we made our way to the 7th floor of the hotel. at first, we were seated at the restaurant dining area and soon realized it was only for the buffet breakfast priced at $60 per person but with good reason - the selection of food was pretty much huge ranging from sushi to the classic american breakfast as well as made to order dishes from the menu.

even so, we were not THAT hungry for the buffet breakfast and just wanted to try out the dishes from their lunch menu. hence, they moved us out to a stylish yet comfortable lounge. the ambience of their lounge area is definitely one of my favorites - minimalist and modern contemporary with a touch of elegance in a casual way, revealing its own personality.  i loved the natural light streaming in, while we peeked at the view of the magnifient mile.

we agreed on sharing three dishes - all from different country of origin..

roll :: tiger roll | shrimp tempura, snow crab, spicy big eye tuna, avocado ($21)

our first course was a japanese fusion sushi roll. if i compared it with the other sushi rolls i've had in chicago, while this maki was pretty good, i can't help feeling disappointed that it was nowhere close to being outstanding. the seafood was fresh but the flavors did not stand out that i don't even remember how it tasted. when i had my first bite, i just remember feeling "meh".  this dish was alright but isn't something i would come back to NoMI for.

large plates :: steak frites | horseradish creme fraiche, natural jus ($22)

i'm a girl who loves her meat and potatoes and what better way to experience food love than with a seared piece of deliciousness and crispy, satisfying fries. the beef was seared beautifully, seasoned well and cooked to the right doneness. it was yummy! the fries was crispy as it was soft in the middle. sadly, that wasn't the consistent story throughout the whole bowl of frites - some were not very crispy but overall a tasty dish! :)

small plates :: veal meatballs  | pecorino cheese and stewed tomato sauce ($14)

this was possibly my favorite dish that we ordered that day. i loved the sauce that it was cooked in - comfortingly savory coupled with the sweetness and light tartness of the tomato sauce. several layers of lovely flavors coating the moist veal meatballs which i might add, was seasoned well. perfectly paired with grilled buttered slices of bread. yum! :)

there was one thing that i would really love to try which is their grilled cheese sandwich which boasts two favorite ingredients of mine - truffle butter and melted gooey cheese. i'd really like to return to try that. if not for the food, NoMI would be one place i will keep in mind as a rendezvous with friends for the relaxing yet elegant ambience, smacked right in the middle of michigan avenue :)

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

NoMI Kitchen on Urbanspoon