Friday, February 8, 2008

Some time off

Hey, Fabulous Foodies!

312 Dining Diva is taking some personal time off, and will be back to regular postings on Wednesday, Feb. 13. In the meantime, have a fabulous time feasting out!

Before I go, just one more scoop to leave with you: La Bahia (4111 N. Lincoln Ave.) opens Sunday, Feb. 10 in the Irving Park 'hood. It specializes in fine Mexican cuisine. Hope someone gets a chance to check it out!

Oh, and now that sweet Sixteen (401 N. Wabash Ave., 312-588-8000) is open in the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, next up will be their super-sleek Rebar lounge, set to debut by the end of the month. As far as Sixteen, I'm looking forward to the Champagne High tea service, which starts on March 8. Served on Saturdays from 11am-3pm, menu highlights include an open-faced lobster club, King crab salad in a cucumber cup as well as sweet bites like chocolate Madelaines and a pecan tart with honey glaze. It's seriously fancy, with prices ranging from $32-$75 (with Champagne high), but sometimes you just need to treat yourself, honey.

And finally, Wicker Park's offbeat sensation Schwa (1466 N. Ashland Ave., 773-252-1466) reopens on Feb. 13, but don't even think about getting in there for Valentine's Day. You might have better luck snagging a table in this tiny BYO during the earlier part of the week because they're pretty much booked solid for the next few weekends.

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

A Mano (335 N. Dearborn St., 312-629-3500). "Housemade gelato and sorbetto are creamy and intense; they are the best bets for dessert (three scoops for $7). Among the gelato, I like chocolate chip, Amaretto and chocolate-hazelnut. As for the sorbetto, I recommend the orange prosecco."—Laura Bianchi (Crain's Chicago Business) Read it all here.

Elephant & Castle (185 N. Wabash Ave., 312-345-1710). "The fish is very good here, enveloped in a properly crunchy batter made with Bass Ale, wrapped in paper (which looks like newspaper but isn't) and served with soft, skin-on steak fries. What makes this place particularly noteworthy is that you get your choice of fish; Elephant & Castle offers cod fish and chips ($11) and halibut fish and chips ($14). Halibut is a fine choice; the fish is noticeably firmer than the cod but has better flavor and flakes beautifully."—Phil Vettel (Chicago Tribune) Read it all here.

Lao Shanghai (2163 S China Pl., 312-808-0830). "The meat, poultry and seafood menu tantalizes with sweet and savory flavors that finish with subtlety. Shanghai dumplings reveal chubby pouches of pork, but lack enough broth to fully enjoy the slurping. Signature smoked tea duck, marinated in five spices, boasts a crispy skin with tender meat right down to the bones. Pan-fried flat noodles tossed with bits of chicken, beef, pork and shrimp arrive without the excess grease. Juicy beef sauced with black beans, garlic and red and black peppers is surprisingly light."—Valerie Moloney (Chicago CitySearch) Read it all here

Marie’s Pizzeria and Liquors (4129 W. Lawrence, 773-725-1812). "Distressed copper tables, red vinyl booths, chandeliers cut like Superman’s ice fortress, and a colossal mirror painted with the Chicago skyline all contribute to the sense that the place ought to be swamped with mooks wearing pinkie rings. Instead the tables at Marie’s Pizzeria and Liquors are filled with old folks and families, and what brings them in is the superb crispy thin-crust Chicago-style pizza, which has a near perfect grease-to-cheese ratio and is sauced with a sharp gravy. The adjoining space is a well-stocked liquor store with more than 800 wines; you can uncork one at your table for a $2 fee."—Mike Sula (Chicago Reader) Read it all here.