Sunday, March 2, 2008

The chef shuffling continues . . .

The Stew reports that Coco Pazzo (300 W. Hubbard St., 312-836-0900) exec chef Tony Priolo is leaving at the end of the month to do his own thing in the old Timo space in River West.

So . . . was it a hit or miss?!

The first-ever Chicago Restaurant Week just ended on Friday, and reviews are coming in. Some of the highlights:

Aigre Doux (230 W. Kinzie St., 312-329-9400): " I was a happy man after my first spoonful of silky-smooth butternut squash veloute, inlaid with long strips of black trumpet mushroom. The other choice was a pair of crispy risotto balls (left), sitting on two paper-thin strips of prosciutto di parma. The dab of aioli in the corner I left alone; it wasn’t needed. Salmon For the main course, there was slow-baked salmon(left), medium rare (the server asked), over a puree of curried parsnips; and a terrific steak frites with hangar steak (below), wonderful thin fries, and, under the steak, a bit of creamed spinach that was so good I wanted more. I don’t think there’s a better creamed spinach in any steakhouse in the city. Dessert is a “banana toffee coupe,” a pilsner glass layered with caramelized bananas, bitter-caramel ice cream and homemade toffee. Yum."—The Stew

Aria (200 N. Columbus Dr., 312-444-9494): "The naan was fantastic. Everything else (well, except dessert) was just too darn salty! Everything! We split the risotto milanese, with veal shank, saffron, lemon gremolata, then each had the restaurant week menu. The risotto was the first example of the kitchen being way too heavy-handed with the salt, to the point where everything else was just overwhelmed."—

Naha (500 N. Clark St., 312-321-6242): "Two of us had the squash soup with hickory nuts and maple syrup. Nice combination of textures with the creamy soup and some crunch from the nuts, vaguely sweet but with some woodsiness as well. Third member of our party had cured trout w/ door county caviar and "mosaic of nicoise garnishes." I was hoping for a taste but didn't get one. The plate was truly wiped clean, but I have no other info about it. . . . Desserts were a pineapple tart with almond and coconut, and a dark chocolate cake with black forest ice cream and pinot noir. The dark chocolate cake was very nice but not transcendent, though the pinor noir and the black forest ice cream were brilliant. The pineapple tart was more strongly coconut than pineapple, and was very much enjoyed."—

one sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St., 312-850-0303): "The potato-leek soup was calling to me, for instance, but I started instead with parmesan gnocchi, tossed with tiny cubes of butternut squash, marcona almonds and crumbled amaretto cookies. The flavors echoed those of a traditional Mantua dish (except that in Italy, it would be ravioli). Delicious. My main course consisted of kurobuta pork tenderloin, caramelized red cabbage and apple salad, arranged into three small stacks and surrounding a rectangle of crispy pork belly. The pork was as tender as any filet mignon, and the fatty pork belly added an element of pure decadence. A juniper-scented berry sauce tied the dish together."—The Stew

Boundary issues?

What's gonna happen when The Fifty/50 (2047 W. Division St.) opens on March 18 a block away from last year's Wicker Park sensation The Boundary (1932 W. Division St., 773-278-1919)?

It should be an interesting sight to watch as the two sports-oriented spots fight for West Town sports fans during March Madness—the busiest time of the year for NCAA Men's Basketball season.