Read the latest restaurant reviews from the MIBS
Watch out Charlie Trotter, Michael is hard on your heels. His 3- and 4-course prix fixe meals are less expensive, but every bit as delicious. The Sauteed Medallion of Foie Gras is my favorite appetizer, but the Warm Lobster Ravioli and Pan-Roasted Jumbo Diver Scallop are almost as delectable. It’s difficult to choose between the entrees, including Roast Loin of New Zealand Venison, accompanied by Sweet Potato and Celery Root Gratin ($30). We thought the chateaubriand and braised short ribs were the best because the meats were so melt-in-your-mouth tender. Service was exceptional!
—Susan B. Noyes
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
Yes, I know it’s a chain, but there are a few things on the menu that I can’t do without. Like the Chicken Lettuce Wraps, minced, flavorful chicken served in cool lettuce cups; the vegetable dumplings, pan-fried, of course; the Chengdu Spiced Lamb, wok-caramelized and delicious; and the Lemon Pepper Shrimp with leeks and bean sprouts. Hand me a slab of the Great Wall of Chocolate, a ridiculously enormous six-layered chocolate cake with chocolate chips and raspberry sauce, and I’ll call it a day. Can somebody call me a cab? I don’t think I can drive.
Mario’s Mondo Café
This Old World Italian gem is tucked away in a Glenview strip mall, but it’s always packed. Warm, friendly service smoothes over any wait. A family-run place, they try to use only locally produced and sustainable ingredients. Don’t miss the mussels and bruschetta apps, and the pastas (notably the Pasta Arrabiata and the Linguine con Vongole) are terrific. The Lobster al Forno is a splurge but well worth it. You’ll be full to the brim, but find room for the homemade chocolate-dipped cannoli. We love this place, and we’re obviously not alone!
Balsan at the Elysian Hotel
Tucked away on the third floor of the gorgeous new Elysian Hotel in the heart of the Gold Coast, Balsan offers a lovely, well-chosen menu of organic and artisanal comfort food in a very chic setting. Opt for the trendy charcuterie and cheese platters, impeccably fresh. We enjoyed the most transcendent, perfect roast chicken in recent memory. Feeding two handily, it’s carved tableside with a flourish, and accompanied by brussels sprouts roasted with bacon. We added a side of buttermilk grits. Yum. Also loved the Tarte Flambee (topped with Gruyere cheese and smoky bacon and fired in a wood-burning oven) and the Paris Brest dessert, filled with an irresistible hazelnut cream. The French press coffee was outstanding.
Ciao Amore Ristorante
Ciao Amore is in the Pilsen neighborhood, not an area we usually frequent, but a few work friends raved, so we thought try it. The decor was lovely—cozy and hip. It’s a BYOB restaurant so we ran across the street to the liquor store and picked up a wonderful $8 Shiraz. We started with a fresh and tasty tomato bruschetta—very garlicky, but very good. Next up: Lobster Ravioli in a spicy marinara sauce (jalapenos give it a kick) and the Veal Piccata. The ravioli were extremely garlicky, so you might want to ask them to tone it down. The veal was good, but not a rave. We decided on just two chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert. Instead, the waiter brought us a plate with chocolate-covered strawberries, a chocolate ganache and a tiramisu. He said the chef wanted us to try them all. We did and they were all fabulous!