Slurping Turtle

One of the many drawbacks to reverse commuting to the burbs for work is the fact that there are few good places to eat in the infrequent event that I actually step out for an hour and half lunch. Of course, I’m always too happy to hit up Portillos, Panera, or the local joints such as Emil’s and Firkin. But this past week I was in a seminar for three days in a hotel downtown, and I was able to get a taste of what River North working life would be like. And I was sad. Very sad, as I viewed the passersby around me who no doubt took all of the deliciousness around them for granted. Unfortunately on Day 1 of our seminar, my coworker and I had work to do so we grabbed some quick takeout sushi then spent the remaining 45 minutes on our laptops. Not very enjoyable to say the least. But the next two days were at our disposal, and on Day 2 we decided to speedily walk to Slurping Turtle (same chef as Takashi) so as to hopefully sit before the lunch rush. We arrived with perfect timing, and were immediately sat at a long table surrounded by other two-somes across from each other. I nosily asked the patron directly to my right what he was eating, as I had a slight cold and his soup looked like just the ticket.

Turns out he was having the Shoyu noodles, paired with pork in a soy broth with assorted veggies. Decision made. However, the diner to my left interjected saying I had to get his noodles (the Tonkotu) with essentially the same ingredients, but in a creamy pork broth. My sore throat was not interested in the creamy tho, and I stuck with my Shoyu, while my coworker proceeded with the Tonkotu. Though the noodles contained simple ingredients, the flavors were supremely potent and went down wonderfully hot. The portions were just large enough and I left feeling full and satisfied and even a little cured of my cold. That’s the best thing about comfort food. Or in this case specifically, Asian comfort food (you wouldn’t think that’s a thing, but it is! Simply It is in the same mold.) The fact that I actually felt better from sickness says a lot. I’ve been to Takashi which was amazing, so I was expecting big things for Slurping Turtle, and it did not disappoint. I would go back anytime for some noodles, or try anything else on the menu. 3.5 out of 5 spoons.


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RPM Italian

Every day, my drive home from work is about an hour and a half. On really bad days, it can go up to two. To pass this otherwise waste of my life, and so that I don’t have to hear Flo Rida ten times in a row, I listen to audiobooks. Generally, I like to challenge myself when I read so listening to said audiobooks isn’t exactly a breeze, especially after working all day (I currently just finished Atlas Shrugged and believe me when I say that John Galt is a talker. Like went on for three CDs without interruption talker.) But I say this so I can justify my next statement to you dear readers. When I get home, I watch E! news. Yes, I should be watching MSNBC or CNN. But, about 90% of the time, I watch Sportscenter when I wake up in the morning,  and E! news when I get home. I have no shame in this, and yet I understand the inevitable judgment that goes along with my admittedly poor television choices. The news just give me anxiety. I know there are grave and severe goings on in the world, but honestly, instead of spending a sleepless night worrying that Iran or North Korea is going to send a nuclear missile through my house, I’d much rather know what Selena Gomez wore to the Kids Choice Awards last night. This last comment puts me to recommend another mindless guilty pleasure – Fashion Police. Joan Rivers. Good stuff. Giuliana Rancic who is incidentally both on Fashion Police and E! News is my favorite, hard-hitting reporter to watch. Yeah, she needs to eat like ten burgers and wash them down with some Oberweiss shakes, but she’s cool and the best darn broadcast journalist on all things perfunctory.

So when I heard she was opening a restaurant with her hubby Bill, (of The Apprentice fame,) in Chicago, I was PUMPED. Yes, that much pumped. I finally went last night with my friend Andi, and do not kid you when I say that the highlight of my night was walking in. It’s styled very much like the Pump Room, and one of my favorite things about RPM is the waiter’s white blazers. First of all, you don’t see white jackets every day, and secondly, they were really well tailored for a modern fit. No hulk or bulk, and the female waiters actually looked cute! Very well played.

I originally commented to Andi that it was interesting they were playing the “Top 40” as their ambience music, but after a quick trip to the quiet bathroom, I realized they were straight up playing some dance beats. Thinking of coming back late night to check out the crowd – but I will definitely stick to the drinks.

If you couldn’t already tell, I’ve been trying to procrastinate actually commenting on the food. Believe me, I really really wanted to love it. Truly I did. But I can’t let my love of B and G cloud my judgment.  The only two things I enjoyed were their garlic truffle bread appetizer, and chocolate covered gelato dessert. Those two were the tastiest part of the meal. Everything in between was either just okay, or bland. The pasta? Andi and I added salt and pepper (never a good sign.) The Giuliana salad? Okay, not surprising or new or even that tasty. Their spicy pepperoni? Okay as well.

Giuliana, I love you and have such high expectations for you, so I expected so much better… Can you get a new chef or something? 1.5 out of 5 spoons.


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My friend Alla and I ended up being the only two who could make it to dinner one night, and I had made Restaurant Week reservations at Scoozi last year. We were planning on making a night out of it, so while we waited for our table, we got some vino and people-watched. Apparently Scoozi on a Saturday is quite poppin’. Most notably, some sort foreign Elvis impersonator ended up  with a portable microphone and started singing show tunes with a particular table quite close to Alla and myself.  Very amusing. Anyway, the place was packed, but the service was quick and our waiter very hospitable for being slammed. So props to Scoozi there. What’s more, their Restaurant Week Menu was huge! Alla and I chose three different courses, and each portion was enough to feed 2-3 people! Seriously, whole pizzas, and huge plates full of steak, pasta, and tiramisu. Scoozi upholds wholesome, heavy Italian goodness with creamy sauces, and rich meats. They’re “Comfortable Italian” motto is very well suited. I would almost say their food is organic, it is so fresh and flavorful. I came to Scoozi, not expecting anything, and was pretty blown away. It will never top Wildfire as my number 1 Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, but it definitely makes the top three. 3 out of 5 spoons.

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The Gage

In 2011, I went to at least three eateries for Restaurant Week that I can remember. There may have been a couple more, but as I am updating one year later, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few have slipped my mind. Out of the three that I can recall, two were good, and one was no bueno. And that no bueno was The Gage. Though many a friend had insisted it was very tasty, and I was very excited to try it, I was less than pleased.

We of course ordered off of the Restaurant Week menu with poor results, the most amusing being my friend Jamie’s beet risotto. She herself regretted the order, as she was not so fond of beets. And then it came and looked like blood on a plate. Not very appetizing, and according to her, not very tasty either. I had some sort of soup and beef combination, as everyone around me was ordering salad and fish, and wanted to try something new. It was okay. Certainly nothing as what I was expecting for having heard such rave reviews.

I am willing to go back, however, as I am literally the only person I know who has tried it during Restaurant Week, and decidedly disliked it.  I suppose it deserves another go. Seriously, I really don’t get why some well-established restaurants just cannot get their ish together for restaurant week. You are making the same thing over and over again? Shouldn’t it be perfected? Perhaps I’m too fastidious. In either case, until I return, The Gage is 2 out of 5 spoons.

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Maude’s Liquor Bar

How had I never heard of Maude’s Liquor Bar prior to going there? Because I usually pride myself with being in the know with these things, I have no idea. I was chatting with a friend about my obsession with going out to dinner last fall, and the subject of Maude’s came up. I of course, insisted I was down to go and try anywhere that had a good word, and so we went a few weeks later as he had a reservation and his former dining companion canceled. Good for me!

Located among that long stretch of novel restaurants on West Randolph, you can easily pass Maude’s without realizing it’s there. But once entering the black awning, you are stepping into a quaint, wood-floored room with a fairly high ceiling, small tables, and a bar in the back. Honestly, the layout reminded me of Jam (it’s that small), but with more antique, than modern sensibility. We waited a short time for our table, with the bartender graciously bringing our glasses of vino to us while we stood a little apart from the crowded bar. In fact, the whole downstairs was packed. Thankfully, we were seated upstairs, which was far preferable to me. The upstairs had the appearance of an exclusive, VIP type library; small and dark, with it’s own kitchen in full view.

We had been told to order the chicken; I was dubious but it proved to be a good order; it was buttery and delicious. From the bread, to the frites, to the steamed mussels (surprise surprise, I ordered these), everything was flavored to perfection. For being hailed as upscale French fare, Maude’s was not too expensivo. I highly recommend this spot if you can get a timely reservation, especially for a date setting all you lovebirds out there. 4 out of 5 spoons.

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Ode to Wildfire

Ah Wildfire. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

I could practically live in you, for the rest of my days.

Your first impression just may be your best… That oniony bread puts my diet to rest.

Chopped salad is next, a must for all diners; only portillos’ is arguably finer.

A special today! Medallions three ways. Side of mashed potatoes. My week is made.

Appletini in hand, and steak on my plate, what more could I ask for? You’s da perfect date.

I don’t want to leave you, but you’re not really gone. I have leftovers with me, and I depart with a yawn.

With two drinks and great food, it’s time for a nap. Til next time, Wildfire!

And that’s the end of this rap.

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III Forks

One of my cousins came into town last week, and since I rarely see my father’s side of the family, I jumped at the chance to go to dinner with her and her bf, and his brother. She had made a reservation at III forks, which I had never heard of, but was game to try. According to the concierge at her hotel, it was the new and happening steak house in Lakeshore East. Man, but that place is hard to find. My cab driver didn’t even know how to get there. Eventually, navigating the complicated maze that is Lakeshore East, and thanks to Google Maps, we found it. It is your typical restaurant you usually see in that area, located on the bottom floor of a tall high rise, with plenty of glass, a long bar, and wine bottles stacked in glass casings everywhere. We were sat at the back of the restaurant, right next to a narrow, open fire pit. Really, this place was exactly designed like Cantina Laredo, and though a much different cuisine, paralleled Cantina in it’s mediocrity on food. Sadly, the best part of the meal was the delicious round loaf of bread and butter (we devoured two.) I of course, ordered a filet mignon medium rare as did my cousin, and we shared a side of asparagus. Though it seemed to be cooked correctly, the steak itself was not as tender as it could have been, and the flavor was just so-so. The asparagus was fine, but really, how can you mess up asparagus? My cousin’s boyfriend, Greg,  had a salmon special with a blueberry sauce which seemed interesting, but he too, was unimpressed. I find myself very fortunate that Greg insisted on footing the bill for the four of us. III Forks is three times the price it should be for the meal you get. You are paying for your location. And that’s it. The next day, Mama Finch and I went to Wildfire which is a heck of a lot cheaper, and an infinitely better meal (I shall be writing about that next.) III Forks is mediocre at best. Service is good, food is eh. 1.5 out of 5 spoons.

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