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Pork belly buns

Vora in the Gold Coast serves a Taiwanese version of pork belly buns. I haven't had the Slurping Turtle variety so I can't compare the two of them. But the Vora ones were good.

Apr 11, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Favorite spot for coffee and pastries/desserts?

I just tried Cellar Door Provisions in Logan Square a few weeks ago. They have very good pastries there and the energy of the place is hopping, especially during lunch time. Pls note, they close at 4 pm on Saturdays. You can check out what they have to offer in their facebook page as their menu changes frequently.

Apr 01, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Early Sunday Night Dinner on the Blue Line

Also in the Logan Square stop aside from the ones already mentioned is Reno. It's right across one of the Logan Square exits.

By the Damen/Ohare stop in Wicker Park, you can try Francesca Forno which is italian or Lillie's Q which is bbq.

Apr 01, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Thai New Year Festival 2014 (Songkran Festival)

According to my Thai friends and coworkers, they usually celebrate it in the Buddhist temples. Most of the congregants bring food for everyone. And most of the congregants who bring the food also own/operate Thai restaurants around the Chicago area.

Mar 18, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

5th Wedding Anniversary dinner suggestions for downtown??

For the budget you've presented, probably Cafe Spiaggia, or Baffo(note: I haven't been here yet, but if it's anything like it's NYC counterpart, it should be decent) if you need to stay downtown. Sepia or Boka if you are willing to take a cab or public transportation.

Mar 18, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Returning to Chicago - healthy week in the loop

I've been to Native Foods in Lakeview a couple of times. As someone who doesn't eat his veggies often, I would say that I found the place delicious and filling. And on the plus side, they do not serve soda for drinks. They have juices instead.

Also near the loop is Slurping Turtle which is a ramen spot. It should be open for dinner.

Mar 14, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Returning to Chicago - healthy week in the loop

+1 to Roti! Plus they have several locations in the loop.

Mar 13, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Favorite spot for coffee and pastries/desserts?

While Bad Wolf is still my fave spot for coffee and pastries, another thing you might want to consider is that they don't have any chairs. The cafe is set up so that you stand around a bar in the middle of the room.

Also, when I was there a couple of Sundays ago at around 12:30, there were only 2 types of pastries left. Two croissants and a tray of the raspberry oatmeal bar, which I thought was his best iteration of a raspberry pastry yet.

You can also try Dollop in Uptown if you are close by. They serve Metropolis Coffee and Hoosier Mama Pies among others.

Mar 05, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

something different in a chicago neighborhood - byob?

You can try Andy's Thai Kitchen in Lakeview just below the Wellington Brown Line. It's BYOB and don't accept credit cards.

Mar 05, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

One dinner in Chicago

In order of preference, I'd choose Boka, then North Pond.

Feb 25, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Where can I find kouign-aman in Chicago or 'burbs?

I just tried them over the weekend. The ones at TJ aren't bad at all, especially considering the price(about a dollar each). Having said that, Bad Wolf's version still takes the cake.

Feb 25, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Where to find Zhongzi (Ba Zhang)?

I've seen a vegetarian Hokkien version of it at Di Ho Market in Westmont. I've never seen the one with pork, unfortunately. Most of the stores here sell the Cantonese version which I personally do not care for. Although I did buy a frozen version of the Cantonese one at Hmart. You may have better luck during the Dragon Boat Festival Season in late May/early June. Try checking out Di Ho at that time or the food stalls next door.

Feb 17, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Where to find Zhongzi (Ba Zhang)?

Are you looking for the Hokkien version of zhong zi? Ba chang is the pronounciation for zhong zi for those of Hokkien ancestry.

Feb 16, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Where to get wild mushrooms?

Fresh Farms and HMart in Niles, Tai Nam on Argyle and Lawrence in the city sell different varieties of mushrooms depending on the season. Treasure Island in Lakeview and Lincoln Park have different ones as well.

Green City Market has a mushroom grower/vendor called River Valley. They recently opened a physical location on Wilson and Ravenswood.

Feb 09, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

V-day

First of all, congrats on your engagement.
There were tables for 2 at Old Town Social on opentable and on Il Pesce/Eataly on seatme.
Alternatively, when you looked for the reservations, did you try calling the restaurants? They usually hold several tables for phone reservations and walk ins, especially on a busy night such as Valentine's Day, especially for this year since it falls on a weekend.
Worse comes to worst, try a restaurant that doesn't take reservations such as Fat Rice, Ruxbin or Longman and Eagle. Just be wary of the wait times though. Good luck on your search!

Feb 07, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Critique my list & need some help for Barcelona, San Sebastian, Rioja, Madrid

I had fun at Tickets. I was actually there the night after Can Roca, which I thought was a tough act to follow. But Tickets delivered and exceeded my expectations.

Mugaritz vs Arzak: I liked Mugaritz better but both restaurants are known to be polarizing with their experimental cuisine. Having said that, if you have the money and the endurance, why not try both? Mugaritz is open on Sunday for lunch, Arzak should be open on Tuesday for dinner. For Sunday night, I went pintxos hopping in SS. Didn't particularly enjoy Fuego Negro though, especially the dishes that they recommended. I had to go to the nearby gelato store to wash down the aftertaste.

For lunch in Madrid, I particularly enjoyed the paella stall inside the Mercado San Miguel. I can't remember the name of the place, but it's the only one that sells different types of paella there.

Feb 06, 2014
sunbrace in Spain/Portugal

Looking for suggestions other than Ultra High End

I liked Cal Pep. I know it's a bit touristy but I enjoyed the dishes there. My only suggestion for this place is that you read the menu beside the front door before waiting in line. Don't ask for their recommendations as I found the ones I ordered to be tastier than the ones they recommended to me. Also, their seafood dishes were better than their veggies.

For torrones, you can try Vicens. They sometimes give out samples that you can try first before buying.

For pastries, I liked Bubo. I think this is BCN's version of Pierre Herme. Their pastries were definitely beautiful to look at. I can't remember what the name of the little ball of pastry covered in almonds that they only make during halloween, but that was awesome. I also had a chocolate raspberry cake from there which was ok, but not as good as the other one. I also had a crema catalana in Escriba(La Rambla branch) and visited their main one in Gran Via as well. it was good but nothing that really wowed me.

Don't forget to order a cortado. Most bars will serve it. I haven't had a bad one in Spain, whether it was a hole in a wall bar or a nicer/touristy looking one.

Jan 30, 2014
sunbrace in Spain/Portugal

Looking for suggestions other than Ultra High End

Tapas 24: I enjoyed their specials more than their regular menu items. Still a good bet to eat though.
Gresca: good deal for lunch, I wouldn't go for dinner.
El Quim was good but always packed. Arrive early if ever you want to eat lunch there. The other popular kiosk in La Bouqueria is Pinotxo. I preferred El Quim to Pinotxo though.
Hisop: I went there late Oct. Along with Tickets, it would be the only other restaurant I would return to if ever I go back to BCN. I also thought that it was a very good value for the price I paid.
If you are into coffee, there's an awesome coffee shop in El Born called Cafes El Magnifico if I'm not mistaken. My Spanish is rusty but I think the owner won some barista award for coffee. I had an Aeropress coffee there that was amazingly clean with fruity tones that I can actually decipher. The coffee was neither bitter nor acidic.

Jan 29, 2014
sunbrace in Spain/Portugal

Where can I find kouign-aman in Chicago or 'burbs?

If you are still looking for one: Bad Wolf Coffee in Lakeview/Roscoe Village.

Jan 28, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Best dinner (food) in Chicago

1. Schwa
2. The pastries at Bad Wolf Coffee
3. Goosefoot
4. Senza
5. The Lobby(last year when Lee Wolen was the chef)

Jan 22, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Dinner for One on a Monday

+1 for Publican. Or if you enjoyed Girl and the Goat, maybe go the her other restaurant...Little Goat Diner? Generally speaking, it shouldn't be hard to find a place downtown, especially by the touristy areas.

Also, if you are willing to venture out of the downtown area, Wood in Lakeview and Reno in Logan Square are tasty in my book too.

Jan 22, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Is North Pond worth the $$$ ?

Would it be correct to assume that you like French cuisine based on your other posts? I have brought a friend of mine from Paris for dinner at North Pond in November. We had a coq au vin app, monkfish and lamb for entrees and a chocolate dessert. I can't remember what the other dessert was. But both of us enjoyed our dinner. As for if it's worth it or not, it will depend on what you value and what you think is expensive. So if there is a certain price range you are looking at, please let us all know.

Jan 19, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Trip Report San Sebastian: Arzak and Mugaritz

Were it not for the fact that I didn't have a car/don't like to drive when I'm on vacation, I probably would have gone to Etxebarri instead of Arzak as well. I had another friend who stayed in SS for a year and told me after the fact that he ranked Arzak lowest among all the fine dining establishments/3 star places in SS. I would definitely go back to Mugaritz if ever I go back to Spanish Basque.

Jan 11, 2014
sunbrace in Spain/Portugal

Barcelona in February - Recs for 3 Dinners, Please

Hisop: It's also modern Catalan. One of 2 places I would return to eat at if ever I head back to BCN, the other being Tickets.

Jan 11, 2014
sunbrace in Spain/Portugal

Trip Report San Sebastian: Arzak and Mugaritz

Short form summary:
Arzak: food was more for show rather than taste
Mugaritz: best meal I had in Spain. I'll definitely be back here if ever I wind up in Basque country again.

Long form summary:

San Sebastian was my last of my 10 day trip in Spain. Besides the regular pintxos hopping, I was able to get a couple of reservations at Arzak and Mugaritz. I chose Arzak simply because it was close to where I was staying. I'm not one who likes to drive when I'm on vacation. For Mugaritz, I was able to catch a cab to get to the restaurant. I did not realize this, but San Sebastian is wet during the fall season.

Arzak: By far the friendliest and family friendly fine dining establishment I have been to. Juan Mari and Elena Arzak come out and chat with you in your table. Elena even came out 3 or 4 times to the table next to mine to talk and take orders from a family of 4 with 2 preteens in tow. They ordered from the a la carte menu and Elena was still happy to recommend the dishes for them. Arzak was also tops for considering diners, who like me, do not drink. Highlights of the menu for me were the beginning courses and the desserts. Their set menu has a couple of options(fish, meat and dessert) that you have to choose when you order.

First course was a series of 5 small bites arranged in one plate. The best of the bunch was the Scorpion fish pudding with kataifi. It was creamy and slightly salty. The other bite that I liked was Sunflower seeds with arraitxiki. The sunflowers were arranged like a vertical wall and made to stand up rather than laying down on a plate. It was the crunchiest bite I've had in my life. Perhaps the least favorite of the dishes that came out was the Lobster “Sea and Garden” The dish comes out in a transparent glass plate. Underneath it is a video player that plays the sights and sounds of the sea. The concept was good, but the flavors of the dish were underwhelming. It made me think that they did this more for show than for taste. I chose the Longan and Lamb for my meat dish. It was fork tender and was served with one of my favorite fruits: longan. For desserts, my server recommended that I get the Super Truffle and boy was he right. The chocolate truffle was as big as my fist. He told me not to worry as it'll melt when he adds the liquid to the chocolate and once the truffle started to melt away, it revealed a powdery carob core in the center. The last dish was Golden Footprint and ladybird. This was a dish made of different caramelized fruits made to appear to look like a footprint and the ladybird was filled with yogurt. In one word: delicious.

Mugaritz: This was my first “nice” day in SS. While it rained heavily in the morning, the sun actually came out for my lunch time reservation when I got to the restaurant. I was greeted by a whiff of smoke emanating from their coffee/guest house which made my stomach growl a tad bit more. You can stroll around their garden before going inside the restaurant. They have several herbs and flowers that they grow beside the restaurant although some are wilting already since it was the fall season.

I was given a tour of the kitchen which comes standard with eating here. The chef talks to you and shows you around and introduces you to the “theme of the day” which for me involved textures. I was also given my first course(I guess this was a free one since they never counted it whenever they tell you how many courses there were). Mine was 4 fried baby turbots stacked on top of each other and held together by a paste of lemon and something else that I can't remember. This is a one bite dish that reminded me of the fried dried fishes that I used to eat back in the day. There were a total of 20 dishes, of which the first few can be finished in one or two bites. As the menu progresses, I also noticed that the size of the food grew as well. Since this was an experimental cuisine, there were some that didn't work for me like ice shreds with scarlet shrimp perfume(Similar to a shaved ice dessert but was more savory. I think the ice tends to dilute the taste of the shrimp broth that was poured on the ice) and the fermented rice(never liked the strong taste of it, although this was surprisingly not salty). The ones that hit the ball park for me were the Chestnut Nougat and Beef Gelatine(made with beef tendon that was slow cooked for hours or days. It was melt in your mouth good and not chewy, unlike those that I have had in the past), Poultry juice with Tofu(looked like a flan but tasted like essence of chicken), Roasted Peach and “Rock Tea”(the peach was plated to look like a potato, sweet and slightly tart), Candy Caviar(think Dippin Dots but yummier) and their signature Edible Stones(a potato that looks like a rock. You're supposed to eat the first bite as is, then eat it with the sauce that comes with it for the subsequent bites).

Mugaritz proved to be the top restaurant during my trip to Spain. Service was excellent and they actually have knowledgeable people who could explain a dish to you in English if you so desire. I also noticed that our maitre would squat down to below my eye level whenever he talks to me. It was also the only place I saw where the restrooms were equipped with toothbrushes and toothpastes. I thought it was a thoughtful gesture on their part.

Jan 03, 2014
sunbrace in Spain/Portugal

Fine-dining suggestions for weekend of Feb 27th-Mar 1st?

I'm assuming you're from Singapore. If you've dined and enjoyed at Catalunya, you may like Mercat a la Planxa downtown. Both serve Spanish/Catalan dishes without Catalunya's signature Spanish omelette.

Boka is undergoing renovations right now but may open just in time for your trip. If so, you may want to consider this one as well. The chef who's taking over moved from The Lobby and used to be the sous chef at Eleven Madison Park. Of course none of us know yet what it's like once they reopen. So if you do go there in time, please leave a feedback of your experience.

Reno in Logan Square for lunch or breakfast is also a good option. I really enjoyed their Montreal Bagels and their sandwiches.

Jan 02, 2014
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Pakta for one?

from their facebook page:
phone number: +34 936 24 01 77

Also, if you have reservations to Tickets, you may be able to ask your server to get you into Pakta as well.

Dec 18, 2013
sunbrace in Spain/Portugal

Alinea - Service?

You're not alone. I've had the same issues with Alinea before. And that was my first time trying a 3 star restaurant mind you. Lukewarm would be putting it mildly. I agree with ellenost. Condescending would be a better word.

Dec 18, 2013
sunbrace in Chicago Area

Trip Report: El Celler de Can Roca

I got my reservations for Can Roca before it was awarded the top restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine/San Pellegrino. I came here as a solo diner in order to celebrate my birthday. Overall, my impression was that it was delicious but missing something. I feel like the food was best accompanied with some form of wine or drink. I don't drink alcohol, so unfortunately, the only thing that was offered to me was water bottled in a Catalan town that I can't remember. I was expecting for at least a juice, tea or even Coke. A lot of the dishes here also had a good interplay between sweet and savory, mild and intense flavors. I personally prefer intense flavors which probably explains why I wasn't too impressed with the place. There were only a couple of dishes that were just OK but only 2 or 3 out of the 25 that really wowed me. The ones below are the highlights of the night for me:

The first few small bites that were introduced to me represented the most recent travels the brothers have taken. For my amuses, I had a Mexican "burrito", Peruvia ceviche broth, Korean panko fried bread(think pork belly bun), and Moroccan dish that I can't really describe well. All were good except for their version of Chinese"peking duck". It was pickled vegetables with plum cream in a mandarin bun. I was expecting a little bit more sweetness, crispiness and fattiness to the dish which I didn't detect.

Next came the caramelized olive. Actually, there were two of them, each hanging lowly on a little tree. Sweet and salty, they were olives with anchovies caramelized to give it a bit of a crunch. I tried to lift the potted plant up and boy was it heavy! I remarked to my server regarding the weight and she told me that there's another serverware that actually heavier than that!

Truffled bombon: I think this was either foie or liver pate that's coated in something that makes it look like a chocolate truffle. One of many dishes where the theme of dessert meets savory comes together. I really liked this one and it was served in a rock that was actually heavier than the olive bansai plant.

Vegetable stock with sprouts, flowers, leaves and fruits. The soup was cooked at room temperate which I found interesting. The stock itself was a bit thick yet clear, taking on a syrupy or nectar thick consistency rather than your normal clear soup. This won me over with the presence of intense mango bits floating in the soup. Mangoes are one of my favorite fruits.

Chestnuts and smoked eel: this wasn't particulary memorable to me.

White asparagus and truffle viennetta: yummy and creamy

Boletus Edulis cured in salt: This was an "egg" dish in so far that it looked like an egg and actually has a yolk in it. The yolk is actually the mushroom, aka, ceps.

Salad of sea anemone, razor clam, royal cucumber and seaweed in escabeche: This is the first time I could actually taste the sweetness of sea cucumber. The ones I've had before were slimy and really didn't have any taste to it. This dish was served in a bowl with the seafood served in strips like noodles. Underneath it is a "soup" of sea urchin. You are given tweezers which I guess serves as "chopsticks" an you can eat it as if you're eating noodles. Perhaps an inspiration from their trip to Asia.

Grilled king prawn: If I remember correctly, there were two broths/sauces here. One had a mild flavor and the other one had an intense shrimp flavor to it(possibly the juice from the shrimp's head). Loved this one.

Mandala of lamb, artichoke flower: One of three new dishes for the menu. It was good and complex but nothing to write home about.

Pigeon parfait and onion: another hit in my palate. The pigeon was cooked to perfection and was fork tender. I haven't had pigeon in 10 yrs and have actually avoided it when I moved to the US and this dish reminded me why I loved pigeon so much.

Candy apple: apart from the chocolates, this was the standout dessert of the night. This was an apple with cream inside. The apple is made of blown sugar much like glass and breaks just like glass as well when you bite into it. This had some sort of sponge cake and was plated to look like a voodoo mask. I was there at a time when Girona had a weeklong celebration in honor of their patron saint. This was a dish to celebrate the occasion.

Trolley of chocolates and other mignardises: It looked like an all you can eat buffet of sorts here. There were so many choices that I had to ask my server to just pick the chocolates and some fruits out for me. All of them were delicious. I still think about the pineapple I had there sometimes. It tasted like it was "caramelized" or steeped in syrup before it was served.

Forgive me if the pictures aren't clear. This is my first attempt at food porn. From left to right, we have: The World, Chestnuts and smoked eel, White Asparagus and truffle viennetta, Ceps cured in salt with egg yolk, Salad of Sea Anemone, razor clam, royal cucumber and seaweed, Grilled King Prawn with Head Juice, Candy Apple

Nov 29, 2013
sunbrace in Spain/Portugal

Aline Dinner Spot Open - December 14th

there's another person looking for a spot in a previous post in this forum

Nov 27, 2013
sunbrace in Chicago Area