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Hatori Hanzo's Profile

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Bringing a 10 year old to NYC for the first time - Dining Advice Needed

I used to live in NYC but now I live in the land of beer, meat, and gastronomy (a.k.a. Chicago). I'm taking my 10 year old niece to New York for a weekend and wanted some dining advice. She lives in the suburbs so I would really like to take her somewhere that looks impressive even if the food is maybe not as great.

I was contemplating between Spice Market and Buddakan since both look like nothing she has ever seen. They also seem like a good choice because we can sample a lot of items which is great for a 10 year old. Originally I was leaning towards Spice Market but many of the recent reviews have said that everything has become rather bland. I would love to get some feedback. The key is for it to be the type of place we can actually make a reservation for. While not in the same area I was also considering DBGB. Thoughts?

If anybody would like to share any other good advice or suggestions for things to do with a 10 year old I would be grateful. Even though I generally do whatever I can to avoid touristy areas I don't want to deprive my niece to some of the quintessential new york expereinces such as seeing time square at night.

Jun 22, 2012
Hatori Hanzo in Manhattan

Middle Eastern, Turkish, or Moroccan in Lakeview or Lincoln Park

Looking for a recommendation for good middle eastern, turkish, or moroccan food in Lakeview or Lincoln Park. Ideally, I would like a place that delivers.

Thanks.

Jan 06, 2011
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

L20 Tatami Room?

I've been and whether it is worth the price depends on what your are looking for. The flavors are mostly subtle and delicate so if you are the type of person that wants to be blown away by the flavors given the price you will be disappointed. However, if you are the type of person who appreciates very delicately prepared fish you will be amazed.

The overall experience is truly special although I think I ended up spending over $700 for two people once I factored in wine and gratuity. I am happy that I would recommend it but I don't think I would ever go back. Personally, I like a heavier hand when it comes to seasonings and while I really respected the cuisine and found everything to be delicious, I am not sure I would put it in my top ten list for top tier restaurants around the world.

Aug 30, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Need advice on L2O, Tru, Publican.

I too would skip Spiaggia. The only reason I would consider keeping it is simply to have some variety. While Spiaggia serves good food, I find it to be horribly overpriced. I would swap out L2O for Spiaggia and then go to somewhere more casual for the 4th night.

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L2O
2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

Spiaggia
980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Aug 13, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Need advice on L2O, Tru, Publican.

Given the other restaurants on your list I would suggest Publican simply to have some variety in terms of the type of cuisine and atmosphere. Publican is not the type of place to go for a composed meal but instead it is much more of a very nice bar with upscale bar snacks. Along this line you might want to consider The Girl and The Goal. I just went and it was great, and i'm guessing that you would love the Pigface.

L20 and Tru are also great but I would be hard-pressed to have so many back to back multi-course tasting menus. At this point I think that Tru seems a bit past its prime, especially with some of the newer restaurants which have opened.

L20 is fantastic but it very much a seafood only place. If you want another long meal and you are willing to spend the money you might want to look into dining in their tatami room. I think that it tends to be available so it is simply a matter of cost at this point. It is certainly a unique experience. Everything we had was very delicate and subtle. I appreciated this but some might find the lack of blow-you-over flavors to be disappointing considering the cost.

Other more places that you may want to consider:
Graham Elliot
Purple Pig
Moto

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Moto Restaurant
945 W Fulton, Chicago, IL 60607

Graham Elliot
217 W. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60654

Aug 13, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Does Chicago have a good Lobster Roll?

I find it hard to believe that a city like Chicago would not have a Lobster Roll. One would think that Chicago would be a prime market for a delicious concoction of Lobster, Mayo, Butter, and Bread but I cannot recall a single restaurant serving them.

Jul 24, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Foodies travelling to chi-town for a bachelor party!!!

I think that Mercadito is a great option. If you are willing to wait a long time for tables than Big Star also works. I would also consider Longman & Eagle for interesting gastropub fare and whiskey although the location is a bit out of the way.

Epic is a good choice if you want a more modern steak house, plus they have a really good scene. If you are looking for a more quintessential steak house then I think Gibsons is your place.

For upscale pub food downtown you might want to consider Bull & Bear and Rockit, both have a good scene and good food.

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Bull & Bear
431 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654

Mercadito
108 W. Kinzie, Chicago, IL 60610

Jul 09, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Assorted questions about moving to Chicago (from NYC)

I'm a NY expat and so feel free to ask me whatever questions you may have. In general Chicago offers many great options although nothing comes close to the sheer magnitude of what NYC has to offer.

A couple things to consider. People eat dinner far earlier in Chicago. My wife and I were used to going out to dinner at 9-9:30 and expecting to wait an hour before being seated at our favorite restaurants but in Chicago you will find that you have to go out of your way to eat past 9:30. The flip-side of this is that you can get reservations day of for all but the newest restaurants. The other issue I have is that everything in Chicago is more hearty. I tend to like more decadent dining but Chicago takes it to a new level. It's not so much the pork heavy places that try to one-up each other as much as it is surprisingly difficult to get a fish dish or a vegetable dish that doesn't come with some sort of meat. On numerous occasions my wife was shocked to find bacon in dishes that didn't even mention it as an ingredient. There aren't as many places that feature local/farm-fresh cuisine and when they do it tends to be overwhelmed by meat.

As for you questions...I cannot offer much in the polish category but I'm eager to learn. I tend to do most of my shopping at Whole Foods although we tend to go to Jewel and Dominic for staples. Dominic tends to be a bit nicer than Jewel but obviously Whole Foods is even better although more expensive. Stanley's is a great produce market which is ridiculously cheap.

I will think of a couple places to recommend at get back to you.

Welcome to Chicago

May 17, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Bachelor Party Recommendation

Can anybody recommend a fun drink-friendly place for a bachelor party. Our group consists of 15 mid-30 year old guys who like good food. The key is to go somewhere that is lively and good for drinking but we want to avoid the traditional steak house. I was thinking of something more casual and interesting. I liked the idea of going somewhere like Longman & Eagle in terms of setting but i'm not crazy about the location. Would Purple Pig be a good option?

Apr 27, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

I need delicious food, my girl needs it casual, Hopleaf is our go-to but I want something new! Dinner date suggestions please!

What about the Brown Trout, Ante Prima, Marigold, Terragusto? I rarely venture north of Belmont so that is about all I can offer up aside from the hole-in-the-wall Korean, Indian, and Vietnamese restaurants in the ethnic neighborhoods. Other threads have discussed those areas in great detail so I won't start that debate again.

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Terragusto
1851 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613

Apr 14, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Brunch on the way to Champaign

I would go for a local option over a chain. Champaign has a couple "classic" diners like Mary Anne's (go to the Kirby St location for a more authentic experience). Champaign is a college town and has great dining options that are geared towards students (Mexican, BBQ, Sandwiches) so you may want to stick with those. I'm not sure how representative this is of the Midwest but if you want a true Champaign experience you should visit a place like La Bamabas around the time the bars close. Incidentally, Champaign has one of my favorite deep dish pizza places, Papa Dell's so you could give that a try.

Mar 29, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Great Lakes

Brunch on the way to Champaign

It isn't a long drive from Chicago to Champaign so I would recommend that you push on till you get to Champaign an have brunch/lunch there. Aside from fast food there really isn't much else that you will pass. BTW, what do you consider "unique midwest" cuisine?

Mar 25, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Great Lakes

Foodie visiting from NYC. Need great restaurant.

I'll trade you unlimited restaurant advice for a Bo Saam from Momo and a Lobster Roll from Mary's. While a bit more on the buzz end of the spectrum you might want to consider Sepia. One Sixty Blue, Epic and Piccolo Sogno are also decent options. I haven't been to Ria but I hear good things.

Mar 23, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Foodie visiting from NYC. Need great restaurant.

Somehow I missed that one key word "romantic" in the request. Then without a doubt avoid Avec and Publican although I would still recommend Blackbird.

When I think of the places I miss from NYC it tends to be the more upbeat places that draw a good crowd and can still make serious food for discerning diners. I am sure that this will draw some attacks but I have to say that places like Avec are few and far between in Chicago. However we do have plenty of more composed places suitable for a romantic evening filled with good conversation. For a more formal meal I would offer up L20 and Les Nomades. I even think a more interesting Italian place like Piccolo Sogno might be a good option.

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Avec Restaurant
615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

Les Nomades
222 E Ontario, Chicago, IL 60611

Piccolo Sogno
464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622

Mar 22, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Foodie visiting from NYC. Need great restaurant.

I would recommend one of Paul Kahan's restaurants (Avec, Blackbird, Publican). Avec feels a little like a David Chang creation meets Blue Ribbon. They have mostly communal tables but the scene is great and the food is excellent. Blackbird is a little more formal and composed but also excellent, reminds me a bit of Blue Hill or the Modern. Publican is an upscale beer hall meets bistro (Pastis?).

I think Boka is fairly good but nothing exceptional. In that category I would prefer something like Naha, Sepia, or MK. Epic (a contemporary steakhouse somehow related to the BLT empire) and the two restaurants in the Elysian Hotel (Ria and Balsan) are both new and buzz-worthy. L20 (Le Bernardin meets Aquavit) is also a great option although it might be a bit more expensive.

As you might be able to tell, I used to live in NYC and take an odd enjoyment in making local comparisons to my favorite places in New York.

Mar 22, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Need suggestions for Casual Restaurant/Bar to celebrate my 25th birthday!

I am happy to give you some recommendations but a little more guidance would be helpful. What is your price range? Are you looking to have dinner with some drinks or drinks with some dinner? What type of scene are you looking for?

Mar 08, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Spiaggia...never again

The other night I went to Spiaggia for the first time in about 10-15 years and I walked away utterly unimpressed. Let me start with the positives and that is the food. Overall the food was rather good although everything was a bit too rich and this is coming from a person that likes overly decadent food. It was as if they felt that in order to justify the high price (more on that in a second) they had to leave the diner feeling like they just had something that is completely over the top. Don't get me wrong, I like good butter, truffles, and pork belly but these are items that best used in a more composed fashion. I believe that when you are at top-tier place at least 2-3 dishes should leave you wanting more but the reality is that nothing blew me away. When I think about some of the best restaurants in the country I can always remember having at least a couple dishes that I would be content eating the rest of my life and while Spiaggia's cuisine was good nothing was memorable (such as Babbo's beef cheek ravioli).

I found the menu and the structure of the meal to be a bit off-putting. I generally like to sample many dishes and when I go to an Italian restaurant I like to order pasta. While I would have no problem ordering pasta as a mid-course, I don't want to be obligated to order an antipasti, primi, and secondi, especially when I go with my wife (it is simply too much food). I used to live in NCY and I loved going to Babbo. At Babbo the waiters would happily create a multi-course meal for you out of anything you ordered. I remember a couple of times ordering two antipasti and a couple of pastas between two people and not only did they make no fuss but they brought everything out on two separate plates. Spiaggia almost made you feel awkward if you did not order the "traditional" antipasti, primi, and secondi menu. To be fair, we did order one pasta dish to split as a mid-course and it was brought out on two separate plates but nothing about the experience made me feel like they welcomed this approach. I think that they would be better off having a prix fix menu instead of a la carte.

Now let me get to the most irritating aspect of Spiaggia and that is the astronomical prices. I have dined at some of the top restaurants across the world and I have never experienced such an overpriced meal. The wine list was shocking. Even in a top-tier restaurant you should never feel like you are being a cheapskate if you order a $100 bottle but that is exactly the feeling at Spiaggia. I was shocked to see that the number of wines under $100 was extremely limited but the selection did not really improve until you moved into the $300-400 a bottle range. This is simply too high of a price point. For many (most people) spending $100-200 on a bottle of wine is a lot of money and if you are to do so you don't want to feel like you are picking the cheapest wine. Simply by offering a couple cheaper options people would feel better about ordering wines in the $100-300 range. I would normally select a Brunello to go with such a decadent meal but I simply did not have any options. Such a wine list may work for the (former) wall street power lunch crowd but not in Chicago. At the very least present me sommelier but as far as I could tell there wasn't one in the house.

The antipasti and primi were all in the $25 range but the secondi were closer to $50 (and up). I would happily pay $100-$150 for a prix fix menu at any number of places across the country but at least I would feel like I walked away have a great experience. Aside from the food, wine, and prices the service was stiff and not exactly welcoming. And the last issue is that the setting is wholly unspectacular and extremely dated. The restaurant is in serious need of a makeover, it simply feels like you are dining in a once-popular restaurant from the early 90s.

All these issues came together to leave me feeling disappointed and ripped off. It is simply inconceivable to me that Spiaggia is more expensive than Babbo (which is arguably the best Italian restaurant in the country), especially since every aspect of the meal at Babbo (food, wine, service, setting) is so far superior.

When Spiaggia opened I am sure that it offered a transporting dining experience however it feels more like a place that is trying to hold on to it's former glory without really trying to reinvent itself to appeal to a new era. Maybe Spiaggia was able to retain some level of prestige for a number of years but as Chicago become more and more of a foodie city, diners simply will have no reason to try Spiaggia.

Jan 22, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Veg Tasting Menu: Trotter, Green Zebra?

I recently went to Motto and half of our party were vegetarians. Given by what I tasted I would strongly consider going to Motto.

Jan 14, 2010
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

5 dinners, 3 lunches..Extreme Foodies need help.

As somebody that spent many years (up until recently) eating my way through NYC, I would say that chicgail's list is the most spot on. Chicago is great for Molecular Gastronomy (WD-50 but better in my opinion). Schwa, Moto, and Alinea are at the top of that lists. Avec (Blackbird's sister restaurant) is the most NYC feeling place I've come across. They serve upscale comfort food in a lively setting with communal tables. Otom (Moto's sister restaurant) is also fairly similar. Graham Elliot is also an interesting choice. If you like seafood I recommend L20 (sort of like a more modern take on Le Bernardin). For a cheaper choice I would recommend Belly Shack (reminds me of something David Chang would open). For a "unique" expereince and amazing burgers you cannot beat Kuma's Corner. Spiagga is supposed to be great for high end italian although I have never been.

Dec 15, 2009
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Amsterdam - Fun and upbeat

My wife and I will be in Amsterdam for three nights this coming weekend and we were looking for recommendations for some fun upbeat places to dine at. I've been to Amsterdam a couple of times so I have a good sense for the city but it's been a couple years so I don't know what is good these days. I would love to take her somewhere in the Jordaan. I also would like to go to one of the rijsttafels but I don't know which to go to. Also, any recommendations for a couple good bars would be appreciated.

Three months in London, help me hit the ground running

My wife and I will be spending three months in London starting in January and we were hoping for some help finding great restaurants across the entire spectrum of dining options. We will be living near Marble Arch but we plan on branching out as much as possible. A couple options nearby would be great but I would also love some "not-to-be-missed" places. We love high-brow as well as low-brow food so please give us a couple recommendations to get us through our first week. We love all types of ethnic food (particularly Indian) but we also are exited to try some local fish and chips or pub food. Also, a couple good pubs would be helpful. Thanks in advance and I will try to write about where I have been in return.

Dec 29, 2008
Hatori Hanzo in U.K./Ireland

Where to take my wife for her 30th birthday?

I love your idea but I might defer it to a different occasion. I love most any type of "crawl" that involves food and/or drink. When we were in San Sebastien my wife and I did a tapas crawl which involved a beer and a game of backgammon at each stop.

Dec 21, 2008
Hatori Hanzo in U.K./Ireland

Where to take my wife for her 30th birthday?

Thank you for your response. A friend of mine recommended the following, what do you think?

Petrus
Zuma
Maze
Any of the other Gordon Ramsey places

Dec 21, 2008
Hatori Hanzo in U.K./Ireland

Where to take my wife for her 30th birthday?

My wife and I are about to move to London for three months and I want to book a reservation to celebrate her 30th birthday while we are in London. We are both foodies and I am tempted to try St. John or Fat Duck (if I can even get a table), however I was told that both places feature a lot of offal, which we are not really big fans of. What other places should I look into? We love all types of ethnic food and we would prefer to go someplace that is not overly formal. It would be nice to make a night out of it so anyplace that would be fun to have some drinks at or close by to would be a plus. Thanks.

Dec 20, 2008
Hatori Hanzo in U.K./Ireland

BYOB Birthday Options

Can anybody tell me how long of a wait we should expect at hop leaf to get a table for 6-8 people on a saturday night?

Oct 31, 2008
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Wine advice for Schwa

Schwa ended up being phenomenal. We order the full tasting menu and almost every single dish was great and even the one or two dishes we didn't absolutely love were still very good. Prior to going, I stopped off at Binny's and with the help of a very knowledgeable employee, I picked up half a bottle of a demi-sec champagne, a gewertzaminer, and a oregon pinot. The wines were great and paired extremely well with the meal. I really liked that Michael would alternate between the red and the white through the course of the meal. At some point, I will get around to listing the wines I bought but I highly suggest this asortment. I can't wait to go back to Schwa, I just hope we will be able to get another reservation.

Oct 31, 2008
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Wine advice for Schwa

I am going to Schwa tomorrow and was hoping to get a couple recommendations on how I should best take advantage of their BYOB policy. It will only be my wife and I but we don't mind walking away with a couple partially consumed bottles. Given the menu, I'm not sure how exactly I should select wines to pair. Should I buy half bottles? I would love to spend the money on some great wines but I don't want to select wines that will clash with the meal. Is this the type of meal that is worth bringing a nice Barolo to or should we pick more subtle wines? I just see this as such a great opportunity to go to Sam's and indulge myself. I figure that I would have spent about $100-$200 on wine at an equivalent non-BYOB restaurant so why not spend that money anyway and get phenomenal wines

Oct 29, 2008
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

BYOB Birthday Options

I was looking for a place to celebrate my birthday with a couple of friends. I don't want to go anywhere fancy given that I will be going to Schwa with my wife two days before. I'm thinking of going somewhere relatively cheap, casual, and fun for a small group of us to have a couple drinks at. I was tossing around the idea of going to TAC since it is fairly close to where I live and I've been meaning to go there for a while. Another place I've been meaning to check out is Terragusta on Addison. I also like Korean food and have heard of a couple good places near Argyle street.

Since I was hoping to make it more of a drinking related dinner, I liked the idea of BYOB but I would be open to going somewhere that isn't BYOB if it is conducive to drinking. One though I had was Hop Leaf, what do you guys think?

Oct 28, 2008
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

Four Hip Girls - Night on the Town; 2 NYers

I don't know how constrained your budget is but what about Sepia, Mercat, Perennial, or May St Market? I haven't been to Mado but I read about it the other day and it sounded interesting.

Aug 29, 2008
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area

NY CH-er coming to Chicago

As an ex-new yorker I will sing the praises of Avec but realize that it is more like a Blue Ribbon type place. It's a casual foodie focused place that draws a young energetic crowd but it is no means a refined white table cloth dining experience. Blackbird is also great but it some similar to something that Danney Meyers would come up with.

As for the quintessential chicago experience, that is a hard experience to capture. On one hand you have your classic steak house and italian places, while on the other hand you have what is arguably some of the best cutting edge food being producing in the country. I'm not a fan of the former but the latter is comprised of Alinea, Schwa, Tru, and Motto just to name a few.

The following are good (although they aren't my favorite) but would be a fine compromise between you and your friend. The food is ambitious enough while still being familiar enough for your friend.

Naha
Custom House
MK
Spring
Crofton on Wells
Nomi
One Sixty Blue

Aug 04, 2008
Hatori Hanzo in Chicago Area