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report on few days in Chicago

Dbird | Jul 13, 200411:47 PM

Closing in on my last Chicago meal during this three day trip and wanted to let you all know how underrated I think this city is for creative, interesting and affordable food.

Three evenings spent consecutively at Avec, Blackbird, and tonight at Green Zebra. All were great meals.

It was my first time to Avec, and while I hear it can be boisterous, Sunday evening was quite civilized. Most tables filled up during the evening but it never became loud or crowded.

I had the English pea crostini, which was more beany than peay, but delicious whatever. The crostini were like thick slices of ficelle, chewy rather than toasted and crunchy which is what I'd expected. Then the assorted salumi. Oddly, this was not suggested or promoted by wait staff during several consultations, although I understood it to be a special strength of the restaurant and certainly found that confirmed with the selection I enjoyed. Finished with a bit of beautifully marinated hangar steak. Nice wine list with no domestics(why is that?) but I was surprised that so few were available by the glass and none by the taste as I had thought Avec was billed as a wine bar.

I go to Blackbird every time I'm in Chicago and after a year away it was so nice to be back and find my fond memories confirmed in some of the same treatments (sweetbreads) and some new dishes (walleyed pike). Fabulous, friendly, and the only complaint I have is that your state still permits indoor smoking. Yuck.

I had thought to go to Moto for my other excursion and thank those of you who weighed in on my question re wisdom of this posted here but after asking around decided it was likely too much of a performance for what I was in the mood for but maybe also not enough of one (the restaurant responded to my inquiry about their accommodation of solo diners by advising I bring a book-- not to say I didn't appreciate the fact that they did respond).

Green Zebra was a great alternative. I have enjoyed Spring in the past and think this new endeavor quite exciting. Had the cold pea soup with pea mousse, which was beautifully presented but underseasoned. The avocado panna cotta was a delight, with a touch of acidity from tomato concasse and a salinity that kept it from cloying. The hearts of palm salad needed pepper and was essentially a hearts of palm remoulade, fine idea but I wish that had been made clear on the menu. The shiitake potato roulade was ok. I wish chefs in LA were making this bold.

I hope to be back to Chicago soon.

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