I’m always looking forward to trying hot new restaurants in the city and Chicago always has a lot to choose from, especially this summer. Therefore over the past week I set out to try four new hot spots that have been generating a lot of buzz since opening. My criteria for deciding whether a restaurant is worthy of a repeat visit boils down to the cuisine, service, vibe, cocktails, cost, and location. For the most part the four dining venues hit the mark on food, but service was a bit sketchy for at least one of them.
My first stop during my week long dining crusade was Ajasteak. Located at 660 N. State St. (in the new Dana Hotel and Spa), they boast on offering the artful precision of Asian cuisine coupled with the robust flavors of a modern steak house. Basically they serve sushi and a very high grade of beef (Kobe). My wife and I had lunch there and were surprised to see the dining room nearly empty. The lunch menu however, provided an interesting choice of sandwiches, although a little pricey. I ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich, which our server touted as his favorite, and the steak fries deemed the best ever. My wife chose the Seared Tuna Sandwich and a side of their heaping Onion Rings. We both shared a Maki roll to compare to our favorite sushi joints. The sandwiches were tasty; the service not so much. The steak fries were not even close to being the best ever. The sushi was decent, but nothing better than our more affordable BYOB sushi spot in Lakeview. Be prepared to open your wallet for an expensive and tasty meal, but the service may not coincide with the price.
My second stop was at OTOM, the sister restaurant to futuristic cuisine MOTO. OTOM Executive Chef Daryl Nash prepares post modern cuisine without being futuristic. They pride themselves on having stress free and fun food and I have to say that we had a lot of fun trying his creations. Cuisine such as Carbonated Watermelon to cleanse the palate and Butter-poached Shrimp appetizer were big hits. I’m not a huge fan of tofu, but their tofu poached in olive oil, corn puree and topped with freeze dried corn was savory. The Chicken ala King with oyster mushrooms and the Fried Short Rib Ravioli entrees were spectacular. After the Coconut-Pineapple Paradise dessert we were sold. The cocktails and service were great and the ambiance was low key. This is a great place to relax and chill with a significant other or a group of friends. OTOM is located at 951 W. Fulton Market St.
C-House was recently opened by acclaimed Chef Marcus Sammuelson. Sammuelson, out of New York City, is the youngest chef to receive two 3 star reviews from the NY Times. C-House is an American Seafood and Chop House restaurant. I taped a segment of Fête Select TV there recently and had a chance to enjoy some of Executive Chef Seth Siegel-Gardner’s specialty dishes, including Chili Crusted Fluke, Yellow Tail Fish Tacos, and Chorizo Mac & Cheese. C-Bar, their raw bar, offers standard seafood favorites and allows guests to sit and view the preparation of their meal. Executive Pastry Chef Toni Roberts created The Candy Bar- variety of bite size chocolates, confections and cookies. C-View is their upscale lounge located on the 29th floor and I became a fan of their Honeysuckle specialty cocktail. C-House is a few blocks off Michigan Ave in the new Affinia Hotel (166 E. Superior St.)
The final destination on my parade route of restaurants was Hub 51. Owners R.J. and Jerrod Melman, sons of Richard Melman (Lettuce Entertain You), recently opened this 10,000 square foot space with a 20 ft bar. Hub 51 has definitely attracted a big crowd early and appears to be the new place to see and to be seen. The food is American cuisine with different influences from California, Mexico, Australia and Asia that includes homemade tacos, seafood, signature sandwiches and sushi. We had a Sweet Potato Roll, Chicken Nachos, Halibut Tacos, and the Sea Bass. The dishes were all very good, but the winner was the Sea Bass flavored with horseradish broth. My very pregnant wife couldn’t enjoy the Hub Punch, which is their specialty cocktail concoction of Grey Goose le Citron, tequila, Lcor 43, and pomegranate. The kicker for the evening was Martha’s Carrot Cake; RJ & Jerrod’s mother’s own carrot cake recipe. I’ll be back just for the carrot cake alone. Hub 51 is not a quiet place to have a romantic dinner, however it does offer a lively atmosphere with a bar scene that revs up as the evening grows. Check it out at 51 W. Hubbard St. (Corner of Dearborn and Hubbard).
Now that you have four new spots to try, drop me a line and let me know what you think at email@example.com.