Sun-Times & Reader: Ambition (As It Were)

We were perhaps a little too ready to limber up our open-carat-b-close-carat finger and hit up some allcaps action in an anticipated indictment of the Sun-Times’s website, as we promised last Friday. But — lo and behold! — every single one of today’s review links on the S-Ts reviews page actually works! This might be, though, because there is only one review today, instead of the usual four. We are tempted to put on our mystery-solving caps and find out what is the haps with this, but we are feeling uninclined in the headwear department.

• To make up for the dearth of S-T reviews, we did something we’ve (perhaps shamefully) never done before: we read readers’ letters to Pat Bruno. We’re not surprised by the attitude of mature cantankerousness that seems to run through most of them (a certain Tom Ward, on why restaurants play music so loudly: “Most of the waitstaff are young people who have to have music playing for whatever activity they are doing.” Loving the imperative!), but Bruno also gives us some solid insight into his ratings system, when his four-star for L.2O is questioned:

In a recent review, you gave L20 a four-star rating. Considering that this is a new restaurant, shouldn’t you wait until it has proven itself before you hand out your highest rating?
Lucille R.

You make a good point, Lucille. However, a restaurant of this caliber, with the way it is being run, should only get better as it ages. So I would bet the farm, if I had a farm, that L20 will live up to its four-star status.

Plus, now he’s opened the door to write a “hey, what happened?!” snarkfest re-review, if Laurent Gras gets lazy and inclination strikes.

• In the matter of real reviewing, though, Bruno takes us through lunch and dinner at C-House, the latest in a slew of Chicago restos helmed by non-Chicago celeb chefs. The guy behind this one is Marcus Samuelsson, best known for his New York places. Bruno calls out Samuelsson for being a little bit disingenuous in his connection to the restaurant — though his server does solemnly swear that Marcus was there for a few weeks, “doing whatever a celebrity chef does when connecting his or her name to a venture.” We’d say: watch out. The guy doesn’t even put in full time at the NYC ventures he puts his name on, something the NY Post’s Steve Cuozzo calls him out on.

But who cares about the name over the door if the food’s good, right? Well, hm. Bruno’s not too thrilled: “The food was good, but there wasn’t a lot that rocked my world,” and the fish and chips fall way short: they were “the worst fish I’ve had in many a moon.” Besides a few other notablye subpar dishes, there are a blessed few positives: the fish mini-tacos, the asparagus risotto, the lunch-menu-only salmon pastrami sandwich, the desserts, the raw bar. But Bruno’s 1.5-stars says it all: a chef of Samuelsson’s magnitude should deliver better, and we deserve better from him. [Bruno, Sun-Times]

• Meanwhile, at the Reader, OSBMS has taken the week off (slow review week for everyone, it seems), and given the reins to the eminently capable Michael Gebert (he of the Sky Full of Bacon podcast, which we highly recommend), who visits P & P BBQ Soul Food (3734 W. Division, 773-276-7756). The non-Sula Mike hands it a rave: this simultaneous soul food eatery and serious barbecue destination pays equal attention to both facets of its dual identity, plays both hands brilliantly, and even manages to create culinary harmony that makes Gebert wonder why this hasn’t been done a million times before. The aquarium smoker is helmed by Texas-trained, Chicago-perfected pitman Keith Archibald, and he churns out reliably juicy, smoky piles of meat. Plus, there’s the feelgood element: 51-year-old owner Patricia Ann Parker has dreamed of opening a restaurant since she was a little girl, but was sidetracked by other jobs ranging from the post office to the Palmer House. But a brain condition affected her optic nerves, and she’s now fully blind. Surrounded by family and friends who help with the sight-required matters, Patricia still knows exactly what to give to her customers:

“…Sometimes you want real soul food, get off that fried food,” she says. “You want that good home cooking, and everybody wants barbecue on the weekends.”

Sounds about right to us. [Gebert, Reader]

[Photo: Interior of C-House, via Affinia Chicago]


Sun-Times & Reader: Ambition (As It Were)