The Other Critics

Kramer Wants To Spend More Nights At The Office; Sula Finds Paradise By Dashboard Lights at Black Sheep

“I always thought these letters were made up until…” Photo: Photo: GAchatz/yfrog

• The flat-out rave in Time Out Chicago this week is Julia Kramer’s for The Aviary’s exclusive bar The Office, which reads like part bar review, part Penthouse Forum letter: “I was working my way through three aged martinis when a very serious woman came over and made a very serious inquiry: Were we interested in having a drink in the speakeasy below the Aviary—the Office? We were…” Even as she giggles a little at the excess of it all, she can’t deny that being allowed into Grant Achatz’s Gatsbyesque den of indulgence is beguiling: “In every part of the experience—the exclusivity, the perfection, the nostalgia—lies the genius of the Office, where to spend lavish amounts of money on fleeting pleasures feels not like a sacrifice but rather a distinct privilege.” [TOC]

• Mike Sula starts out viewing The Black Sheep in a skeptical light, finding it “shrouded in gloom, dimly lit by tube amp fixtures that provide plenty of light on Vincent Gretch’s manipulated silk screens of classic punk artists and albums… but not much on the artfully plated food.” But the food soon has him on his feet shouting “Freebird!”: “Sight be damned, the taste of many of these dishes can quickly give you the idea that [chef James] Toland is more than capable of harmonizing multiple textures and flavors, subtle and bold… This is highly manipulated, dramatically presented food.” The only note of dissent is with Toland’s stated ambition to be a rockers’ hangout: “With small plates ranging between $12 and $14 and larger ones ascending to the mid-$30s, the prices aren’t as chef- and musician-friendly as he once promised.” [Reader]

• David Tamarkin wants to like the old school pleasures of Rustic House more than he really did. “There’s a confidence to the design of the room—it’s the opposite of showy… only the most bitter people could resist feeling comfortable here.” But he has equivocal feelings about the food: “These are foods that do not surprise, foods that aren’t meant to surprise, foods that in fact might be problematic if they did surprise. Because you don’t order this food, or come to this restaurant, to be challenged. You come to be consoled.” And it doesn’t sound like “rotisserie lamb, too fatty and chewy to take more than two bites of,” is all that consoling. [TOC]

• Mainstream media reviews of the second menu at Next are probably still a couple of weeks away, but there’s plenty of instant coverage at LTHForum. Josh Steinfeld (Jesteinf) expands on his tweets of the other day to say “don’t go to Next: Thailand and expect the same wonder or enjoyment that came from modern cooking rediscovering the antique duck press.” He comes away wondering how often Next will really pull it off: “There’s not much time to develop, not much time to test, and it requires a tremendous amount of trust on the part of diners. Given this system, there’s no doubt that there will be highs and lows from menu to menu.”

Another poster, Clogoodie, raves about much of the meal— “As with Paris, the broths & sauces were incredible— every last drop of the hot & sour broth, the caramel sauce, and the yellow curry was scooped up and savored.” But it’s Clogoodie’s course-by-course, close-up photos that really say the most about the fresh flavors here. [LTHForum]

Kramer Wants To Spend More Nights At The Office; Sula Finds Paradise By