The Other Critics

Tamarkin Sorrowful For Bahena’s Mitad del Mundo; Nagrant Searches Out Turkey Substitutes

Borrego con chile de la Tierra at Mitad del Mundo.
Borrego con chile de la Tierra at Mitad del Mundo.

For those of us with fond memories of Ixcapuzalco and Chilpancingo, when Geno Bahena was Bayless’s heir serving vibrantly upscale yet essentially authentic Mexican cuisine, Time Out’s review of the latest of many Bahena spots, Mitad del Mundo, is a dispiriting read. (It appears to be a new incarnation of a longtime Ecuadorian spot on Irving Park, which would explain one thing that puzzles Tamarkin, how a new place’s bartender can have so many celebrity-autographed pictures addressed to him.) “The food he put out matched his demeanor—it was tired and out of sorts. Enchiladas in mole rojo arrived stuffed with plasticky bites of chicken. Mushroom soup was overwrought with salt. The elements of a marlin ceviche bled into each other, forming a kind of mush. Lamb chops were gray, with rugged edges.” Even the trademark moles don’t redeem the experience: “As always with Bahena, the deceptively simple-looking sauces injected smoke and spice and sweetness to every plate they touched. In other Bahena spots, these have been the restaurant’s signature, its glory. But here, there is no glory. The sauces instead hint at what Bahena is capable of, and what he’s not pulling off.” [Time Out Chicago]

Borrego con chile de la Tierra at Mitad del Mundo.

To the best of our ability to scrutinize the inscrutable dining sections of our local newspapers, Phil Vettel took the week off to bemoan his Michelin predictions going awry, and Michael Nagrant decided to lay a turkey roundup on us instead. Among his least favorites, as Padma would say: every turkey he’s ever eaten. Among his favorites are a bunch of better-bird turkey substitutes, including the Peking duck at Sun Wah BBQ near Argyle Street (“might be the only thing better than bacon”), the rotisserie duck l’orange at Rustic House (“sticky and sweet, almost like a whole roast General Tso’s Chicken”), and the spit-roasted lamb at The Parthenon, which leads to a reverie about the house-layered gyros (“if you look close, you’ll still find pink shards and differing degrees of doneness rather than the universal gray shade found on the commodity version.”) [Sun-Times]

Tamarkin Sorrowful For Bahena’s Mitad del Mundo; Nagrant Searches Out Turkey