The Other Critics

Vettel Raves on BLT American Brasserie; Mixed Reviews on Bar Toma From Kramer, Sula

Two stars from Vettel.
Two stars from Vettel.

A review that starts out praising the presence of free popovers may seem to be grasping at straws, but no, Phil Vettel really likes BLT American Brasserie from New York chef Laurent Tourondel and chef-on-site Aksel Thielkuhl. He praises Thielkuhl for “such simple, unfussy style that ornate menu descriptions would seem silly… The meatballs are pure comfort, a mix of fresh-ground meat and quality ricotta cheese, set on a bed of herbaceous polenta with mascarpone; home cooking on a higher level. The salmon is a study in subtlety, cold-smoked to acquire just the gentlest kiss of wood, pan-seared for exterior crispness and set over a butter-bolstered apple broth with a touch of mustard.” He gives it two stars, but his enthusiasm may not be shared in coming weeks— when a tweet went about the review, David Tamarkin of Time Out Chicago tweeted back “Disagree so hard.” [Tribune]

Mike Sula comes out pretty sour on everything about Bar Toma. Pizza was “a wet, sloppy mess.” Cod fillets are “rolled in a hippie gorp of poppy, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds that dominates the more delicate flavor and texture of the fish.” The pastry case is “crowded with dry, dead cornetti.” Gelati and sorbetti are “icy, overaerated, and insufficiently dense.” [Chicago Reader]

Bar Toma elicits a slightly more positive reaction from Julia Kramer. She hates the “corporate” space (“no matter where I was seated, I felt I was being hidden in a back room”) but feels “There were good things, like the plump, tender shrimp meatballs called polpettes. There were bad things, like a salad in which the edges of the chopped leaves were oxidized and yellow-brown and had been sent out sans dressing. But most of all there were ‘just okay’ things.” Most of all, it seems like the restaurant has real executional issues: burrata was “served so cold that it muted most of the flavor—and much of my confidence in Bar Toma.” [Time Out Chicago]

Vettel Raves on BLT American Brasserie; Mixed Reviews on Bar Toma From Kramer,