The Other Critics

Tamarkin Perplexed by Elizabeth; Pang Calls McD’s CBO Top Tier

This course made David Tamarkin feel like a nube.
This course made David Tamarkin feel like a nube. Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

“There’s a new restaurant in town — I won’t name it — where the chef is pretty green. Never been an executive chef before. Our meal there will be $380— and that’s without any alcohol. And I’m like, the fuck?” So said David Tamarkin in an interview a month ago, and it didn’t take much to figure out that he was talking about Elizabeth. His review has come out, and it’s better than that might suggest— he really doesn’t seem to have approached it mind made up— but it never shakes that initial skepticism, either: “I resigned myself to Regan’s choices, some of which seemed like senseless esoterica. When I found a crunchy half of a crabapple underneath some cheese and squishy fried frog legs, I didn’t bother wondering why the cumbersome bite hadn’t been cut down in size. I just rolled my eyes.” For Tamarkin, “At Elizabeth, why? is often asked but never answered.” For instance, he asks of a bolognese— “There was also a raccoon course, a pleasant ragù over soft polenta. The table talked about it—what does raccoon taste like? (In other words, why?)” But isn’t that the answer— the table talked about it? Why assume that a protein that isn’t beef or pork has to justify itself? [TOC]

Mike Sula seems to be offering praise to Embeya for “a roulade of air-dried roasted chicken, deboned and rolled up on itself, and served with a dead-simple sort of chimichurri of oil, scallions, and ginger. It looks like a complicated dish, but it’s one of many rooted in classic techniques (Eastern and Western), much like the arresting-looking stuffed squid sections packed with forcemeat, which is a familiar Vietnamese surf-and-turf sausage.” So his verdict seems a little harsher: “Ultimately, it doesn’t get any more dangerous than the durian, and if you’re nervous at dessert there are some cream puffs and roasted pineapple with coconut, and a selection of other tropical fruits such as rambutan and dragonfruit. The appearance of the King of Fruits is just a footnote on a larger menu that mostly avoids confrontation. In the end, that isn’t an awful thing, but it’s not particularly eye-opening either. The biggest surprise of all is what a traditional cook [chef Thai] Dang is.” [Reader]

Phil Vettel likes Carriage House’s contemporary way with classic Southern: “Think Southern indulgence, minus the self-loathing. [Chef Mark] Steuer’s shrimp and grits, for instance, has a modern, vertical presentation, the head-on Georgia lake prawns forming a center pile around the creamy grits, and instead of a roux-thickened sauce, there’s a “hunter’s gravy” of reduced stocks (pork, veal, shrimp) inlaid with herbs, mushrooms and house-made tasso. It’s no diet plate, but, Steuer says, “you don’t feel like you just ate a plate of flour.” [Tribune]

Kevin Pang takes a look at two limited-time offerings from the fast food world: “As a hamburger enthusiast, I’ve long argued that the C-B-O [cheddar bacon onion] combination is as close to flawless as burger accompaniments get. Which is why, as McDonald’s burgers go, this one is in the top tier of menu offerings.” While he says that the crawfish taste of Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen crawfish “is vague at best (spring is fresh crawfish season), these have the advantage of being deep-fried finger food, and you have to really fight subconscious urges to stop at one bite. It’s an evolutionary thing.” [Tribune]

Want to win Kate Bernot’s heart? “I liked taking first or second dates to the sparsely decorated [TAC Quick] tucked under the Sheridan Red Line station mostly because the food was flavorful and delicious, but also because any man who could win my heart would first have to stand up to the heat of the beloved som tum poo ma salad.” There you have it, in the course of reviewing Andy’s Thai Kitchen, of which she says “risks are rewarded when ordering here. Tip-toe past your comfort zone with the sai krog isaan ($6.50), a funky, almost sour Thai-style pork and rice sausage with a richness that’s countered by a slightly acidic, fermented flavor. Thankfully, ATK’s retained the same crisp, fresh som tum Thai green papaya salad that he served at Tac, still in all its spicy, chili- and shrimp-flecked glory.” [Redeye]

Tamarkin Perplexed by Elizabeth; Pang Calls McD’s CBO Top Tier