The Other Critics

Rickshaw Republic Pulls Admiration From Sula, Reservations From Kramer; Nagrant Says, Okay Bub

Nasi goreng at Rickshaw Republic.
Nasi goreng at Rickshaw Republic. Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

Mike Sula is both charmed and educated by Rickshaw Republic paterfamilias Tommy Setiawan: “He’s likely to visit your table, unroll a map of Indonesia’s 17,000-some islands, and show you precisely where [your dish] comes from. And then he might go on to tell you that the food from South Sumatra tends to be spicy, unlike, say, the food of the capital, Jakarta, in western Java, where it tends to be sweeter… This sort of intel isn’t at all intrusive; frequently it’s illuminating.” He finds the range of the food a bit narrow, but rewarding: “The everyday menu is tightly focused, and it may not take you long to notice repetitive elements—egg noodle, shrimp crackers, fried stuff. As diverse as Indonesian food is, there are three dishes blanketed by thick peanut or cashew sauce. One such dish, the gado gado, is a smothered-and-covered, hot-and-cold salad of boiled eggs, steamed vegetables, and shrimp chips that might be the most internationally familiar Indonesian dish after satay. And there are three dishes similar to the pempek telor based on springy dumplings formed from minced fish and tapioca starch… They’re delicious, but heavy and rich, and if you make the mistake of ordering them with the gado gado you might start to feel you’ve developed a nut allergy.” [Reader]

Julia Kramer runs into the same problem with a little more frustration: “Apply the house sambal (chili) paste liberally to counteract the rich peanut sauce, which, if you order carelessly, can show up one too many times throughout the meal. Nasi lemak, another traditional Indonesian dish, places sweet, fluffy coconut rice center stage, flanking it with plain slices of omelette, fried anchovies tossed with peanuts and your choice of curry chicken or coconut-braised beef (rendang). Even with the agreeable fishiness of the anchovies, this is still a pretty subtle dish, with none of the bracing heat or pounding spice you expect from other Asian cuisines (e.g., Thai, Szechuanese). This can make it challenging to appreciate Rickshaw, especially when my servers on both visits exuded none of the geniality that a place like this could greatly benefit from.” [TOC]

Michael Nagrant starts his review of the new version of Bub City by explaining what his job is not: “If I were concierge in the Loop advising tourists where to find a faux-country setpiece with franchise-level fried grub and fantastic cocktails within a short walk, Bub City… would likely be a go-to recommendation. But a concierge’s job is often to direct tired, hungry travelers without rental cars to a convenient spot. My job is to identify original and best food experiences for locals and travelers yearning for destination dining.” And he doesn’t find it in Bub City’s barbecue: “except for the unimpeachable slow-smoked “Carolina-Style” pulled pork with it’s glistening fat and deeply smoky perfume, there are so many better local options. At Bub City, sliced brisket is dry and almost smokeless. Its crust is not crisp as on the best brisket at Smoque in Irving Park (Smoque’s is also almost half the price of Bub’s). The crust on the St. Louis ribs is soggy, not quite the bark you’d find on the spareribs at Honey 1.” In the end, he finds the faux shitkicker-joint atmosphere and high-volume service “not fit for a gentleman. I guess for a bub, though, it’ll do.” [Sun-Times]

Phil Vettel tries seven different carver stations to find the best prime rib— yeah, smarty-pants trendy person, it is kind of an old-fashioned dish, that’s why places that can do it well sell it like hotscakes. As he finds at his first stop, Tom’s Steak House in Melrose Park— which is sold out by the time he gets there from the city. Our favorite part of this, in fact, is that he skips many of the obvious downtown steakhouses to check out some old school joints around the area: Tom’s, where “the prime rib arrives to your table via cart, the meat still sizzling on a metal platter raised over a bed of coals”; the Loop’s Miller’s Pub, which turns out to have “an astonishingly deep selection of imported and local craft beers (quite a surprise to me; I really need to get out more)”; and Rosemont’s Rosewood, where owner James Mandas works the floor and “the prime rib ($44.95) is double-cut thick, juicy and well-trimmed, a real beauty.” Still, the winner— and you’ll pay for it— is a steakhouse, Chicago Cut, whose $59 prime rib, actually prime for once, is “the holy grail of prime rib… No prime rib I’ve ever tasted could match the flavor, texture and beauty of the enormous, plate-size slab of bone-in perfection.” [Tribune]

On the Reader blog, Kate Schmidt welcomes the return of Marigold to its new Andersonville location at long last (it had been promised for about a year). “The menu still has my favorites, among them the meltingly tender murgh makhni (aka butter chicken) and the dahi kebab salad, microgreens with pistachios and a warm, peppercorn-encrusted yogurt cake in a garlicky orange-coriander vinaigrette. There are reliable standards from samosas to dals to tandoori preparations. And then there are snacks that all but beg for a nice breeze and a beverage, like a basket of green beans fried in a light, crispy pakora batter and served with a chile masala dipping sauce.” [Reader]

Rickshaw Republic Pulls Admiration From Sula, Reservations From Kramer; Nagrant