Chicago's constantly-changing restaurant scene has constantly proven itself upon the world culinary stage.
by Sierra on February 7, 2007
Opera's location in the up-and-coming South Loop neighborhood is quite modest on the outside, giving no hint to the bright palimpsest of colors and styles that makes up the interior of this upscale Chinese restaurant.Lest you think it is merely a hip, flashy setting for egg rolls and chow mein, think again. Opera calls their menu "Chinese with modern presentation", but this is Chinese food more like you'd find if you actually went to China: regional sauces, combined with traditional meats and vegetables that you may not find in your everyday Chinese restaurant: lotus root, duck, unusual mushrooms, curry.Oh, to be sure, there's familiar items - sweet n' sour soup, for example. But if your taste buds are adventurous, you could not ask for a better place to try things out.Feeling a little cautious? Try their petite prix-fixe menu on Sunday or Tuesday, when you can choose any appetizer, any entrée and and any dessert for just $25.But if you're feeling more bold, bring friends and dive in their menu. I would particularly recommend splitting a variety of their appetizers - each more interesting and tasty than the next. When I went, they started me out with an amuse, a popular way with many Chicago modern restaurants to give you a taste of the restaurant's skills. In this case, I started out with a petite baked goat cheese tartlette topped with a duck and mushroom-filled fried dumpling. From there, we progressed onto my selection of appetizers, starting with morel mushroom wontons, tasty little dumplings accompanied by an asparagus salad and dressed with sweet truffle oil-sesame vinaigrette. Next came the Emperor's 5-Flavor Hot & Sour Soup, followed by the Lobster & Pork Sui Mai, and finally, my favorite appetizer, the outstanding Hainanese Mussels, a heaping bowlful of fresh mussels piled with young bamboo, lotus, cilantro, and the fragrant Chiu Chow chili-coconut broth. Room for dessert? No, not for me - in fact, I had to take home a bit of my meal. Opera is on the pricer side - on non-prix-fixe nights, an appetizer, entrée and dessert or drink will run you at least $30 - but it's worth it, a delight for the senses, both visual and culinary. * * *Opera is located at the corner of S. Wabash Ave. and 13th Street; valet parking is available for $10. Street parking is limited and is metered.It is two blocks from the Roosevelt "L" stop (Red, green, orange lines) - walk one block towards the lake, then one block south. You can also take the 29 or 62 bus down State Street (one block east) from the central Loop.Extensive wine list and bar selections. Private booths and party facilities available.
by Sierra on February 23, 2007
If you say you don't like deep-dish pizza in Chicago, you get a lot of funny looks. After all, Pizzeria Uno made the City of Big Shoulders synonymous with hefty, hearty pizza pies.Lately, however, Chicagoans—likely influenced by a number of people who've moved here from other parts of the country—have embraced "thin" and "medium" crust pizzas. The difference? Thin crust pizzas are a thin layer of dough with a thicker layer around the edges, which allows you to pick up a slice by the crust; these pieces are easily folded and it is likely for the toppings to be thicker than the crust. Medium crust pizzas are a little doughier, like some of the frozen ready-made you buy in the supermarket.Philly's Best, located on W. Belmont just half a block east of the "L" station, is one of the new wave of Chicago pizzerias: while they specialize in a thinner/medium crust pizza offered in five different sizes, they also offer up traditional deep dish and "stuffed" pizzas, as well as awesome stromboli, a variety of meal-size salads, oven-baked grinders (including, of course, Philly Steak grinders!), pasta, stuffed pasta, and a whole bunch of tasty sides ranging from garlic bread to cheese fries to batter-dipped vegetables.I grew up on thinner-crust NY-style (sometimes called "Neapolitan") pizza, so I really like Philly's pizzas, especially their pepperoni. A nice pizza the way pizza should be—the crust just a touch greasy and thin enough to fold; loads of cheese and toppings; nice crispy crust. Their "Philly special" is sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.If you're eating in-house, you order your pizza at the front counter, they give you a number, and you pick the food items up from the back counter when called. Other than that, it's a self-serve kind of place. Refills on soda cost 25 cents, so if you plan to get a medium soda, you might as well get the large.Definitely leave room for dessert—Oreo cheesecake; fried dough with a honey-lemon sauce; cupcakes; krimpets; triple-layered chocolate cake—the list goes on! I love the fried dough bites, but I order them without the honey-lemon sauce (which makes them too sweet for my tastes). Service is relatively good, but when it's really busy can get slow.Too busy to sit down? Get pizza slices to go via their walk-up window on Belmont.Gets extra kudos for being open til midnight most days, and 2am on the weekends!Philly's Best also has a location in Evanston, and their delivery area covers most of the north side of Chicago, Rogers Park, parts of Skokie, and Evanston.Open 7 days a weekMonday - Thursday: 11am - MidnightFriday and Saturday: 11am - 2amSunday: Noon - 9pm
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