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Aria restaurant highlights Saturday night

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We just returned from Chicago where we entertained clients at this incredible restaurant at the lovely Fairmount Hotel.. My husband and I both agree that the food, wine, service and atmosphere put this restaurant up there with the best we've ever experienced.

There were six of us and we ordered three appetizers and shared. The rock shrimp was my favorite. They were huge, seasoned gently and melted in the mouth. There were six of them each nestled in its own indentation, much like escargot. The huge seared scallops were large enought to split and enjoy as well. The veal ravioli was a hit, though I don't eat veal and did not sample it. I had to force myself to slow down on the flatbread with the 4 piquant spreads- the flavors were great.

My husband and I both enjoyed the tuna entree. Pan seared encrusted in a spice/wasabi coating, the flavor was exquisite. We are both tuna fans and enjoy it quite a bit, and this was the best I've ever tasted. It was served on an interesting two leveled plate with a side of a type of slaw in a delicious sauce. Very light..a perfect pairing with the spicy fish. Two others in our group raved about the halibut served over a lobster and crab cake. Another enjoyed the chicken and shrimp pad thai which was filled with huge succulent shrimp and was presented in a silver footed bowl. Another person had a pork dish which she enjoyed very much. They also gave us a platter of sweet potatoes with a creamy ginger topping, a white cheddar scalloped potato casserole and diced potatoes. That addition might seem odd with the Pacific rim food, but all the potato dishes were very, very good.

We decided to split desserts as well, which was fun. We all enjoyed a creme brulee with a tropical fruit flavor, a "death by chocolate" plate with several different selections including a delicious mousse and a "chocolate shot" in a glass. My favorite was the selection of four sorbets...the pear was outstanding. Each dessert was delicious and the presentation was amazing.

We enjoyed a bottle of Fife Old vine Zin and two Rombauer Carla's Vineyard as well. Our server was a good natured man named Henry who has obviously been at this job many years and is excellent with working with people and was spot on with recommendations. Our tab came to $ 593 which included three bottles of wine and a couple of after dinner drinks and coffees. I think that was a very good and fair price for a place like this in Chicago.

I liked the friendly, warm atmosphere in here. Not stuffy at all, soft music playing in the background and not any noise from other diners. We booked our reservation through opentable.com and we were seated immediately when we arrived even though we were a bit early. (It was a Saturday, and the holiday parade was that night so we anticipated a longer cab ride. ) Our clients were very impressed and had a great time. I just can't help but gush about our experience and highly recommend this restaurant.

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