Best Upscale Ethnic Eats?
Hi Chicago Chowhounds,
I'm going to be in town for about a week and would love your ideas on the best midscale to upscale ethnic restaurants. (I wouldn't consider Italian, French, etc. to be necessarily ethnic.) Price really isn't a factor, just looking for inventive and adventurous eats, preferably in the downtown area or within reach of the metro in a safe neighborhood.
All of the following are in the downtown area of Chicago; all are excellent and reasonably upscale:
Topolobampo (Mexican) - www.rickbayless.com/restaurants
Shanghai Terrace (Chinese) - http://chicago.peninsula.com
Vermilion (Latin-Indian) - www.thevermilionrestaurant.com
Le Lan (French-Asian) - www.lelanrestaurant.com
Le Colonial (Vietnamese) - www.lecolonialchicago.com
Red Light (Asian fusion) - www.redlight-chicago.com
Mercat a la Planxa (Spanish-Catalan) - www.mercatchicago.com
Carnivale (Latin fusion) - www.carnivalechicago.com
Aria (global fusion) - www.ariachicago.com
Vong's Thai Kitchen (Thai) - www.vongsthaikitchen.com (Arun's is even more expensive and upscale for Thai food, but not at all convenient to downtown)
Of these, not really (although they are all very good). The main reason is that, when I go downtown for an upscale dinner, I'm more likely to be eating contemporary American cuisine (such as one sixtyblue, my favorite restaurant in the city) or else French, Italian, seafood, etc. When I eat ethnic cuisines, I'm more likely to do so at restaurants that are not particularly upscale (and that are often not downtown).
I went to Red Light for the first time this week. I was VERY impressed. Some of the best service I've had - wife and I were out with friends we hadn't seen for a while, and the waiter let us take all the time we needed to sip our drinks, catch up, etc. He knew the menu inside and out and gave us REAL recommendations (not the all-too-standard "it's all really good, it just depends on what you like" that you usually hear) for everything from shared appetizers to entrees. Once we ordered, the service was spectacularly prompt and spot-on, in my opinion.
I got the Firsherman's Stew - sort of a pan-asian bouillabaise - which was great. Halfway through, I switched with my wife - she got the pan-seared filet special which was great, but a bit too rare for her (medium was more like medium rare - I know, I know, why get medium???). Halibut also looked wonderful. Atmosphere is sleek and sophisticated without being overdone.
I'm not sure of our waiter's name, but you can't miss him - bleach-blonde hair and beard - Wednesday he was wearing some sort of orange print pants and suspenders. He was great.