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Takashi, Zealous, Graham Elliot, Cafe des Architects, North Pond--- thoughts on these choices?

a
ajs489 Jun 30, 2010 02:34 PM

Looking to make dinner reservations this weekend and considering those choices... not super familiar with any of them, so could anyone sort of elaborate on the pros/cons of each choice? We're looking for a nice, upscale, romantic place with great food. What are your thoughts on the experience at these places?

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Graham Elliot
217 W. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60654

  1. Chargenda Jul 1, 2010 10:44 AM

    Here are my thoughts on the places I have actually been to:

    Zealous - I did the tasting menu there before and had a work holiday party there. And the tasting was fun, a really great time, but I don't recall most of what I ate! It didnt' rock my world, and the poor place seems to not be able to get customers these days, so hardly much fo a scene.

    Graham Elliot - I have been here once and said I would never go back. It wasn't that my food had anything wrong with it, there was just nothing right. A few dishes were too gimmicky, wich is great and amazing if flavors come first, but they didn't here. I could have had a bad night, but my rule is that one bad dinner on my first visit and I am done, unless the restaurant does something amazing to make it up.

    those are the only two I have thoughts on. But, not on your list, I would say that Naha and Boka are two amazing meals I have had in the last year or so.

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    Boka
    1729 North Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614

    Naha
    500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

    Graham Elliot
    217 W. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60654

    1. chicgail Jul 1, 2010 03:41 AM

      So little time; so many opinions.

      I've eaten at Takashi and liked it a lot, but didn't love it. It's a nice setting with an outdoor area which is especially pleasant on nice nights. Its not one one of those places that I HAVE to go back to, but it's in my 'hood and a really good choice.

      I tried Cafe des Archtects and I am not a fan.. Except for the great price on the Chef's Seasonal Menu, my experience there was "meh." Food ok, not great; service was obnoxious and omnipresent to the point that we left laughing about it. Maybe it was a fluke.

      I liked Graham Elliot. Very innovative and well prepared food. The waiter made good recommendations for both food and wine. Haven't been back, but not because it's off my list.

      North Pond has creative, beautifully prepared food in an extraordinary setting on a pond (North Pond) in Lincoln Park (the park for which the neighborhood was named). You may have difficulty getting reservations this weekend, but I would call rather than rely on opentalbe.com. You never know.

      I've never been to Zealous, but I also suggest Brown Trout or Sola. They're both going to be a cab ride into north neighborhoods (as is Takashi), but the food and location are excellent at both. Sola has a nice outdoor area also. And be sure to bring your own romance. They'll both nurture it.

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      North Pond
      2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

      Graham Elliot
      217 W. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60654

      3 Replies
      1. re: chicgail
        nsxtasy Jul 1, 2010 04:57 AM

        FYI - Both Graham Elliot and Cafe des Architectes are downtown, within walking distance of most of the hotels in River North and along Michigan Avenue. North Pond is in Lincoln Park, three miles north of downtown. Takashi is in Bucktown, 3-4 miles northwest of downtown. Browntrout and Sola are in North Center, 5 miles north of downtown.

        1. re: chicgail
          a
          ajs489 Jul 2, 2010 10:53 AM

          Thanks for the advice! Ended up scoring the last opentable reservation at North Pond, and I think that's where we're ending up :)

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          North Pond
          2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

          1. re: ajs489
            nsxtasy Jul 2, 2010 11:37 AM

            Great pick, and congrats on scoring the reservation!

        2. nsxtasy Jun 30, 2010 02:59 PM

          I ate at Takashi last year and, while everything was *okay*, there wasn't a single dish that wowed me in any way, which is pretty unusual for an upscale contemporary American restaurant. I usually love at least *something*. The atmosphere is contemporary bistro, which you may or may not consider romantic.

          I ate at Zealous when Michael Taus first opened it in Elmhurst in the mid 1990s. I thought it was very good at the time. However, since I have not been back - not intentionally, just so happens - I would consider that opinion to be too old to be a reliable indicator, one way or the other. So let's call that a no-opinion.

          I have not eaten at Graham Elliot. I enjoyed his food at Avenues a couple of years ago, before he went out on his own. It was a nice combination of creativity and deliciousness. I've heard the same about his current place, but I can't tell you anything about the food (other than that) or the atmosphere.

          I've eaten dinner *numerous times* at Cafe des Architectes (not just once like others here, not just twice), and I have always absolutely loved it. Every meal, and even every dish has been phenomenal - the very best of any contemporary American restaurant in the city, leaving aside the big-bucks places like Alinea. The service has always been competent, although a couple of others here on Chowhound have had some service problems in single visits there. The room is gorgeous; it's part of the curved glass facade of the Sofitel, and the curved glass is one side of the room. It's very airy, especially if there is daylight at the time you're eating. Depending on where you're sitting, you may have a view of the sidewalk outside. I would describe the decor as understated contemporary.

          I like North Pond a lot. I would give a slight nod on food to Cafe des Architectes, but North Pond has excellent food too. For a romantic atmosphere, North Pond trumps Cafe des Architectes, thanks to the former's location in the park. However, I think you're going to find that North Pond is full for this weekend. (At least, that appears to be the case on Opentable.com) Otherwise, it might be my top pick, based on what you've stated.

          Bottom line, I love CdA, I also like North Pond a lot but I suspect you won't be able to get a reservation there, and I was not impressed with Takashi.

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          Takashi Restaurant
          1952 North Damen, Chicago, IL 60647

          1. l
            lbs Jun 30, 2010 02:44 PM

            I haven't been to any of the other places but I have been to CdesA and thought it was really bad. Bland, boring, bad service, and pretty much just what you would find in any big city hotel restaurant setting. I didn't find it romantic or innovative or in your case - worth a spluge on a GC.

            In about 7 seconds, Nsxtasy will jump in and laud the place as it one of his favorites so you'll get both sides of the coin! :)

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