Quick trip reviews: Naha,Xoco,Portillo's, Doughnut Vault
I never did so much as get to leave a message at Schwa, so we went to Naha. Everything was good, the burrata appetizer certainly the most memorable. Bread was good, service was good, all our choices tasted very nice. Husband's scallop app was very good, I had the pheasant and quail, both grand examples of the dish. Husband had a not-very-memorable fish, but then he tends to order the mildest fish which just bores me.
The waiter paired two wines for me, a vermentino w/ the burrata and a bordeaux with the game birds. Both wines were unremarkable. I had a desert that I no longer remember. So here's my quibble: the meal was $178 pre tip and while we had a very nice dinner, nothing was spectacular and we received no amuse, no hor 'd, no intermezzo, nada. Just the very exp app followed by the very expensive entree. I knew I wasn't going there for a tasting menu, but generally when I see those prices, I expect a bit more in the way of extras with the meal. I conceed they send mignardes after dessert. This review is not a slam, the restaurant is well run and the cooking impecable, i'm just mildly disappointed.
Doughnut Vault - MAJOR dissappointment because the line at 9:00 was so long after I stood for awhile , saw no movement and was still standing around the corner from the door...i bailed.
XOCO - eh. Stood in line about 30 minutes there. Delicious jamaica/lemongrass aqua fresca and delicious aztec hot chocolate. Very good salad (cilantro content always make me like things). The Al pastor Friday special sandwich was unimpressive to me, and I did not care for the churros at all.
Portillo's Beef - My husband once again thanks the 'hounds who set him onto this Italian Beef place so convenient to Mich ave. That is a damn tasty sandwich.
Intelligensia Coffee - awesome. Best coffee I ever had in a paper cup.
Pot Pan (possible i don't have that name correct) - a Thai place that was open on Christmas day. Pretty good. I would have been psyched to find so much as an IHOP open, so I was quite pleased.
Love Chicago, can't wait to come back and eat more. Thanks for all advice.
First of all, thanks for posting your report! Feedback and additional opinions are always helpful.
As for Naha, as it happens, I ate there myself a couple of weeks ago. We each did the traditional three-course dinner, and the check was $225 for two, including moderate alcohol and tax/tip, so that's similar to what you paid. In Chicago, all of that is typical of the high end of the "casual fine dining" segment, similar to what you would pay at North Pond or Topolobampo. Such places do NOT usually provide complimentary amuses bouches, intermezzos, or mignardises (and, as you noted, Naha did the latter). Those extra complimentary courses are typically provided only at the restaurants with the extensive tasting menus (e.g. Everest, Spiaggia, Trotter's, TRU), where you're also going to be paying significantly more money (typically $175-250 per person inclusive, even more at Alinea or if you go for more elaborate wine/alcohol). So what Naha provides is similar to other Chicago restaurants in its price range; there's no reason to be disappointed in what they provide for the money.
As for Doughnut Vault, IMHO you didn't miss anything. I went there earlier this month for the first time, and it was nothing special at all, really not any different from what you find at Dunkin' Donuts. I don't know how a place gets so much hype based on so little substance.
And as for XOCO, I feel the same way you do; it's decent but just not that special. Rick Bayless has two terrific restaurants right around the corner in Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, but XOCO is really more like a Mexican fast food place rather than creative fine/finer Mexican cuisine.
Please come visit again!