This week's Reader boasts Naomi Wise's picks for the best new and improved restaurants in town, along with few pet peeves.
At the top of the top she likes Blanca, where Michael Mina protege Wade Hageman is cooking Nouveau French California food. I haven't been yet, but it's definitely on my "hit list", as my friend Lisa says. Market is named best in the "almost- affordable" category - and she includes a nod to my pastry instructor - James Foran - for best desserts rivaled only by Jack Fisher at Addison (late of 910 and Region). Personally I think his stuff is far and away better than Fisher's, but maybe I'm biased.
She also mentions Modus as the best place to gobble French food into the wee hours. Confidential gets the nod for best Tapas, and she mentions that Chris Walsh will be opening a new restaurant early this year. I wonder if he's going back to his old, and still vacant, location on 6th Avenue?
Hawthornes is mentioned as the best improvement or "turnaround," with fresh vegetables and stocks used instead of the dreaded Sysco mix. I've never been to Hawthorne's, but I did dine at the Green Tomato in Kensington a few times when we lived in the neighborhood (owned by the same people as Fifth and Hawthorne) and they definitely had that problem - I wonder if it has improved as well, or if the same people still own it.
My favorite part of her list is the list of "Eight Great Dishes" - She liked the truffled corn at Island Prime, as well as a truffled corn ravioli dish from J Six that sounds fabulous. She also mentions the "Bubalus Bubalis" Ricotta Gnudi - which is on the Restaurant Week menu at 1500 Ocean, the strawberry ribs from Red Pearl Kitchen, Grand Marnier Souffle at Thee Bungalow and smoked roast beef at the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues. Rounding out the list are a dish from Paradise Grill (which isn't winning many rave reviews on Chowhound) and Torchon of Foie Gras at Stingaree. I also had a good version of this at La Bastide Bistro last year.
There are also a few surprises, at least to me - the "Best Kept Secret" is Galileo 101 - which has always seemed a bit forsaken in it's odd location facing the trolley tracks in the One Harbor Drive complex. Apparently a former sous chef at Chive is now cooking there.
In the ethnic category, Lotus Thai, a new place called Kous Kous, D'mood, Ranoosh, Samba Grill, and Gourmet India get nods. Gourmet India has a fabulous lunch buffet for about eight dollars and the people are incredibly nice.
One of the most intriguing listings to me however, is the mention of a new place called "Batter Up." Owned by by a former chef at the Juke Joint, which I remember fondly, serves Cajun style casual food at the corner of Euclid and Market. Sounds like an interesting new option for weeknight dinner!
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