Well, as you probably noticed, I had to take a week off last week. It's been some kind of spring, with kinds of stress I didn't think I'd ever have coming. Gotta look out for number one sometimes, though, and I'm glad to say I'm back and feeling ready to review some reviews. This week, consider how we -- writers, restaurants, just, y'know, we -- go about being ourselves. Welcome back to Flyover Friday.
"Shorewood's Tochi plays with flavors in its ramen bowls," by Carol Deptolla for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Deptolla appreciates Tochi's vibe like Jeff Beutner did for the Shepherd Express back in March, though she doesn't call the green onions Welsh onions, a difference that earns my approval. The bit about the traffic level at Tochi is appreciated, as it can be dicey for the average customer to predict what kind of advance notice is best for weekend dining.
"Roma Ristorante: Cozy, friendly Italian," by Jolene Ketzenberger for Indianapolis' NUVO
A one-visit review from Ketzenberger and NUVO. She describes what I'd call a surprising service error, considering the age of the restaurant, but the staff rebounds nicely. A deeper consideration of the restaurant would provide needed context for that blip.
"The Blind Tiger is unconventional, unfinished and really good," by Ian Froeb for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Getting a Natt Spil vibe from the Blind Tiger, for you Madisonians reading this post. And I can't say I've seen a more Denny's-esque pun for a menu item than "Soldier of Four-Cheese." Apologies to the Post-Dispatch and Mr. Froeb for missing the reviews here for quite some time. RSS coding glitch plus forgotten email from the webmaster = my bad.
"Quick and delicious: Hot or Mild provides fast, affordable Indian food with little fuss and all the flavor," by Douglas Trattner for the Cleveland Scene
Interesting trend: like the one that follows, this review highlights a restaurant without tables. I get the idea, but please let this not be too big of a trend. I'm having a bit of a hard time envisioning the model at Hot or Mild -- whether it's a buffet, or a lunch line, or what, and how the a la carte ordering works -- from the review. Could just be me, though.
"Athlete Eats: The Cardinals' nutritionist brings health food to Cherokee Street," by Cheryl Baehr for the St. Louis Riverfront Times
Given my critic-crush on Baehr, you can see how she has earned the benefit of the doubt in waxing so rhapsodic about this retail extension of what is essentially an ultra-wealthy training table. Of course, the food itself sounds pretty good, but when she falls in love, I believe it. BUT: newspapers, can we do away with the second click for page two when it's for a measly paragraph?
"Sawasdee runs out to greet you but doesn't have much to say yet," by Charles Ferruzza for the Kansas City Pitch
A well-crafted review. Ferruzza's broad experience of the restaurant informs the reader in advance of a first visit, but invites individual interpretation. And I agree with him; a good duck will, if not absolve, at least paper over an otherwise poor performance.
"Capri Steak House in Columbus is a blast from the past," by Samara Kalk Derby for the Wisconsin State Journal
Gaaaah, I'm sorry, I'm trying to be more positive with the State Journal, but ugh, a multitude of sins in this review. "Some au jus on the side," "[rib] meat falling off the bone on contact," and of course, my personal bugaboo, the one-visit nature of the review.
"Dangerously Delicious Pies: A slice of heaven," by Jane Slaughter for the Detroit Metro Times
Celestial, ethereal, and heavenly all on one sentence? Tell us how you really feel about these pies, Jane. A word of warning: I can't second her claim that the ratatouille pie is vegan since she said the crust recipe includes shortening. All that said, the pies sound terrific and she describes them in ways that make me want them even more.
"Sloppy fries abound at The Big Cheese Poutinerie in Wrigleyville," by Michael Nagrant for Chicago's RedEye
So here's a stunner. This is, I'm fairly certain, the first time I've been told that the common pronunciation of poutine -- at least the one we hear in the States -- is "wrong" by French-Canadian standards. Keep the second syllable stressed, but say INN rather than EEN. As for the review? It's poutine, it's made by a Canadian, and it's so damn close to me. Now I'm hungry.
"Westies Gastropub: Careful preparation, wide-ranging choice of dishes," by Jon Christensen for the Columbus Dispatch
Christensen plows right into the monotone dish descriptions, as is his wont. I'm not sure he knows what achiote is, since he describes the flavors of its typical components as if the restaurant didn't use them. I don't know. "Good-tasting" should not be in a restaurant critic's descriptive arsenal, no matter what my message board detractors might wish.
"Elephant Walk a taste of Ethiopia," by Polly Campbell for the Cincinnati Enquirer
This is a hard review to get behind; it struggles to walk the line between instructive explanation and a sort of hayseed awe. A critic probably shouldn't come right out and call a non-European cuisine "exotic and different" quite so earnestly.
"Beer-geek heaven: Brews Brothers pairs an ample tap list with big burgers," by me for Madison's Isthmus
It's been a busy six weeks or so, with three reviews in that span. The transition from an all-dog menu to an all-burger menu was maybe not as distinct and re-setting as you'd expect. Brews Brothers is providing good value and craft beer exposure to the west side, which really needs it.
"Spritz Burger: Last seat on the burger bandwagon," by Mike Sula for the Chicago Reader
Not exactly a great outing for Sula this week, as far as food quality goes. I found myself wishing that Spritz would dial back the irony just a bit, with each successive paragraph. Goofball can work in measured doses, but Spritz appears to have infiltrated the town's entire water supply with the stuff instead. (But cheers nevertheless to my burger-reviewing brother this week.)
"Sapori Italian Grille in Avon Lake turns out good Italian fare, and a surprisingly good steak," by Bob Migra for the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Bloody Mary compound butter is a brilliant idea. But how do you serve a flambéed sauce and not do the actual flambéing tableside? Migra covers the marquee and big-ticket items admirably in this solid review.
"New Sapori restaurant brings the distinctive flavors of Sicily to Washington Twp.," by Sylvia Rector for the Detroit Free Press
Always freaky, the unrelated twin review phenomenon. This Sapori, unrelated to the one in Cleveland, gets a quick turnaround review from Rector, one of the two grand dames of Detroit who, I think, can do whatever they want. Sylvia, if the restaurant is still working out its kinks, maybe you should wait more than a couple weeks to start reviewing it!
"After 65 years of serving food, Sindbad's knows what works," by Molly Abraham
See also: Molly Abraham. I think this is a review. Not sure, to be honest. It's a Molly Abraham review, that's for sure. Brief, almost like a postcard sent while visiting a friend in Maine or somewhere. And certainly, prominent mention of the décor. She can do whatever she wants.