The denuded geranium at Inovasi

Mike Sula and other Reader critics give their picks for the best new restaurants of 2010; along with the expected—Big Star, Girl & the Goat, the Purple Pig—there are some lower in profile, like West Town’s Arami (which now has full liquor service including a smart selection of sakes) and Branch 27. In the listings are other notable restaurants of 2010, among them Bucktown’s Chilapan, Ukie Village’s Ruxbin, and Andersonville’s Vincent. Elsewhere on the blog is Sula’s list of the 110 best things he ate and drank in a very good year.

In this week’s Key Ingredient chef’s challenge, Trotter’s vet John des Rosiers of the Lake Bluff restaurant Inovasi borrowed a geranium plant from a nearby dry cleaners and stripped it of its blossoms to make a geranium-flower pesto. Next up is Phillip Foss of Meatyballs Mobile, who’ll be using freeze-dried saffron.

Sula also reviews Saigon Sisters, the West Loop restaurant spun off from the banh mi stand of the same name at the Chicago French Market. There he finds that 26-year-old chef Matt Eversman—an extern at Trotter’s and line cook at the late May Street Market—is audaciously blending fine-dining techniques with the elemental pleasures of Vietnamese street food.

Our new news feature Morsels gives the dirt on the closing of Andersonville’s Pasticceria Natalina next year, plus the word on Acre’s new dinner menu, which consolidates the original two menus reviewed just last week, and a Kickstarter campaign for local brewers Pipeworks, who’ll have a free tasting tonight at West Lakeview Liquors.