2647 N. Kedzie


Every dish on the tapas menu at Azucar sounded good, so between the four of us we ordered nearly all 20 or so of them, along with a bottle of wine from the reasonably priced all-Spanish list at this new Logan Square spot. Opting to skip basics like grilled garlic shrimp and goat cheese baked in tomato sauce, we started with an arugula and baby spinach salad with fennel, orange, and cherry tomato and two wedges of manchego served with almonds and fig jelly. Standouts as the evening progressed included beef empanadas on a fire-roasted pepper puree and albondigas–meatballs in a spicy-sweet piquillo pepper sauce with garlic jam–and we ordered seconds of both. A lamb dish, comprising four juicy chops, was redolent of vanilla, and a cheese-stuffed red pepper atop a chickpea puree was especially tasty. Our server spread clean napkins over our messy tablecloth before bringing dessert: a chocolate terrine with salted almonds, which reminded me of a dense Italian torta, and a cinnamon-laden creme Catalan. After we paid the bill, one of the owners, Robert Otero, introduced himself and offered us a complimentary shot. –Kathie Bergquist


2438 Main, Evanston


Set on the outskirts of an Evanston mall that includes a Marshall’s and a Sam’s, Ninefish doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the interior of this sushi bar has been designed with precise attention to detail, from the minimalist flower arrangements to the culinary picture books in the waiting area. Tea, often a freebie earning no more attention than a chopstick, comes in a dozen varieties, each served in a special pot, which helps compensate for the lack of alcohol (Ninefish is currently BYO). Sashimi is prepared in what the chef calls the European style; the slivers of raw fish come dressed with nontraditional sauces. We had fresh and firm striped jack with a dot of pureed kiwi, sitting on a wash of light alfalfa puree; white tuna was simply splashed with truffle oil. These were excellent accompaniments, setting the freshness of the fish in relief rather than overwhelming it like the usual ginger and wasabi. Ninefish, which has pan-Asian aspirations, also offers an eclectic range of nonsushi options, including pad thai and Peking duck as well as some all-American steak, but it’s the sashimi that’s worth the trip. –David Hammond

Blu Coral

1265 N. Milwaukee


Sixth months after the first Blu Coral “contemporary sushi lounge” opened in Woodfield, another appeared in Wicker Park, and yet another is soon to follow in Evanston. Sushi in Japan is traditionally somewhat simple, but in the U.S. it can sometimes be overengineered for fashionable effect, and the chain is proof that it’s a growing trend: Dragon Fire is a roll packed with soft-shell crab, asparagus, and tobiko, teased with chile sauce, and flambeed in Bacardi; my partner thought it would be fun, and it was, but it wasn’t so tasty. A heavy, chewy spring roll of filet mignon was an unconventional concoction that confirmed the value of convention. Much better were the lobster roll wrapped in eel and the yellowtail wrapped in cod rather than nori, both innovations in the service of good flavor. We had some delicious fatty tuna (at ten bucks a pop it’d better be good), but the mackerel, salmon, and tuna sashimi on an omakase (chef’s choice) platter was disappointingly mushy. Still, the space is sleek, with metallic curves and sexy ambient lighting, and the servers are friendly; the swank bar may be the perfect place to sample a saketini. Watch out for the two-stage cocktail glass that rests inside a globe filled with ice, though; it’s a cool concept, but it drips. –David Hammond


The Gage 24 S. Michigan | 312-372-4243

Hop Haus 646 N. Franklin | 312-467-4287


Fierros 2550 W. Addison

For more on restaurants, see our blog The Food Chain at

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/A. Jackson.