Monday, December 30, 2013

Chicago, Illinois (Dec. 2013)

Just returned from another long weekend in downtown Chicago, where I enjoyed three great meals (click here for my previous Chicago post).  

For a first-class dining experience with meat-loving companions, try the London-based Japanese steakhouse Roka Akor.  I started my meal with an order of steamed edamame with sea salt, and then moved on to two grilled vegetable side dishes -- sweet potato with ginger teriyaki and asparagus with sweet soy and sesame.  The highlight, however, was the wild mushroom rice hot pot, which included tofu and, for double the price, black truffles.  The dish tasted like a rich mushroom risotto, but more aromatic and completely vegan.  The waiter will combine the ingredients right at your table. 

Japanese wild mushroom and rice hot pot with tofu and black truffles

For a fun experience where you can combine shopping and eating, check out Mario Batali's high-end Italian food market Eataly, which is even bigger than the one in New York City.  While you can find meat-free dishes (and wine!) at most of the market's restaurants, I recommend the all vegetable-based Le Verdure, where I thoroughly enjoyed my mile-high tricolor salad and polenta.

Insalata tricolore with radicchio, endive, arugula, and balsamic vinegarette

Wild hive polenta with spicy tomato sauce and fried egg

Finally, for a more low-key and cozy dining experience, check out Friends Sushi, which has a ton of vegetarian dishes, including an extensive vegetable maki list.  The sweet potato tempura and shitake rolls were outstanding, and I love this crispy tofu salad!

Crispy tofu salad, with baby spinach, fresh pear, and balsamic reduction

Roka Akor on Urbanspoon

Eataly on Urbanspoon

Friends Sushi on Urbanspoon