Attention for the new Italian place Al Dente in Old Irving Park has focused on chef Javier Perez's resume (Spiaggia, MK, Cibo Matto), but David Tamarkin in Time Out Chicago puts it in perspective: "Most chefs have worked for a big name or two (just try to find a cook who hasn’t worked at least one day for Trotter, Achatz or Bayless)." He finds that Perez has technical skill: "His lamb chops could not have been more perfectly medium-rare. His fresh corn polenta with wild mushrooms is soft yet textured, the opposite of mush." What he doesn't find is much sign of a personality of Perez's own, at least until he gets to a dessert special: "Not the worst bread pudding you’ve had, and definitely not the best. But the unusual addition of squash hinted at something Perez should tap into: an innovative instinct, a voice of his own." [Time Out Chicago]
Then, breaking with the usual dinner focus of reviews, Tamarkin and Julia Kramer go in search of brunch at three relatively new spots. A Monday "industry" brunch with an all-sausage menu at Bangers & Lace appalls them: "Crispy chicken and hearty waffles? It’s chicken sausage. Egg-topped gravy fries? That’s sausage in the gravy. A light, tender veggie frittata topped with fennel fronds? Vegetarian sausage. Christ, is this really how the industry eats?"
A cream-cheese slathered burger at the Bedford seems hardly less excessive, but manages to please: "This thing is a beast. But it works, and the doubly crisp potatoes on the side are good enough to be problematic, taking up stomach space needed for the burger and/or a funky, nuanced and very delicious kimchi Bloody Mary." But the prize goes to Tiny Lounge for a brunch that actually sounds like it would leave you functional afterward: "We also found a breakfast sandwich with a perfectly over-medium egg on ciabatta, the most expertly fried little nubbins of breakfast potatoes (i.e., what you call it when you want to eat french fries for breakfast) and the brunch cocktail we always hoped existed but never thought we’d find." [Time Out Chicago]