Vettel Parties Like It's 1993 at Michael Jordan's Steak House, Kramer So-So on Morso, Masa Azul
With his rave for the new Michael Jordan's Steak House in the Intercontinental Hotel (he gives it three stars, but clearly thinks four are within its grasp), the Tribune's Phil Vettel indulges in full-blown nostalgia for a Chicago in which Jordan is winning championships and steakhouses are synonymous with fine dining: "Side dishes dazzle. The eye-catching side is the mashed-potato trio, three cast-iron pots with lobster, garlic and cheddar-horseradish potatoes (the lineup varies). Even better, in my view, is the shrimp and grits, a terrific version enriched with Nueske's bacon, sweet corn and lobster broth."
Though you might not know it from the mashed-potato trio, it really is 2011 in the rest of the world, and the restaurant (from Jordan's longtime partners in One Sixty Blue, rather than anyone associated with the long-ago River North tourist joint Michael Jordan's Restaurant) and its chef James O'Donnell make nods to modernity elsewhere on the menu:
The lamb chops also get the gourmet treatment, the rib chops marinated in white harissa and topped with a merguez-sausage crust. Alaskan halibut is predictably terrific, this being peak halibut season, but the smoked-pecan romesco sauce beneath elevates the dish even more.
It's an orgy of adjectives we haven't heard since the last time Jordan bounced a ball around a court. [Tribune]
Julia Kramer has mixed feelings about Morso, finding moments of delight but seeming to regard it as less than the sum of its often excessive parts: "fried oysters were set on top of a flawless crab cake—really, the kind that makes you believe that a fried patty is the one true destiny for sweet, fresh crab—which was covered in something very buttery and rich called 'scallops sauce.' Halfway into this dish, I realized there were strips of crisp-fatty bacon hiding beneath the crab cake, a discovery I found somewhere between hilarious and certifiably crazy. But in the Universe of Morso—a world of Gouda-coated spaetzle and dense beignets and fist-size sweetbreads—it’s completely normal." [TOC]
While her feelings about tequila-focused Masa Azul are less than mixed, "from the dated protein-starch-vegetable arrangement of the entrées (and the fact that in the case of chili-rubbed trout, the vegetable part was plain, understeamed broccoli) to some lackluster execution, such as fried artichoke hearts whose coating was soft, ceviche whose shrimp were chewy and a peanut-butter pot de crème whose texture was as runny as melted chocolate." [TOC]