Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Same ol' same ol
Smith and Wollensky, Great Diner; Sabri Nehari, Greasy-Good; Peninsula, Great Tea/Lousy Tea

In the last 48 hours, I have visited three of my favorite places in Chicago. Here's a quick re-cap, but the bottom line, nothing's changed (thank God!).

Smith and Wollensky
It was not wine week, and as I was soon off to a business meeting, I had no wine, but even sober, I love this place. It remains, to me, not so much a steakhouse, but a great American diner. The burger was maybe even more delicious than ever, the steak sammy remains an ideal lunch combo--$15 for a thin prime ribeye steak, plenty of fresh-cut fries, better than decent cole slaw and even a nice pickle. The chowhounditas split the truffled mac and cheese, which one daughter liked a lot more than the other. After taking her first bite, she says, "hey it has mushrooms too." Service was ideal, with the pit boss system also used to great effect at Hugo's Frog Bar and all the Emeril restaurants. The other thing about S&W, it just seems so urbane. If you rarely see men well dressed these days, it seems you rarely see men at S&W not well dressed. I loved the image of these two older gentleman at the bar (or as the kidz would call it, the counter) in perfect chalk-striped suits, imbiding on amber manhattan cocktails (like extras from a Thin Man movie).

Sabri Nehari
Bread and meat, robust, spicy and with all the right amounts of grease, what could be better on the coldest day of the year? The signature nehari was as good as always, but my favorite dish of the night was the lamb gosht, more red than usual but with a huge amount of ghee that counter-balanced all of the spices.

Afternoon Tea - Peninsula Hotel
One of the chowhounditas was especially not happy when confronted with the the kidz tea menu. With her mom's sense of justice, she just knew she was getting a raw deal (actually that is a very un-fair analogy, because the Condiment Queen knows a real raw deal when she sees one). Still, when Hannah's deal arrived it changed her completely! On a clear glass plate, she (and Sophia) got a small burger (but a very nice looking burger), a shot glass of fries, a shot glass of jelly bellies, a shot glass of jello w/real whipped cream, a terrific fudge brownie, and "tea sammy's" of peanutbutter and ham and cheese (crustless). It was supposed to come with hot chocolate, but the kidz wanted tea--and ordered the mint melange. The parents, of course, knew we'd like our tea. Great scones, cookies, sammy's, a mint chocolate souffle, what was not to like? My only complaint with the Peninsula's tea is the tea. It's just too weak. And they do not bring milk with the tea.