Monday, October 10, 2005

Doing My Part for Chowhound.com

Last week Chowhound.com let everyone know that it's broke. Now, you won't find me sending them any money as I am infrequent user of their site. But I will help. I was putting together post today and I realized that I had never blogged on Hugo's Frog Bar, one of my favorite places to eat in Chicago. So, I decided to re-post my Chowhound Hugo's posts. This way, you can read the stuff on the blog and save Jim Leff the bandwidth costs by engaging his servers. I hope to re-post more stuff soon and save Chowhound even more money.

Hugo's Post #1

It has been a good few weeks, providing vial information to manage risks, so feeling a bit flush we made a beeline to the place we love to drop our wad. Of course, we could have spent less money and had been in the wonderful company of the Chilean chowers, but sometimes, a mayor and his consort have to do their own thing.

We got to Hugo's pretty much on time for our reservation, the place was just filling up, but we got plunked in one of the gosh darn worst seats in the house. A comfy, circular banquette that was too close to the kitchen door. Every time it opened, we got serenaded by the crash of dishes and other assorted work-in-progress noises. They moved us easily, but it still rankles me a bit, why did WE get that booth? The new booth was just as comfy and circular and built for canoodling and before long all thoughts of noise were gone.

The Condiment Queen expressed pleasure she had been served pretty much her ideal repast: shrimp de jonge, the crab cakes with hot pink mayo and a veggie combination platter that included asparagus, broccoli, sauted mushrooms, creamed spinach and sauted onions.

The shrimp de jonge was true revelation on this Chicago classic. Very large shrimps not in the least mushy or possessing that certain cooked shrimp taste I do not like--imagine that poor rendition of shrimp creole you once ate. The twelve or so shrimps were covered in the de jonge, a mix of butter, garlic and breadcrumbs. It was a dryer mix, almost a paste, but I liked it better that way. The crab cake was still terrific although perhaps because I have spent some extra time with Evil Ronnie, I was a bit more discerning on it. I did not seem pure jumbo lump, rather a mix, with only nuggets of lump interspersed. I cannot say whether this is a trend or if it has always been that way, it is only recently that I have taken this keener approach to crab cakes.

Hugo's does a very fine job with the smaller things. Not too many people whip up a better blue cheese dressing, and that effusive hot pink mayo works awfully well. The three kinds of bread on the table were even better. We resisted mightedly before meal, just nibbling on the raisin, but faced with a plate of spare de jonge, we went carb crazy. We liked all the vegetables. The simple ones, broccoli and asparagus, prospered without treatment. The more fancy spinach was just as good, tasting of spinach and cream but not too much else.

Hugo's Post #2

On Saturday night we decided to spend a fair amount of money for dinner. Deciding to put my money where my mouth is, we picked Hugo's Well, first of all, we succeeded in spending a lot of money. With tax and tip and one drink, we hit a cool three figures. What did we get for that amount of money? Did we validate my constant call?

They push the seafood. Soon after sitting down, in an alternative to the morton/gibson's meat display, they bring a fish display. This is not necessarily good marketing. I mean it would work if they brought by sparklingly fresh, whole species with bloody red gills and ultra-clear eyes, but dragging an oxidized slab of fish meat to each table, what does that prove. I mean no one wants the fish they show. Still, the menu descriptions sounded good.

I was spoiling Ms. VI and I went along with two fish dishes, forsaking the lake perch deal I really wanted. For newcomers to Hugo's, I would highly advise on the perch. Instead, we got the giant slab o'tuna and a black grouper with wild mushrooms. On the side we ordered a big helping of greenbeans and to start, the crabcake appetizer with the hot pink mayo. Everything worked with its minimal garnish. When you offer high quality stuff, why muck it up anyway with sauces. The primo dish, as always was the crab cake. I know of no better version outside of Baltimore. Ms. VI's on an anti-carb thing, and she initially shied away from the cakes. No worry, barely any bread-related product in these crab cakes. The tuna came purely rare with just the right skin of crust. With the wasabi and soy sauce offered, it was like slicing your own sushi. The other fish had a very grandma like coating of paprika type spices, but underneath was perfectly done grilled fish. The greenbeans straddled expertly the line between trendy under-done and old fashioned mushiness.

We skipped any mondo desserts, but they are fun if you have a few more people.

1024 North Rush Street, (between Oak Street and Bellevue)
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 640-0999
http://www.hugosfrogbar.com/restaurant/homepage/

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