News & Features

5 Favorite Dishes from 2012

December 28 2012 - 5:28 PM

There are tons of incredible restaurants that opened in 2012, and it would be simply impossible to mention them all. We’ve been wowed from Ada Street, to Carriage House to Fat Rice and Nellcôte. A handful of dishes stand out in my mind and stomach. They’re those dishes that make a restaurant worth trying out and even going back to. Whether you’re looking for a bite in Lakeview, an extravagant meal in River North or something incredible to finish off your meal, this list has you covered.

1. Savory Asian Pancake, Belly Q

I visited Belly Q back in October and was met with a dish I’d never heard of: the savory Asian pancake. I opted for the goat milk feta and rice noodle pancake and was pleasantly surprised. It was salty, sweet and crunchy all at once. If I went back for the pancake, I’d have to also get an order of the huckleberry soft serve. Lesson of 2012: Chef Bill Kim is a genius.

2. Grilled Squid, Andy’s Thai Kitchen

It isn’t often that you come across a buzzed-about Thai restaurant. But then again, most Thai spots don’t get to boast the skills of Chef Andy Aroonrasameruang. I may not be able to say his last name, although I can say this is one hole-in-the-wall spot worth trying out. Tucked underneath the Wellington L stop, this little gem popped up a few months ago.

Instead of ordering a fried calamari, instead try the fried squid with spicy dipping sauce. The calamari is fresh, not rubbery at all in texture, and is perfectly charred on the outside. I’ll be back for that…and to try out the rest of the extensive menu, of course.

3. Corn Pudding, Tavernita

Did you forget Tavernita opened this year? We almost did. Ryan Poli’s new Spanish-influenced hot spot introduced some strong food and even stronger drinks this past February. First arm yourself with The Turista, my favorite cocktail on the menu, a tequila-based drink that has a tang from grapefruit, sweetness of preserved cherries and bbq bitters (??!). Then, dig into some corn pudding – an almost dessert-like take on cornbread topped with arugula and shrimp.

4. House-made Ricotta, RPM Italian

Are we done talking about the new Lettuce Entertain You venture, RPM Italian, yet? Aside from the celebrity draw of Giuliana and Bill Ransic is the promise of incredible food. Sure, the steaks are perfectly cooked and pasta is house-made. But the unsung hero is the homemade ricotta and bread. This doesn’t taste like anything you could possibly buy from the grocery store. Fresh ricotta is seasoned and drizzled with olive oil, served with toasted bread and warm tomato sauce. I’ll take another order, please.

5. Dessert, Balena

It’s hard to end a restaurant recap without a killer desert. It was challenging to pick just one standout from Top Chef Desserts contestant and Balena Pastry Chef Amanda Rockman. The hazelnut gelato sundae I loved is no longer on the menu, yet I have no doubt that the other composed sundaes would not hesitate to blow me away. Salted caramel, brown butter crumble and apple doesn’t sound too bad of a combination. My other favorite was the affogato – vanilla gelato topped with warm espresso and served with a side of cinnamon sugar doughnuts. Just make sure to stop yourself from drooling all over the menu.

–Marly Schuman