Boca Kitchen Bar Market

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

I used to think this space was cursed, because of the long succession of unsuccessful restaurants that occupied it. But it turns out it wasn’t the space, it was the restaurants that were the problem. Boca is packed every day, and with good reason.

The food and service are both top notch. We had the day’s lunch special, a blackened amberjack sandwich. The amberjack was a thick piece, perfectly cooked. The accompanying mango slaw was a bit sweet for my taste, but with just a little on the sandwich it was perfect.

Rather than fries we asked for the mixed vegetables which had been sauteed and had a delightful smokey flavor.

Boca is one of the best bets for lunch on Park Avenue.

Boca Kitchen Bar Market
358 North Park Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 636-7022
http://www.yelp.com/biz/boca-kitchen-bar-market-winter-park

Nona Blue Modern Tavern

Smoked salmon dip

Chicken tenders

House made salsa

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Nona Blue is a particularly nice sports bar. It has lower lighting levels and nicer decor than most, and the menu, while offering familiar dishes, adds a unique twist to most.

For example, the salsa is house made, filled with interesting herbs and onions, and served in a large dish that would easily service four people. (If you like it spicy you’ll need to ask for some tabasco to add some zip, as it’s quite mild). The accompanying chips were fresh and plentiful.

Smoked salmon dip was fresh tasting and flavorful. It contains quite a bit of egg white, so be aware if that’s not your thing.

The chicken tenders were exceptional. They aren’t the usual chopped up chicken, but were tender strips of white meat in a spectacularly crunchy, crisp, yet oil-free crust. We had them tossed in buffalo sauce rather than the standard BBQ or honey. Our waiter brought the other sauces to try, but the buffalo sauce was a great call. They were delicious.

Speaking of our waiter, he was very friendly and helpful. Service was definitely beyond expectations.

Nona Blue Modern Tavern
9685 Lake Nona Village Pl
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 313-0027
https://www.yelp.com/biz/nona-blue-modern-tavern-orlando

Maple & Ash

**** (4 stars)

You enter the upstairs dining room of Maple & Ash quite dramatically, from an elevator at the rear of the building that opens out into a dramatic two-story space that is quite dazzling. Although it is a steakhouse in a city of steakhouses, the experience here is quite different. Servers are much more engaged with their guests, and there are many freebies and extras involved in each meal.

For example, before you’ve even started, there are chips and dip, watermelon radishes with salt, parmesan crisps, and even an “amuse booze” cocktail of vermouth and grapefruit. Crusty bread and butter come next. We were starting to worry we’d be full before the first course arrived.

An extensive wine list has a range of offerings at moderate prices but includes a page of under $50 bargains.

We opted for the “I don’t give a f*@k” tasting menu because it let us sample much of the menu. It’s a bargain at $145. These were the courses:

Seafood platter, not chilled, but rather roasted, featuring lobster, shrimp, scallops, and clams. The was served in a pool of butter which was later used for a tableside preparation of pasta.

Beet and watercress salad.

Rosemary fries with Hollandaise and aioli.

Meatballs with garlic cheese toast.

Bone in ribeye steak served with ricotta agnolotti, roasted squash, and mashed potatoes.

Ice cream sundae tower with three kinds of ice cream and 12 toppings to choose from.

We enjoyed the experience, and particularly our server. I can’t say there were really any home runs, and the steak was definitely not the highlight, as it wasn’t particularly tender. Overall it was a very rich menu, with little respite from heavily buttered dishes. The best items were the dip, the mashed potatoes, and the sundae.

Despite the large size of the room, noise levels were surprisingly pleasant (until a large drunk party was seated next to us) and the background music track is particularly chill.

If you are looking for a steakhouse-type experience that is a little out of the ordinary, it’s worth checking out.

Maple & Ash
8 W Maple
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 944-8888
http://www.yelp.com/biz/maple-and-ash-chicago

The Berkshire Room

o

**** (4 stars)

This is a chill bar for craft cocktails, but they could up the food quality. The main draw is the “dealer’s ┬áchoice” selection of cocktails where you pick the spirit, the style and the glass and leave the rest to the mixologists. They are obviously really into it (just look at the extensive list of spirits), and it’s likely you’ll get something you really like.

I instead opted for a couple of the cocktail menu selections. The Continuous Negroni was one of the better Negronis I’ve had, intensely bitter, and quite complex.

The highly touted Weston was an interesting mix of bourbon, coffee essence and tobacco. I found it boring, but maybe it was because I had just had the negroni.

I tried all three of the dips on the menu, which were part of the “pick three” bar snack menu, and cost a very reasonable $8. The smoked whitefish was good, the onion was just okay, and the bean was not that great.

I also had the Reuben sandwich, which was nicely prepared, but contained huge hunks of very fatty “bacon” in quarter inch thick slabs. It wasn’t very good. The accompanying slaw was very bland, but the potato chips were excellent, super thin and very crispy.

In all, this is a great place for craft cocktails, but I’d skip the food entirely.

The Berkshire Room
15 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 894-0945
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-berkshire-room-chicago

Untitled Supper Club

**** (4 stars)

Untitled isn’t exactly a supper club or a speakeasy, but it does have some elements of those. You enter down a broad staircase into a foyer off of which large rooms extend in all directions. One room is a large lounge that serves over 500 whiskeys, another has a stage for live performances (there was a very good Jazz quintet playing the night we visited) and a third room is strictly for dining, and features private alcoves for six all around the edges. This last room was most to our taste, as the live band was audible but conversation was still possible. Decor throughout is romantic and 1920s inspired.

The menu contains a nice variety of shareable plates, and a selection of full-size entrees. We loved the Mussels, which were served in a green curry broth that tasted like Tom Yum Goong. There were a LOT of mussels in the bowl for a very reasonable $16.

We also vaporized two other small plates, deviled eggs, and bacon fat fries. Yes, you read that right–write, BACON FAT FRIES! They were as good as you would imagine.

Well after all that, we could only share a salad as our main dish, and our server’s recommendation of the asparagus salad was a great one. Raw, pickled and grilled asparagus were combined with mixed greens and an excellent green goddess dressing.

An interesting cocktail list includes smokey, bitter and other exotic flavors. A nice variety of wines by the glass is on offer, along with a limited bottle list that seemed a bit pricey.

Service was amazing (as was our server’s dress). Her recommendations were spot on. Note that many of the hostesses and servers were scantily clad, and apparently things get bawdy as the evening progresses.

It’s a bit hard to describe the concept here, because they are trying to be several things at once, and are doing so pretty successfully. I can see it as a place for business over whiskey, for cocktails, for a romantic dinner, or a late night show. And by moving from room to room, you could actually do several on the same visit.

Untitled Supper Club
111 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 880-1511
http://www.yelp.com/biz/untitled-supper-club-chicago

Flights 101 Club Lounge

**** (4 stars)

This lobby lounge offers a surprisingly intimate atmosphere in the evening, with low lighting levels that make it easy to watch the flight traffic in and out of SFO. In fact, the lobby area is a much better choice for dinner than the adjacent restaurant, which is lit up like a coffee shop. And the lounge offers all the same food, plus bar food.

The chicken quesadilla was really more like a flauta, and it was fine. But the fish tacos were truly delicious: three larger servings of nicely seasoned fish topped with slaw and a piquant sauce.

During the course of our meal we were tag-teamed by six different servers, yet there was perfect continuity, and they were all very friendly and helpful. If traveling through SFO I would definitely eat here again.

Flights 101 Club Lounge
1800 Old Bayshore Hwy
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 692-9100
http://www.yelp.com/biz/flights-101-club-lounge-burlingame

Cielo

**** (4 stars)

Great service is the highlight of this elegant restaurant that overlooks the Four Seasons pool and the Gateway Arch.

The menu offers some Italian classic dishes, well prepared. I enjoyed the branzino entree, but the highlight was the flexibility to select a starter plate of high quality meats and cheeses, and especially the large selection of house-made gelatos. This was a good choice for hotel dining.

Cielo
Four Seasons Hotel
999 N 2nd St
Saint Louis, MO 63102
(314) 881-5759
http://www.yelp.com/biz/cielo-saint-louis-2

The Aviary

**** (4 stars)

I went on Nomad cookbook release night, so things were a bit different. The space is fairly open, so it can get pretty noisy, and there are a few pinch points which makes it a bit problematic for a party event.

The food being served was from the Nomad cookbook, and most of it, by necessity, was pretty simple.

The cocktails were great. I’m not sure whose recipes were at work, because I couldn’t find them in the Nomad cocktail book, but I loved the use of bitter ingredients in several of them. The Yaya Colada was a standout.

The Aviary
955 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-0868
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-aviary-chicago-2

Travelle

salmonbenedict

***** (5 stars)

Beautiful space with high ceilings and lots of light. We went for a Saturday brunch. There is an extensive buffet, but we ordered off the menu.

The skillet we had was good, but the highlight of the meal was the Benedict. We selected the salmon, and it was an amazing blend of ingredients. The sauce was not a standard Hollandaise as is usual on a Benedict, but rather something much more citrusy and a perfect accompaniment to the salmon and the beautifully cooked eggs. Wedge potatoes had a strong herb flavor but were unremarkable. Service was attentive.

It should be noted that, although we did not have wines (since it was 10am), the wine list here is perhaps the most interesting in the city, with a very broad range of selections ranging from extravagant to affordable, and all very interesting.

Travelle
330 N Wabash Ave
2nd Fl
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 923-7705
http://www.yelp.com/biz/travelle-chicago

The Library

***** (5 stars)

We absolutely loved this place. It has all the advantages of the food from the Gilt Bar upstairs, but without the noise.

I’m surprised they don’t bill this as a speakeasy, because it has that atmosphere: a twisting passageway downstair to find the almost hidden door, and lighting that takes a few minutes to adjust to. Candles on book shelves provide part of the illumination, and the fancy bar at one end looks like it’s straight out of the 20s.

We tried a large portion of the menu, and loved everything except perhaps the bone marrow and the rib eye. Mussels were a standout.

Of course with this theming there are cocktails, and many fine choices among them. I’m not a fan of sweet drinks, so I was delighted to discover many bitter ingredients available, and even finished with an Amaro Nonino.

Service was friendly and helpful.

The Library
Gilt Bar
230 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 464-9544
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-library-chicago