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Monday, February 18

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Airbags

If you can resist the call of Myopic Books (one of us did) and Reckless Records (one of us didn't) there is Rodan, the South American/Southeast Asian restaurant/club just south of the El. Fusion is all over the place these days and this spot promised to follow suit with its Argentinean and Asian inspired dishes. The décor was both minimal and modern, with a huge video screen projecting amorphous images and "video mirrors" in the bathroom. The booths were enormous, with blue, suede-covered seatbacks, big enough to comfortably fit at least three average sized individuals, two individuals with coats and bags, or two pirates with elbows pinned outwards. (It is, after all, important to know where you can take your pirate friends.) While the minimalist interior was reminiscent of an upscale Ikea, it was soothing and the light was turned up just enough to be able to easily read the menu and see the food as we were eating it.

"Ooh, that looks sexy," Andrew said when Alice's Bubbletini reached the table. "It is pretty sexy," Alice confirmed. "Fruitilicious." The drink, which didn't list the liquor on which it was based, was composed of mango, coconut, pineapple and black tapioca pearls. We guessed that the anonymous liquor was vodka, but didn't confirm with the waiter. He probably wouldn't have known anyway, given his confusion over who ordered which drink. Alice blamed the ambient atmosphere for the waiter's sub-par memory. "It makes you all befuddled," she joked. Drinks were rounded off with Andrew's Rogue Shakespeare Stout and Cinnamon's Yufuin Sachu, a sake that she found a little acidic and having "that sake taste that you don't like. It's cheap sake, and you can tell."

After getting through a round of what can only be described as "bread nuggets" -- little chunks of bread that, as Cinnamon put it, might have been better the day before -- we started in on our appetizers. A huge plate of Wasabi Battered Fries with spicy peanut and honey wasabi sauces sat between us and, next to it, the Rodan 3, a money saver with an array of three appetizers -- Pork Satay, Grilled Shrimp, and Cigarette Rolls of shrimp and pork rolled in wonton wrappers -- available on the menu in larger portions. This proved to be a good choice. The pork had a spicy kick to it, the shrimp were nice and char-grilled, and the cigarette rolls came with a simple rice wine vinegar dipping sauce. However, while good, we found the wasabi fries were actually not so much with the wasabi. They were hot and crispy and the sauces were quite tasty, but there was only a hint of heat in the fries themselves. If you're going to promote wasabi as your essential ingredient in something like fries, then bring it on. Cinnamon disappointedly concurred.

Alice's entrée of Grilled Salmon arrived swimming in a curry sauce. She proclaimed the fish good and very flaky, and the sauce to be spicy but not too spicy. The noodles that rounded out the dish were "perfectly al dente," which we all agreed was hard to get with angel hair. Andrew was similarly pleased with the Spice Crusted Sirloin with Lemon Garlic Butter, though he worried that the spices and almost overpowering lime and garlic marinade might prevent anyone from speaking to him for the rest of the night. I argued that the gravely baritone voice he used to convey the fear might be enough. While the lime and the spices on the steak were "right at the edge of too much," they didn't fall over that edge and the snow peas, which were tossed in the same mixture, offered a fresh and different taste. The rice, which was "thankfully unadorned," helped cleanse the palate and Andrew's only complaint was that the flavors in the dish clashed with the Stout. But, he conceded, that was his own fault.

Cinnamon's Grilled Ginger-Soy Swordfish came in a marinade that she described as great and flavorful. Because the fish had no sauce to top it, the marinade kept it from being too dry. She found the mango and corn salsa -- simply cut strips of mango with corn -- really good and complimentary. Unlike Andrew, Cinnamon wished that the rice pilaf offered a bit more spice, calling it "good, but kind of bland." I went for the Grilled Fish Tacos, which were really more fish burritos than tacos as they were rolled in flour tortillas and weren't in taco form at all. The flavor of lime was happily predominant in the fish, something I'd worried about being absent when I asked that the tacos come with fresh avocado instead of the guacamole listed on the menu. "But I don't like it!" I insisted to the waiter when he tried to explain that the guacamole only came with "a little bit" of cilantro. Though I enjoyed the fish, I did find the overall taco to be a little dry and wished it had come with a sauce. Admittedly, that may have been the result of the guacamole's absence and my anti-cilantro ways.

We finished the night off with the Mojito Ice Cream with fresh lime and fresh mint. The lime was barely detectable, but the mint was overpowering in a "Hello, I am mint!" kind of way, Cinnamon said. The mint, too, was crunchy and was a bit like having a salad in an ice cream. Andrew took a small taste before putting his spoon down, explaining that he was allergic to mint. "It's like how peppers are on a scale of hotness," he said, describing how different mints affect him. "Peppermint is the bell pepper of the mint family. Spearmint is the worst." While the four of us reflected on what had been a satisfying meal, Alice, Cinnamon and I polished off the martini glass of ice cream in front of the abstaining Andrew. "I'm sure if it wouldn't kill me, I'd like it too," he mused, already feeling the effects of his single small bite.

After dinner, we moved to the lounge area on the other side of the room to await the arrival of others attending the GB Get-Together. Three arrangements of small bench-style couches created natural conversation spots, with enough space down the middle of the room for plenty of people to mingle. The full bar was crowded with local (and probably not-so-local) patrons eager for martinis and beer. The DJ got started around 10pm, playing a mix of soul and funk, with some random crowd pleasers thrown in. Rodan has a DJ set or live music every night, and regularly features a number of well-known local DJs, so it's worth it to check their calendar to see who's playing.

Rodan is located at 1530 N. Milwaukee Ave. Dinner is served until 11pm, appetizers until 1:30am except on Sunday, until 12am, in preparation for Sunday's brunch. More information is available at rodan.ws

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About the Author(s)

Fork It Over is the result of weekly dinners with members of the Gapers Block staff. This week's review was written by Veronica Bond.

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