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Friday, August 12

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Review Fri Aug 16 2013

Review: Jellyfish, Pan-Asian Fusion Meets High Design

If there's any reason for you to go to Jellyfish outside of seeing what new executive chef Jason Im (Bar Charlie, A Mano) has done to the menu, it should be to dine in the glass atrium while sipping on one of Daniel Finnigan's (Wave, Michael Jordan's Steak House) beautifully crafted drinks, preferably at 7pm on a summer evening.

beet drink.JPGIf there's something else you should also do, it is to try all eight of Finnigan's cocktails. I only made my way through the Lyons Mane -- a refreshing yet character-filled blend of Partida Blanco Tequila, Thai chiles, lime, Solerno blood orange and lemongrass, and the Thai Beet Triangle (pictured) -- roasted beet puree, mint, Thai basil, blood orange liquor and balsamic crema. If my first two were any indication of future experiences, I wanted to see more.

It is evident Jellyfish is going hard for the aesthetic. A short walk up a flight of stairs makes you feel like you might have relocated to a New York or Miami nightclub, and this is not shocking when you realize that they employ both a fashion designer (J. Cheikh) and music director (Jesse De La Pena). The style leans slightly on the side of fish bowl-y -- in a good way but still fish bowl-y nonetheless. The moody blue lighting and nightclub vibe was a little too overdone for me; the glass atrium makes up for this as do Finnigan's cocktails and a stylish and attractive waitstaff.

Jellyfish's tagline is "arousal of the senses" and they don't fail here in mission. From the table design to the presentation of the food, through the way an evening sun graced the table, everything looked like it had passed through a Vera Wang quality control line. Dining may be about the food but I can appreciate a restaurant team viewing it as a full experience.

photo (2).JPGAbout the food. My companion and I started off with the Sizzling Stone -- wagyu beef cooked tableside hibachi-style on a hot rock. The wagyu was too marbley for me and hard to break down and they'd do better serving the slices a little bit smaller. I can't say I have the best palate for what's good when it comes to beef since I rarely eat it, but I also know that at least 50% of Jellyfish's clientele is probably women who don't want to spend time breaking down a mouthful of beef. Great concept but I would've preferred seafood.

ceviche.JPG

The spicy crab mini tacos and seafood ceviche satisfied that craving. Chef Im's ceviche is balanced on acidity, the issue for most failed ceviches, and the accompanying taro root chip gave it a nice touch and vehicle for transportation. The tacos paled in comparison but the lack of grease and touch of spice make you feel okay about eating a fried corn shell, mostly likely in heels.


photo (4).JPG


For our sushi course we had the Fire and Snow (snow crab, avocado, jalapeno and spicy ponzu) and the Lobster Mango Roll (lobster, mango, avocado and flying fish roe). We asked the chef to pick the rolls for us and I was surprised and slightly disappointed that we received rolls that were all cooked. Eating cooked sushi to me is like drowning a salad in dressing, i.e. what's the point, but sushi Chef Puje Dorling does present beautiful pieces of art -- not the best sushi I've had but far from the worst either.

Next came the Szechaun spare ribs served with bacon-infused corn hush puppies. The spare ribs should have been the winner here but for me it was the hush puppy. I'm not sure how traditional southern cooking falls under the category of Pan-Asian, but I'm not mad at them for throwing in a little southern flair... and adding bacon as well.

Last up for savory was the Yakitori Chicken with a coconut risotto. Great idea but this one fell short both in flavor and size. The coconut overpowered the risotto, causing it to be too sweet with no acid to cut the sweetness, and the chicken was simply skewered hors d'oeuvres style, making it feel more like a starter than a $28 entree. I like the approach to a different type of risotto but for the price I'd go for something more substantial like the signature rolls.

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While most restaurants without a dedicated pastry chef tend to offer just average desserts, Jellyfish offers one amazing brownie served with chocolate ice cream, belvedere vodka cream and bruleed bananas as well as a curious Strawberry Panna Cotta with the an interesting basil gelee, lemon curd and macadamia crumble. I generally pass on dessert but if you like desserts, you owe it to yourself to try the brownie.

The menu is wildly overpriced for portion size but that's the tradeoff I suppose for the Rush St. address. All in all, Jellyfish offers what they claim to be going for and can offer some restaurants in Chicago lessons in service and attention to detail.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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