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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Chicago’s celebration as a world-class dining destination: Restaurant Week 2011

By Cindy Kurman and Lee Barrie
Originally published in Streetwise magazine

For ten days beginning February 18 through February 27, Chicago celebrates Restaurant Week, with more than 200 restaurants offering special prix fixe menus at $22 for lunch and $33/$44 for dinner (beverage, tax and gratuity not included). This is a great opportunity to try new restaurants or old favorites and enjoy a great meal at a fabulous cost. Beverage, tax and gratuity are not included.

Having trouble deciding where to eat? Here’s our pick of must try restaurants who are participating.

Steak, American | Lunch Only (running special all month Feb. 1-Feb. 28!) $22 Menu
444 N. Wabash Ave. | Chicago IL 60611
City-N.Michigan | 312 626-2444

American | Lunch & Dinner Menus
619 W. Randolph St.  | Chicago  IL  60661
City-West Loop | 312 715-0708

Italian | Lunch & Dinner  Menus
980 N. Michigan Ave. | Chicago IL 60611
City-N.Michigan | 312 280-2750

Seafood | Lunch & Dinner Menus
35 W. Wacker Dr. | Chicago IL 60601
City-Loop | 312 346-3500

Mexican | Lunch & Dinner Menus
814 W. Randolph St. | Chicago IL 60607
City-West Loop | 312 455-8114

East Bank Club / Maxwell's at the Club
American | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner Menus
500 N. Kingsbury St. | Chicago il 60610
 City-River North | 312 527-5800

American | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner  Menu
111 W. Huron St. | Chicago IL 60654
City-Loop | 312 202-9900

Steak & Beef | Restaurant Week Deal: Dinner only Menu
25 E. Ohio St. | Chicago IL 60611
City-River North | 312 329-9463

Japanese | Restarant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner Menus
600 W. Chicago Ave. | Chicago IL 60654
City-River North | 312 822-9600

Seafood, Steak & Beef | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner Menus
60 E. Grand | Chicago IL 60611
City-N.Michigan | 312 379-5637

Italian | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner Menus
59 W. Grand Ave.  | Chicago  IL 60654
City-River North | 312 329-0400

Vietnamese | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner Menus
937 N. Rush St. | Chicago IL 60611
City-N.Michigan | 312 255-0088

Breakfast/brunch | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner
108 E. Superior | Chicago IL 60611
City-N.Michigan | 312 573-6695

French | Restaurant Week Deal: Dinner only Menu
Belden Stratford Hotel 2300 N. Lincoln Park W. | Chicago  IL  60614
City-Lincoln Park/Lakeview | 773 348-8886

Latin | Restaurant Week Deal: Dinner Menu
325 W. Huron St.  | Chicago  IL  60610
City-River North | 312 664-2727

American | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner Menus
500 N. Clark St. | Chicago IL 60654
City-River North | 312 321-6242

American | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner
11 N. Michigan Ave. | Chicago IL 60602
City-Loop | 312 521-7275

Italian | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner Menus
464 N. Halsted St. | Chicago IL 60642
City-River West | 312 421-0077

American | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch & Dinner Menus
215 N. Clinton St. | Chicago IL 60661
City-Near North | 312 382-8300

Italian | Restaurant Week Deal: Dinner Menu
2119 N. Clark St. | Chicago IL 60614
City-Lincoln Park/Lakeview | 773 549-0038

Fusion | Restaurant Week Deal: Dinner Menu
720 N. State St. | Chicago IL 60654
City-N.Michigan | 312 787-7599

Mexican | Restaurant Week Deal: Dinner Menu
1252 N. Wells St.  | Chicago  IL  60610
City-Near North | 312 988-7811

Mexican | Restaurant Week Deal: Lunch only Menu
445 N. Clark St.  | Chicago  IL  60610
City-River North | 312 661-1434

American | Restaurant Week Deal: Dinner only Menu
419 W. Superior St. | Chicago IL 60654
City-River North | 312 475-9112

Participating restaurants may offer Restaurant Week menus for lunch, dinner or both – at their discretion. Please view individual restaurant profiles for menu details. For a complete list of participating restaurants, go here.

Cindy Kurman Barrie and Lee Barrie are the principals of Kurman Communications, Inc., a Chicago-based marketing and public relations agency. Please visit their blog at and check out all DineWise articles at

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Arami rises above the pack with beautifully rendered and delicious Japanese cuisine

1829 W Chicago Ave., Chicago
312-243-1535 (website is still under construction)

Hours: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Tues.-Thurs.; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 5-10:30 p.m. Sun.; closed Monday

Pricing: appetizers: $4-12; noodle dishes, $12-15; nigiri and maki, $2-10; special dishes, $8-$13. Chef’s choice combinations are also available at a premium price.

We are definitely sushi lovers and we have written about it many times in DineWise. As much as we don’t want to overdo the topic, we just had to tell you about Arami, a new Japanese restaurant in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. We dined here last weekend with our good “foodie” friends and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Arami is a modestly sized, hip-casual restaurant with a bar/lounge area in front, a generously sized sushi bar in the middle and an exposed brick walls and wood floored dining room in the back. We’re told there will be a nice outdoor patio in the back this coming spring.

The crowd was on the younger side and the vibe was sophisticated but energetic. We were pleased with the ambiance, which includes handsome wooden tables, a modest but visually pleasing art collection on the walls and warm lighting throughout.

The menu is beautifully presented on a bamboo slab. It includes both sushi and many other Asian dishes, with an emphasis on Japanese food. The specialty of the house is the Geunkang Nigiri, which we will cover in a moment.

The menu begins with a generous selection of cold appetizers. For a quick amuse bouche, you might want to try the Toro Tartar Bite, fatty tuna, chives, caviar and house special soy sauce. But even better is the full app-sized Togarashi Seared Tuna, with seared tuna on top of a perfectly conceived seaweed salad, with kelp noodle, creamy Meyer lemon dressing. Another interesting beginning is the Spicy Tako Springroll, spicy octopus with cilantro and crisp mixed greens.

Hot appetizers include a wondrous Mushroom Salad, with citrus, sesame, warm mushrooms and micro shiso. Another good choice is the Seared Hotate, pan seared scallops, unagi, mushroom, shiro miso.

Noodle dish lovers (broth with noodles and other ingredients) have four good choices. The most popular, we’re told is the Veggie Udon, with soy braised daikon, mushrooms, eggplant, carrot, scallions and a poached egg floating on top. We gave it a try—the presentation was gorgeous and it was flavorful, with more than a touch of sweetness, which was different but very good.

As befitting a sushi restaurant, there is a large choice of typical nigiri and sashimi, as well as your basic maki and sushi choices. What shines here, however, are the special sashimi dishes, the special Geunkang nigiri and the special maki.

In the special sashimi category, the Secret Hamachi, yellow tail with mushrooms and truffle oil, and the Sake Garlic, salmon with garlic and vinegar, are two good choices. We asked what Geunkang nigiri is and we were explained in detail. In Japan, a clump of sushi rice is hand-formed and a strip of seaweed is wrapped around its perimeter to form a “container”, which is filled with fine chopped ingredients that requires confinement, such as roe, oysters, vegetables and so forth. At Arami, a strip of fish is used instead of the seaweed, making for an enhanced and very tasty rendition. We thoroughly enjoyed the Zuke Sake Hotate, spicy scallop wrapped with salmon.

Once we moved on to the special maki, we were enraptured. Our favorite dish of the evening was the beautiful Hamachi Maguro Ebi, yellow tail, tuna, scallion, jalapeno, shrimp, and spicy mayo. The freshness stood out and the flavor combinations were unique and perfectly complimentary.

Cindy Kurman Barrie and Lee Barrie are the principals of Kurman Communications, Inc., a Chicago-based marketing and public relations agency. Please visit their blog at and check out all DineWise articles at Photos by Cindy Kurman