PLANTA Queen

So, I am a sucker for new restaurants, I love Asian food and recently I have been loving how restaurants do vegan + vegetarian food, so when PLANTA Queen opened up I KNEW I had to try it. I liked it so much that I went not once, not twice but THREE TIMES in 14 days (specifically 10/7, 10/16 and 10/21- yes I know, AGGRESSIVE, but it was honestly that good). I went with my girlfriend the first time and then I brought my husband. My husband liked it so much, that we found our selves back in less then a week. This is a trendy spot in the middle of River North.

Visit 1- October 7, 2022

When we saw the menu we wanted to try everything, the first thing we got were cocktails- I got the Lych Please and my friend got the Kombucha Mojito. For appetizers and dinner we just shared food, we ended up going with the recommendations from the server. We got the baked crab roll (6/10- this was not one of my favorite items but it was good) and the cauliflower tots (10/10- crispy flavorful and amazing) for starters. For our mains we got the pineapple fried rice (8/10-very good but not as unique as I would have liked) and the udon noodles (12/10- warm, creamy and truffley- simply amazing). Lastly for dessert we got the match “cheesecake” (20/10- the best every topped with a berry compote and coconut cream). Over all, the food was amazing and the ambiance and service was amazing. I think I made a reservation for my husband and I to come back while we were still there!

Visit 2- October 16, 2022

So I had to repeat the three things I absolutely loved from the first visit which was the cauliflower tots, the udon noodles and the matcha cheesecake. The three other things we tired was the dragon roll (10/10- I don’t even like broccoli and I liked this), the ahi watermelon nigiri (10/10- I don’t even know how someone can get watermelon to taste like that) and the jackfruit wings (10/10- this honestly tasted like real wings).

Visit 3- October 21, 2022

This was an improv visit, I was driving back to the city and I was dreaming about the food, and there happened to be reservation available – so naturally we had to go. We decided to skip the cocktails this time and the only item we reordered was the match cheesecake. This time we got the bao slider (10/10- the mushroom was perfect), the torched and pressed (20/10- best flavor on the menu HANDS DOWN, the texture and taste was perfect), the bang bang broccoli (10/10- again I don’t really like broccoli but the sauce and flavor and crispiness was perfect) the dan dan noodles (2/10- apparently szechuan kamut has a numbing sensation in the mouth and we weren’t told so I though I was having an allergic reaction while I was eating this dish).

Over all this is definitely my favorite vegan spot in Chicago, I fell in love with their water glasses so I bought them after my first visit. They also have some specials on different days of the week and I want to go back:

  • MAKI MONDAYS (AFTER 5 PM) Maki Rolls Unlimited Maki Rolls
  • POUR DECISION WEDNESDAYS 1/2 priced bottles of wine
  • DISCO & DUMPLINGS FRIDAY (AFTER 5 PM) dumpling platters
  • WEEKEND BRUNCH Endless Mimosas & Sake Sangria

If you are looking for an amazing new restaurant to try in the River North area be sure to check out PLANTA Queen.

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Indienne Chicago

Indienne Chicago

Growing up in a Southeast Asian household, I have always been accustom to eating indian food but I also remember dreading the days I had to eat it. My mom always did a good job incorporating other cuisines into our weekly meals such as Italian and Mexican. It wasn’t until I was older that I really appreciated the flavors and spices that come from my cultural background. My husband and I always find ourselves spicing up all our foods with unique flavors from India. When Indienne opened in Chicago I was excited to try it, but the reservations filled up quickly and we had to wait to get a reservation. We were uncertain at first if we wanted to do the tasting menu, and we actually had reservations to eat off the regular menu, but ironically there was a cancelation that night and they had a spot open up for the tasing menu. This is a decision we don’t regret- the food was so good that I am still thinking about it a solid week later. We did one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian tasting-make sure to tell them if you are a vegetarian who eats eggs!

I am going to start by outlining the 2 menus then I will go into my own thoughts on each menu item followed by final thought on the overall experience.

Vegetarian Tasting Menu

PASSION FRUIT (PANI PURI) buckwheat tart, avocado

MUSHROOM (GALAUTI) eclair, goat cheese, truffle

YOGURT (CHAT) crispy potato, raspberry, various chutneys

CAULIFLOWER (LIQUID BHAJI) sweet corn, pine nut thecha, crispy garlic POA, cultured butter

EDAMAME (SOMOSA) Yuba, yellow pepper pachadi, tomato achar, asparagus. ($6 chili-cheese kulcha supplement available)

MAITAKE (ALLEPPEY) moringa podi, sanas ($15 supplemental course)

PANEER (PATURI) swiss chard, young zucchini, kofta, makhani, fenugreek served with black dairy dal and garlic naan

BESAN (BARFI) opera, pistachio, milk ice cream, citrus chutney

TREATS PAAN-bonbon GUAVA- pate de fruit

Non-Vegetarian Tasting Menu

PASSION FRUIT (PANI PURI) buckwheat tart, avocado

MUSHROOM (GALAUTI) eclair, goat cheese, truffle

YOGURT (CHAT) crispy potato, raspberry, various chutneys

EGG (CURRY) sweet corn, crispy peas, crispy onion, millet POA, cultured butter

CHICKEN (MALAI TIKKA) terrine, leeks, amul cheese emulsion, burgundy truffle

LOBSTER (ALLEPPEY) butternut squash, moringa podi, sanas ($25 supplemental course)

LAMB (BURRAH) hemp seeds, peas, pepper, coconut, potato pave served with black dairy dal and garlic naan

RASMALAI (AIR) milk anglaise, pistachio, gold, honeycomb

TREATS AAM- bonbon CHAI- aero

Course 1 & 2

The passion fruit pani puri and the mushroom eclair came out together. The presentation stand was beautiful. We were instructed to eat the pani puri in one bite. The bite was literally explosive, first it tasted like passion fruit then it ended tasting like a traditional pani puri. It was engineered just perfectly. The second thing was the mushroom eclair. It was bold, it was light, it was savory and it was amazing. My husband and I love mushrooms and truffles more than anything, the goat cheese was also a nice flavor balance in the dish. As a pair, one of the items was more sweet and the other savory and it was perfect. At the end of course 1 and 2 we literally couldn’t wait for the rest. I don’t think that I would have changed anything about the pani puri or the eclair except to maybe have more.

Course 3

I think (I’m not sure) that the yogurt chat is my favorite menu item. I probably could have had 3 servings at once. The top was crunchy and the center was fluffy and airy. The flavors were amazing, not to sweet, not too much yogurt, not too many chutneys. It was made to perfection, served at the perfect temperature. I am not going to lie, I contemplated asking my husband for his portion to after I finished mine.

Course 4

We both actually got the egg curry, and if you are a vegetarian who eats egg, make sure you let them know, so you get the egg curry for this course. This dish brought us back to a popular Gujarati dish called pav bhaji. This is actually one of my husbands favorite Gujarati dishes so he really enjoyed this course. This dish was almost too pretty to eat. My favorite part of this dish was the perfectly runny egg, on and the poa (bread).

Course 5

Couse 5 was the first course that was different in the two menus. The chicken in my dish was cooked to perfection- I asked the server how the chicken is made so perfectly and he told me a long intricate process of the magic. Sounded like a science experiment. The amul cheese emulsion was rich and creamy and complimented the chicken well. The samosa was also amazing, it was an great twist to a traditional samosa, the gray on this was also creamy and full of flavor. We added the chili-cheese kulcha and it paired great with the gravies on both dishes. I loved how unique both dishes were. I honestly couldn’t really pick one being better than the other.

Supplemental Course

We opted to get the lobster supplemental course. Both my husband and I enjoy sea food and we both were excited to try it! It was well worth the upgrade. The lobster was cooked to perfection and it was in a butternut squash gravy and it was served with a side of what we though was khatta dhokla. I honestly think this was one of the best lobsters I have had in a while, especially in Chicago. It is rare to have such fresh lobster in Chicago. I would most definitely recommend this upgrade to anyone who likes seafood.

Course 6

This was the last course before dessert and it was great. I have never really loved lamb but this was probably one of the best cooked and flavored lambs I’ve ever had, the array or sauces were a great complement to the dish. At first I though that the potato pave was a pineapple, then I quickly realized it was a potato. Overall I liked this equally as much as the chicken, both flavored well and cooked perfectly. The paneer was also very good, made uniquely. Personally I don’t really like dal, in any form really but this dal was flavorful and buttery and amazing. The garlic naan was also a great complement to the last dishes and dal. I had my naan with the dal.

Course 7

The dessert was creative and executed perfectly. The rasmalai “air” was truly like eating air. The taste was exactly like rasmalai but it was light and airy, almost like magic. The second dish was also very good, the textures were unique and the ice cream was creamy and perfect. Honestly this was a great end to an amazing dinner experience.

Treats

After the tasting menu was complete we got some small treats. The paan bonbon tasted just like paan and the guava was very flavorful. They also gave us a third treat (because they didn’t have the chai one) and it was a liquid filled treat- it was very good but I can’t remember what it tasted like.

KOLKATA sweet & sour

Komet Indian single malt whisky, folded with fresh ginger and frosted mayo elixir, topped with a spritz of Islay Whiskey

DEHLI strong & refreshing

Banhez Mezcal, seamlessly infused with goat cheese & apricot, all carbonated in unison, served alongside grapefruit compressed with fermented honey & an agave nectar; garnished with smoked salt

GOA fizzy

A refreshing house blend vodka fizz made with a lavishly floral roasted cashew orgeat, powdered honey, sweet and sour tropical essence and top up with soda and garnished with nutmeg

San Francisco refreshing

A sotol collins featuring ono, honeydew, tomato & truffle foam with a hit of a chili garnished with an edible bouquet

Coctails

We tried four of the cocktails on the menu and we liked all of them. The cocktail selection process was also unique. They had the bar engineer come out and answer any questions we had about the bar menu.

I think all the cocktails were amazing. I think that we will most definitely do the wine pairing with the tasting menu.

Overall Indienne was one of the best indian restaurants I have had in the city, the experience was unique and the price point is reasonable considering you are in the city being treated to a 3 hour dining experience. The staff was friendly, and they worked in synchrony bringing out the right plates and utensils for our next course. Honestly it was amazing to see how so many staff members can work together in such synchrony without making a mistake. They literally ironed the table cloth to a crisp and clean finish. If you want to try this menu, you only have a few more weeks to try it, since the will be changing the tasting menu next year which we are SOOOOO EXCITED FOR! Click here to make your reservation before it’s too late!

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A LOOK BACK AT 2019

Just like 2018- 2019 also started with a weekend trip to New York, this weekend was filled with FOOD to say the least. Some of the top places I went to that weekend were Baar Baar, Mr. Purple, Stuffed Ice Cream, Artichoke Pizza, The Blefry, and much more! If I were to pick my favorite spot it would be Artichoke Pizza- BEST artichoke pizza and vodka sauce cheese pizza!

We explored a bunch of restaurants in Chicago including S.K.Y. Which had an amazing ambiance and amazing food!

Spring started with a quick trip to Nashville. Honestly if I were to ever move out of Chicago I would move to Tennessee or Colorado! Nashville is always a great time! I love all the live music + of course the wonderful weather almost year around!

2019- also known as the year I started using an air fryer! Who knew how much one can actually make with an air fryer. I think my favorite meal to make in an air fryer is probably zucchini with garlic aioli sauce. Honestly, anything you would want to deep fry can be air fried.

In June I went to Orlando for the Mckesson Idea Share Show with my Pharmacy. Every year we go to the show to meet new people and learn new things. Something that has been around since we were kids was the Glendale Heights Fest, and my friend Susan and I went around 4th of July to see the fireworks– we were kids again!

In August, my family and I took an EPIC trip to Denver and we did a lot of hiking and site seeing and EATING. We saw the most beautiful things during that trip. The altitude got to me the first couple of days but I think as the week went on I got used to it. For full trip details you can click here for my full Denver Guide.

In September we had a wedding, my childhood best friend got married and it was an epic weekend! It was really nice to hang out with everyone after so long. In October Susan and I went to DC to visit our friend Jeiran. We had a great time catching up and exploring the city!

We had my cousin Lisa’s baby shower in October! We had my birthday dinner at ROOH with my sister and our cousins! The food and drinks were amazing, I had been wanting to try it for a while!

In November we went to Iowa for CC’s wedding. It was a weekend filled with friends, good times and amazing memories! Later that month we took our parents to a Bulls game for their birthday! We had a great time at the game, and my parents really enjoyed it !

They though their birthday celebrations were over after that game, but little did they know I had planned a surprise 60th birthday party for them with their friends and family! They were truly surprised!

We ended the year with a family Christmas and celebrated my sister’s birthday at home!

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L’ours Bakery + Eatlay Chicago- Biata

I was off on Valentine’s Day this year and had the perfect day! It started with a coffee at L’OURS BAKERY COFFEE. Definitely a cute coffee shop centrally located in Little Italy. It was pretty large, great work space for those who want to study or work from home.

Later that night I finally got to go to a popup restaurant at Eatlay Chicago called Biata. The restaurant concept was the Italian Alps: MELTED CHEESES AND WARM WINES! I was pretty much in heaven during dinner!

The decor and ambiance was beautiful, super cozy and warm, literally felt like we were in a cabin.

The warm wine was yummy! I didn’t think I would be a fan of warm wine, but I was quiet pleased with it. The cheese/ food was absolutely amazing. It was very rich and CHEESY but that’s my favorite, so I wasn’t complaining.

Desert wasn’t an option after a meal like that, I was way to full to have anything else! Definitely a great experience!

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etta

While my cousin was in town from Seattle we all decided to have family dinner at etta. I had been wanting to try this place for a while now so I was super excited to go! The restaurant is located in Bucktown, so it’s a further trip for us, but well worth it!

The minute we walked in, we loved it. It was very aesthetically pleasing. We had 9:45pm reservations, but it was packed when we walked in so had to wait. However they were nice enough to give us complimentary champagne while waiting for our table.

We started with the fire-baked focaccia served with ricotta honey & truffle, and the spicy meatballs and ricotta pillows (2 orders) which I would highly recommend! Then we followed up with 3 pastas, 2 pizzas and 2 proteins for the 6 of us. The menu is intended to be family style, so it’s a great place to go with a larger group! I think it was safe to say we ordered too much food.

Everything came out as it was ready, and it was fresh and tasted amazing. They timed it well in the kitchen, we had exactly enough time to enjoy each plate before the next one came out. I think that this may be a summer date night spot in the near future.

Unfortunately, we were too full for dessert but the dessert menu looked very good.

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The Violet Hour + Pub Royale

We always love to plan elaborate date nights, and we try to hit up as many spots as we can in one night. This time we decided to start at The Violet Hour. A speakeasy I have always wanted to go to. A friend had mentioned that it is quite inside, but it was surprisingly loud that evening, there was even loud music music playing!

Our next stop was dinner, we went to Pub Royale since it was in the same neighborhood as Violet Hour. They had good Indian food as well as Indian fusion food at the restaurant.

We started with an order with the vegetable samosas and the lamb dumplings.

For dinner we split the Pub Royale burger. It was a pretty good burger with spicy pickles and masala aioli.

The desert menu had chai tea dulce de leche donut holes, so naturally we had to order it, also one of the more popular drinks on the menu was a dressed up Hamm’s, which was an interesting twist on beer.

We had a successful date night to say the least!

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Aba

Mediterranean food is probably one of my favorite cuisines and I was so excited to find this spot over the summer. Aba is a hidden gem, you have to take a random elevator up to the restaurant and you don’t know what to expect until you get to the top. Walking in, it was absolutely beautiful. Even though it was summer it was chilly in the evening and we wanted to sit inside. The rooftop was even nicer then the inside. The restaurant was aesthetically pleasing so I loved it the minute we walked in! 

Loved all the green plants inside! 

We had gone out prior to dinner for some drinks, but the drinks here were very good. They were fresh and unique. I definitely want to go back just for the drinks one day.

The food was amazing to say the least. We actually over ordered and ended up taking the kabobs home. I can’t wait to come back and try the rest of the menu.

PSA: they have heated domes on their rooftop during the winter!

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Villains Chicago

We are always on a mission to eat “the best burger ever”, so the day we moved into our new apartment, we went to a bar down the street that had a burger on their menu. Walking into Villains, we already loved it. Very cool ambiance, LOVE THE BEER WALL. The only thing they are missing is a patio. I wasn’t feeling a burger so I ordered a grilled cheese, which came with tater tots. My friend  ordered the Villains Burger (North Country Bacon, Hooks Cheddar, Pickles, Red Onion, Beef Fat Mayo & Fries). We were actually pretty disappointed in the burger. It was a thick dry patty, and lacked the flavors we expected. On the other had, the grilled cheese was pretty good, and come on, who doesn’t like tater tots? Over all I think we would definitely come back here, but we would order beer and get a charcuterie plate instead of a burger.

Update: we can’t come back, they recently closed! 😦

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London House Rooftop

London House Rooftop

Can’t believe it is already fall! My favorite thing about summers in Chicago are all the beautiful rooftops around the city! One of my all time favorites has always been London House Rooftop. It is a great spot in the middle of the city with an AMAZING VIEW. You can see the Chicago River, Lake Michigan and the Magnificent Mile all from one place!

I think any date night that starts on a rooftop is automatically a successful date night.

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3 Arts Club Cafe

I have wanted to go to 3 Arts Club Cafe located inside of Restoration Hardware for a while now. The few times I have tried, the wait time was over a two hours. A friend suggested that we go on a weekday around lunch. Fortunately, NO WAIT TIME!

The food is inspired by Northern California and Mediterranean cuisine and the courtyard seating is beautifully filled with natural sunlight and olive trees. We started the morning off with some flavored ice coffee on draft along with a late brunch. There were so many amazing options on the menu but of course I picked the one that had truffle and cheese: truffle grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread served with fries and garlic aïoli. My friend, on the other hand, chose the breakfast route and ordered the RH scramble: farm eggs, crème frâiche, avocado, chives, Texas toast.

After our wonderful brunch we decided to continue enjoying our day and ordered a bottle of wine. We got a bottle of Riesling: Leitz, Rheingau, Germany, 2016. 3 Arts Club Cafe isn’t only a wonderful brunch spot, but it is also a great spot for drinks.

We had already been at 3 Arts Club Cafe for a few hours are this point, and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon on the rooftop since the weather was beautiful. On our way to the rooftop we stopped and got another draft iced coffee and doughnut. They have doughnuts from Doughnut Vault, which were DELICIOUS! Definitely have to go and try all their flavors soon! On our way out, we walked through all the floors and praised the gorgeous furniture we hope to one day have in our home!

Overall, our day was well spent at RH. We can’t wait to go back!

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