In Chicago’s Second Tallest Building — Rebar

From the Terrace at Trump Tower

Lagoon

Lagoon

Chicago is my favourite city in North America — in the USA — second to Toronto, Ontario. Chicago is a bastion of culture, theatre, arts, restaurants, food, architecture, cafés, music, corrupt politicians, bizarre temperatures, and constant news about shooting gallery activities in small sections of the city. Well, the latter three do not make for splendid press. However, the abundance of food and great places where you can get your fill of satisfaction are main attractions that have kept me in this fair city for nineteen years. When I had moved to Chicago from New York City, I did not initially find the place fast enough, hip enough, or current enough. In some regions of the city, people had Jheri curls. Drivers stopped on green lights and went when the lights turned red — simply backwards. Pedestrians meandered as if they had been converted into zombies, of which I discovered were tourists in total awe of the city’s splendor. Fast forward to the present and Chicago has quickly risen to New York City standards as a hub of cultural activities. Downtown has expanded and seems to be continuing to grow by leaps and bounds. Nightlife is available until the wee hours of the morning and that also means being able to go to any restaurant at any time of night rather than rambling through an empty refrigerator for a late night snack. And with the reverse migration of those who had fled to the suburbs years ago, Chicago proper has indeed become a centre for a lot of entertainment despite eight month of winter.

Shrimp Tempura

Shrimp Tempura

With the growth spurt of Chicago taking off, the skyline is seeing the addition of more skyscrapers. One such skyscraper that has resulted in Chicago boasting three of the tallest buildings in North America is Trump Tower. Walking distance from Michigan Avenue and State Street, this Tower of Babel reaches high towards the blue, grey steel reflecting more blue which gives the building an ethereal look. To me, the things that make Trump Tower so appealing are the restaurants — Rebar and The Terrace. Several friends and I usually gather for a bit of communion after work at any local haunt. Having been to Rebar and loving it, we wanted to return to Trump Tower to go to the sixteenth floor to sample the bill of fare at The Terrace. The vista from The Terrace is magnificent with so much old architecture staring back at you while you ponder menu items that make you gasp. We all had drinks, which were the most reasonably priced items on the menu. The appetizers were Wow! and the entrées were on the up of triple digits in price. One friend had a glass of red wine because her husband told her to behave. Another had a beer since she is more of a connoisseur of ales. One other friend had water so that he would not teeter about on the bus ride home. A fourth had a mixed drink called a lagoon because she is experimental with mixed drinks. I had a Glenlivit scotch to maintain my snobbery. While all of the drinks are pretty much commonplace, the lagoon was a sight to behold. This green drink contained light rum, dark rum, grenadine, pineapple juice, some other flavoured liquor, and a sniffer full of smiles in it. We were all quite happy. We got to say that we went to The Terrace and had drinks.

Flight of Mojitos

Flight of Mojitos

Electric Lemonade

Electric Lemonade

Because we are not of the ilk that can compete with the average college jock and sorority girl in binge drinking, and making complete fools of ourselves is way beneath our station, we wanted some food so that we would not stagger about downtown like bumbling pratts. So it was down to the second floor we went to Rebar. Ah, happiness abounded as we ordered more drinks and our share of Japanese food. I can imagine some chef doing his thing with rice, eel, avocado, wasabi sauce, ginger, and his imagination. For drinks, we had more wine, an electric lemonade, beer, a flight of mojitos, and water. Okay, so the electric lemonade was not a concoction from a carton with garnish and a lemon wedge. It was a bit reminiscent of a cross between a mojito and Mike’s Hard Lemonade, ever so refreshing, oh so delightful, and oh so much of it. The winner was the flight of mojitos — cucumber, blackberry, vanilla, and strawberry basil.

The bartender must be an oracle when it comes to making drinks because he or she did not prepare any of the mixed drinks such that the first skosh nipped at the back of the jaw. The alcohol was hidden well; that is until you stood to walk. With the complementary olives and spiced nuts, we had edamame, tempura shrimp, a garden roll with tempura asparagus, crunchy shrimp roll, and California roll. I am sure that if any of the others were like me when they got home, they went to bed promptly and slept like they had been anesthetized. I dreamed that teddy bears at their picnics cursed my name because I had so much fun at Trump Tower — but it was mostly because I was laughing at their empty picnic baskets.

Crunchy Shrimp

Crunchy Shrimp

Donald Trump may be a bit of a laughable individual, but good on him for Trump Tower — and his public quibbling with the mayor about the TRUMP sign being on display well above eye level. When I am in my chi-chi mood and want to perpetrate like I am more than just a statistician, I will ride the lift to the sixteenth floor and sit outside watching the beauty of downtown while sipping a scotch — keeping in mind that a scotch will no doubt be all I order. But when I want something of substance and within my budget, I shall retreat to Rebar and work my chopsticks on some sushi while delighting myself on some liquid love from the bar. Ambience, great service, and fantastic food, what more could one want? The answer would be a ridiculous wealth of money so that you could at least fake once like I have enough to pay for a $200 entrée at The Terrace. Okay, so I’ve paid more at a few restaurants and not whined.

Go to New York City if you want to see a play, have a truly good brunch, or live in what can feel like a prison cell with a lease price of no less than $2000. Go to Los Angeles if you want to rehearse how to be a plastic actor or actress. But come to Chicago if you want great real estate, arts, entertainment, and fine cuisine — brought to us thanks to the maneuvering of corrupt politicians. And if you are a manager and have to fire an employee — You’re fired! — you can make yourself feel good afterwards by going to Rebar and having some sushi, a lagoon, and wrapping up with a goblet of electric lemonade. Then you will know all the good things that make Chicago so wonderful.

Garden Roll

Garden Roll

Rebar on Urbanspoon

New Camera, Chopsticks, Maki Rolls

Grand Katachi

At the end of this week, an order arrived for me from an Amazon purchase. Not that I really needed another one, but I had ordered a Nikon 1 J1 mirrorless camera. Because I had been using my high-end Nikon and Canon cameras, I had relegated all other cameras to point-and-shoot status. Honestly, the point-and-shoot cameras are more ideal for the foodtography that I do because they are less conspicuous and they bring very little attention to me clicking away capturing impressions of the food delights. But I am such a stickler for the quality of the photography that I post on Chicago Alphabet Soup, which may be why so many advertising agents who read the blog think I purchase the photos from the restaurants I review. Nevertheless, the Nikon 1 J1 arrived and that meant I needed to start testing it out to see if it was indeed worthy of the purchase.

Green Jasmine Tea

Green Jasmine Tea

I spent Saturday testing shots at  my favourite Indian restaurant in Edgewater. Then I sauntered over to my favourite North Side coffee and dessert shop for more clicks. Sunday morning before church I tried my hand at foodtography at a breakfast spot I had discovered. Up to that point, I was loving the output that I was seeing. Then later in the day, my belly was growling and that meant it was time for me to head out in search of something full of flavour to quiet the rumbling. With a bit of the North Side disrupted with a street festival — a reason for guzzling beer, as if one can’t do that in his or her own home or in a sports bar — I lingered around the Lincoln Park vicinity and wandered past a Japanese sushi bar named Grand Katachi at 4747 N. Damen Avenue, that had a magnetic appeal to it. And I, the culinary vampire, entered so that I could sink my pretty teeth into some worthy goodness.

Gyoza

Gyoza

I started with jasmine green tea and gyoza. These fried Japanese dumplings served with balsamic shoyu dip were great for whetting the appetite. There was a moment when I thought of the festival participants, many who were barely a few weeks over the age of 21 and so giddy with elan that they could finally drink without someone of legal age sneaking them a beer, stumbling around spilling their beer and giggling for no valid reason. They could have been getting fed something aside from fizzy pop and carnival vittles, served by vendors with dirty hands. That was a quick thought as I worked the metal chopsticks on the gyoza and washed the morsels down with the jasmine green tea.

Sweet Potato Maki

Sweet Potato Maki

Caterpillar Maki

Caterpillar Maki

Being a little more adventurous than I should have been, I had ordered three maki rolls all at once. It was when the flight of maki came to the table that my eyes widened and I thought to myself that I should have played it safely and ordered one at a time. Water under the bridge, as they say, since I simply decided that I would pace myself and enjoy the maki rolls. The North Side was practically in gridlock thanks to the street festival a few major blocks south of where I was and I had time to click away with my recent Nikon 1 J1 purchase.

Dragon Maki

Dragon Maki

Not trying to be a prude about my experience and tackling each maki linearly to completion before moving on to the next, I had one piece of each until I was done and reaching for the pillow at the table next to me. The sweet potato maki was the first to have me singing with a low soprano: Satisfying. Then there was the caterpillar maki that kicked in with a tenor: Gratifying. The dragon maki rounded everything out in bass: Electrifying. In my mental Disney, I was in the middle of the floor with a spotlight on me while I was singing, “What’s up, maki rolls? Whoa, whoa, whoa,” after which I launched into my Tom Jones dance. However, in reality, pedestrians who were walking by the restaurant were looking at me sitting at the window seat with a face fixed complete with a stupid smile. Don’t ask me how I finished all of the maki rolls. Just know that I did. And another nugget of information is I somehow had enough room for dessert. So, I had green tea ice cream.  Cue scene with me rocketing to the moon.

Cup of Tea

Cup of Tea

Green Tea Ice Cream

Green Tea Ice Cream

Grand Katachi seems like a potpourri of all things hip once you go in. Usually, Japanese sushi bars and lounges have the sterile, Stanley Kubrick effect where it is quite evident that the interior designer and decorator were men. Pay attention to the colour schemes, or the lack thereof. Now, I will admit that I went when perhaps it was light in patrons. However, the service was top and seeing that I all but licked the plate and found a way to sop the remnants of the ice cream from the glass, the quality was also top. If my mind serves me correct, you bring your own alcohol if you so desire to have libations other than soda, tea, or water. The prices don’t come in a discount fashion, so beware if you’re budget conscious. Not all of the action is to be had on Lincoln Avenue proper. And if you get a new camera or even if you don’t, I think you will find bliss at Grand Katachi. You may even do your Tom Jones dance while clicking the metal chopsticks to make the sounds of castanets. What’s up, maki rolls? Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Grand Katachi on Urbanspoon Grand Katachi on Foodio54