Three great restaurants revisited
Les Nomades Chicago
“I love everything about this place,” said Phil Vettel in the Chicago Tribune. More than 30 years after opening, Les Nomades remains my top recommendation for a quiet dinner in Chicago, because the food earns four stars and “there’s nothing this restaurant does that isn’t stylish.” Owner Mary Beth Liccioni always offers a warm welcome to guests, who enter a dining room beautifully adorned with art and flowers, then settle in for a flawless $130 four-course or $145 five-course dinner. Saigon-born chef Roland Liccioni, who was a Chicago treasure long before his first night at Les Nomades, has not lost his touch with the classics—a quartet of pâtés, roasted duck breast with duck leg confit. But he’s also embracing hints of spices with some dishes, including a wonderful artichoke terrine with a black-garlic purée. You can order wine by the glass or half-bottle if you’re trying to economize, but you cannot skip dessert. The pastry chefs produce soufflés that are “majestically tall and cloudlike”—the best I have ever had. 222 E. Ontario St., (312) 649-9010
Del Posto New York
Chef Melissa Rodriguez just might wind up redefining what luxury Italian dining means today, said Pete Wells in The New York Times. At Del Posto, she is the headline talent at arguably “the grandest restaurant in New York where women are in charge of everything you eat,” and her cooking steers its own course. But life is complicated. Del Posto was until last year a jewel in the culinary empire of Mario Batali, and even though a recent buyout has chased away Batali and the sexual harassment charges shadowing him, the stately Chelsea restaurant still begs for a tonal makeover. Though Del Posto is “not exclusively for rich people,” it is “explicitly for occasions,” and it won’t be a comfortable place to eat until it frees its servers from such pointless tasks as twice replacing each guest’s napkin. Rodriguez’s cooking, by contrast, is the opposite of showy. She creates Italian dishes according to tradition while “putting them together so elegantly that they seem to light up from inside.” Her chicken cacciatore, which makes every flavor component vivid, is “wonderful in every bite.” 85 10th Ave., (212) 497-8090
Hitching Post Washington, D.C.
A great city needs neighborhood hangouts too, said Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post, and for me, “all’s well whenever I find myself at the Hitching Post.” In a city that has less Southern cooking than you’d expect, it’s good to see that this half-century-old institution near President Lincoln’s landmarked summer cottage continues to thrive several years after changing hands. Founders Al and Adrienne Carter still live upstairs and can often be found at a guest table digging into fried chicken or ribs, while new owner Barry Dindyal has added his own touches. Dindyal, a neighbor, matches the Carters’ previous mastery of batter-fried whiting and catfish, and he offers a hat tip to his own Indian-Guyanese heritage in a spinach salad dappled with tamarind chutney and yogurt. Dindyal has also added porch seating and an internet-linked jukebox, but at happy hour, the feel of the place has barely changed. Anita Baker is singing from across the room, $4 beers are washing down hand-cut steak fries, and the customers “look as comfortable as if they were hanging out with friends at home.” 200 Upshur St. NW, (202) 726-1511 ■