Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Karyn's Raw Bistro, Chicago

After having such great experiences at Karyn's on Green and Karyn's Cooked, I decided to go to Karyn's Raw Bistro on this trip. The Bistro is part of Karyn's Fresh Corner in Lincoln Park, which consists of a healing center, raw foods store/cafe, and a raw restaurant. From the website, the restaurant looks very nice so I had expected the equivalent of Pure Food and Wine or Elizabeth's Gone Raw, but alas, it wasn't of that caliber. The restaurant was connected to the raw foods store and while it did look like a nice restaurant inside, it was definitely not an upscale raw fine dining restaurant like Pure or Elizabeth's.

When we arrived, we were seated at a table for two. There was a couple drinking a bottle of wine by the door so I was hoping they had a nice wine selection. Unfortunately, I was informed that they do not serve alcohol and that the couple had brought their own.  Bummer.  As I glanced at the drink menu, the first thing I noticed were that many of the shakes and juices had honey in them. So I glanced up at the window to double check and sure enough, it stated "raw vegan gourmet." So why would they use honey?  This is really starting to bother me. First, Pure Food and Wine, now Karyn's?!  If you are going to call your restaurant vegan, just use agave nectar.  I don't know why that is so hard.  Anyway, I ordered a Summer Cooler juice and an appetizer of Sliders as we continued to peruse the menu.

I was very happy with the Summer Cooler as it was a refreshing mix of fresh carrot, apple and lemon juices. It was delicious.  We continued to look over the menu for a while before our appetizers arrived. There was only one waitress working the entire restaurant. Granted the restaurant is really small, but there were at least seven full tables to serve so service was extremely slow.  The sliders arrived very nicely presented on a white plate with lettuce and tomatoes in the middle and a bowl of cucumbers on the side.

The "sliders" were actually savory almond patties with sun dried tomatoes over top of a raw bread and topped with a tomato. In between the patty and bread was a red mustard that was really tasty. Together, the flavors meshed well though I did find the dish to be a little dry. Even though the mustard was really good, the dish either needed more of the mustard or a heavier sauce.  The cucumber mixture with coriander seed paired very well with the patties as well.

For my entree I ordered empanadas, while Zach ordered the basil scented ravioli (the only non-vegan entree on the menu).  My empanadas arrived nicely presented as well as they were stacked in the middle of the plate with onions on top and garnishes and sauces on each corner. I was very impressed with the fact that they really looked like fried empanadas even though they hadn't been cooked at all!  Though they were small, they were very rich and tasty.  The outside pastry dough was made of flax and sunflower seeds along with corn. On the inside, they were filled with this amazing "three pepper chorizo," which was peppers, walnuts and shitake mushroom along with chili spice mixed together into a surprisingly meat-like filling. It was topped with onions that had been marinated in soy sauce and paired with these wonderful sauces -- one was a cilantro salsa verde and the other was a chocolate mole sauce. Altogether, it was truly delicious.

Zach's dish was pretty good though not as good as mine. He got the basil scented ravioli. The ravioli was made of root vegetable stuffed with macadamia whipped creme and dressed with an olive marinara sauce. I found the ravioli to be tasty, but, unfortunately, I couldn't try it with the sauce as it was made with honey.  He liked my dish better.

After waiting 20 minutes for them to clear our plates after we finished, we finally ordered dessert. We ordered the Tiramisu Cheesecake. It looked beautiful as it was three layers stacked high with cacao nibs and a raspberry on top. On the bottom were lady fingers made of dates and coconut meat; the middle layer was a whipped macafe-infused cream, which is a root vegetable; and the top was a chocolate mousse.  While we enjoyed the lady fingers and mousse, the middle layer had an odd taste that seemed somewhat sour and didn't go well with the other flavors. I was pretty disappointed with this dish.

All in all, I think that while Karyn's does a nice job with her raw dishes, they need to significantly improve on their service. We ended up being at the restaurant for close to two hours because the service was so slow. They are priced less than Pure and Elizabeth's with the entrees around $14 each and the desserts around $9 each.  Our total bill was about $75 with tax and tip so it was considerably less than other more upscale raw restaurants. You should think of this as a raw foods cafe not an upscale fine dining restaurant.  If you want a nice raw experience in Chicago, I would recommend going here, but if you are just looking for great food with good service, I would choose Karyn's Cooked and Karyn's on Green over Karyn's Raw Bistro.

Karyn's Raw Bistro
1901 N Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 255-1590 

Karyn's Fresh Corner on Urbanspoon

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