Sola Restaurant

Having been on my “restaurant list” for more than a year, I finally made it to Sola last night for dinner with three friends. Long story short: it was worth the wait.

Overall, we really enjoyed both the food and the service, which was helpful without being overbearing. The space was much larger and lighter than I had anticipated and had a nice-sized bar. Prices were standard (entrees between $20 and $30) and portions were just the right size.

To begin, we split two appetizers – the tuna poke (hijiki, avocado, sushi rice timbale, soy syrup, wasabi oil) and the gnocchi (potato chive, mushroom-leek ragu, shaved oregon truffle). The tuna poke was wonderful, although I didn’t care for the coarse texture of the white rice with the other soft, creamy ingredients. Unfortunately, the gnocchi was the disappointment of the evening. While the flavor was rich and literally mouthwatering, the texture was mushy, more like mashed potatoes than the soft little pillows I was expecting.

For the main course, I order the salmon (seared, ginger glazed, edamame puree, truffle teriyaki sauce, green bean tempura) with the intention of splitting it with a friend who ordered the ocean trout. While I really enjoyed the salmon with its crispy top and rare center, there was no way my friend would eat it with its undercooked center. And I doubt she’s unique in this – my advice to Sola is that if you’re going to serve salmon (or anything) rare, to include that detail on the menu. Regardless, I truly enjoyed the salmon – especially the ginger glaze and teriyaki sauce which really made the dish stand out with just the right level of sweetness that interacted well with the salty edamame puree.

I sampled my friends’ entrees as well (that’s why I love eating out with this group). One of them ordered the tuna (hoisin-mustard-panko crusted, bamboo rice, avocado tempura, soy-wasabi buerre blanc) which was delicious. So much so that she couldn’t stop raving about how “yummy” it was. The other two dishes at the table were the ocean trout (hawaiian red rice, golden beet-fuji apple puree, ponzu vinaigrette) which was good but not exceptional and the shortribs (braised, hoisin, lemongrass, soy, snow peas, shiitake, red peppers), also tasty.

The table shared two desserts: soft center chocolate cake (sesame brittle ice cream, wasabi vanilla bean syrup) and taffy apple pie (brown butter macadamia ice cream, calvados cider syrup). While I nearly always choose a chocolate dessert over anything else, I felt the cake was good but typical, whereas the taffy apple pie was really special.

The service was also great. We were sat just a few minutes after our 9 p.m. reservation and were waited on by Dale of Top Chef fame. He was a good server and even understated (aside from the mohawk), which I didn’t expect given his notoriety in the Chicago culinary world.

All-in-all, I’d definitely go back to Sola.

Sola: 3868 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago

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