Nothing to Pu-Pu, but I think I'm a fan of platters again

November 22, 2010

I’m usually not a fan of platters.  More precisely, I tend to shy away from any sort of mass-service, group-intended eating from the trough.  I avoid buffets like a Bears fan shuns Lambeau and don’t want anything to do with those “sampler platters” they try to foist upon you at mediocre Chinese joints.

But there I was, twice in the past week, sitting down with friends and gobbling up two very different items from uniquely prepared platters.

The first, from Sushisamba in River North, where I’ve always been more drawn to the cooked items, such as the seafood-jammed moqueca stew or the savory robata skewers of beef and chicken.  But for some reason, a sushi assortment was ordered, and without hesitation, we polished off the delicate pieces of Hamachi, as well as the savory maki rolls embedded with an appropriate amount of fish (great ratio of seafood to well-prepared sushi rice), and not coated in an unagi-lathered sauce like so many other places do, hoping to cover up any flaws.

Then on Friday night, at Noon O Kabab, perhaps the best Persian/Iranian restaurant in Chicago, we sat down to a platter of kebabs, each one more juicy and flavorful than the next.  In the picture above, you’ll notice shrimp skewers on the far left; check out the large chunks of salmon right next to them.  They were an absolutely spot-on medium rare, and as we sampled each kebab – from filet to ground beef and chicken that must have been marinated for a few days to keep it so moist – I was even more impressed with the “jeweled” rice dish that arrived alongside: studded with shards of orange peel, carrots and crunchy pistachios, I was reminded instantly of why I love this place so much, and how I need to make a habit of returning again soon.

On a completely different train of thought, I wanted to share this picture from my lunch Friday at Province, a place I haven’t eaten in much lately.  It’s cobia – a type of black kingfish – sustainably caught, of course, like all of the seafood at the restaurant.  Topped with some briny capers and resting over a crunchy assortment of squash, edamame and hearty winter greens, it was a richly-satisfying dish with very little guilt (allowing for just a few extra nibbles of dessert).