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SAVOR Cebu; Rooh
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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The restaurants profiled this week are considered two of the hottest new spots in the city—but do they live up to the hype?

Cebu ( 2211 W. North Ave.; ) is one of the very few authentic Filipino restaurants in Chicago. ( The spot is named after a southern province of the Philippines, and reflects more of a Chinese influence. )

Drinks are inventive. The Weng Weng incorporates cognac, vodka, rum, tequila, Scotch and rye along with grenadine and juices. And the Average Joe is anything but, with its heady mix of citrus vodka, persimmon liqueur, passionfruit syrup, fresh lime and pineapple juice.

If your idea of exotic food is shrimp-fried rice, this might not be the right place. However, for the adventurous, there are rewards.

The egg rolls ( lumpia ) were as good as any I've had, and the chicken adobo ( chicken thighs marinated in soy, vinegar, peppercorn, garlic, lemon juice and coconut milk ) may not have looked like much, but it was very tasty. However, the paksiw ( pork lechon ) sliders were merely okay—and we found the Cebu lechon belly ( divided into layers of well-cooked meat, pork fat and crispy skin ) both wonderful and frustrating. ( Thankfully, a large knife was provided, although knives are not part of the usual cutlery at Cebu, reflecting tradition. )

Regarding desserts, my friend and I were split. She preferred the calamassi tart—but I absolutely love the halo-halo, a compendium of Filipino tastes and flavors that was worth the price of admission alone, as they say. There's no question that the Tans ( who own Cebu ) know their way around Filipino cuisine—and this place warrants ( re )visiting.

One other thing: This place might actually might want to look into a dance area. The music was energetic enough to make you want to work off that halo halo.


And then there's Rooh ( 736 W. Randolph St.; ), a progressive Indian spot in the trendy Restaurant Row. Rooh, with its location and cool decor, will surely draw the crowds.

My friend ( who happens to be Indian, and who has been with me to a lot of spots ) was impressed with Rooh—right down to the menu, which is on the most luxurious paper ever. Cocktails are divided into several categories, including pungent and astringent ( ! )—but were pretty appealing.

Appetizers and entrees looked promising ( with the top half of items on the area of the print menu devoted to vegetarian dishes ). And, indeed, we enjoyed several of the items. For example, the green pea-and-goat cheese kulcha ( flatbread ) was absolutely delicious, as well as the butter chicken and the avocado-and-edamame papdi chaat.

However, as polished as Rooh looked, there were multiple signs that it's the new kid on the block. Some dishes misfired, such as the shamefully dry duck shami kebab. Also, on at least two separate occasions, the wrong items were brought to our table—and my friend almost accepted an incorrect drink on one occasion because we waited so long for our actual orders. ( Our server was friendly enough, and there are obviously some things he couldn't control—but it even took him a while to break a $20 bill and, even then, he brought 20 one-dollar bills. )

Also, take it as a sign that ( at least when I looked on the website ) there are no prices next to the items online. Entrees cost anywhere from $20 to $36 each—but, with the jackfruit fritters, for example, there were only three small items for $24.

So, I'd ( marginally ) recommend Rooh. However, you may want to give the spot a couple weeks to get its act together.

Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.

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