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The Baltimore Sun

Noshing at the newbies

ZED 45
Downers Grove
Brazilian churrascaria Sal y Carvao has morphed into this a prix fixe dinner spot abiding by the same salad bar/touring meat servers concept, only with a wider, more internationally influenced menu.

"The concept of this type of dining experience is unique and interesting, but poorly executed. For a Friday evening, the restaurant was sparsely populated, and the lighting was that of a piano bar. I would have thought that they might want to show off the food that they were serving, until the piece of raw chicken was served -- the bright pink center of the roasted chicken was a bright red flag [for] this restaurant. With the exception of the chicken, the food was better than that of a Bennigan's or a Friday's, but not worth the price that they are charging. I do believe this unique restaurant has potential. but for now if you do plan on visiting, bring a flashlight and inspect your food before eating it." --MK, Buffalo Grove

"There were so many different types of meats and fish to choose from, we can't even begin to describe them, as each was better than the one before! We especially enjoy the lamb chops with goat cheese, filet wrapped in bacon and the parmesan pork. My friend who is not a huge meat fan thoroughly enjoyed the fish selections. The wine list is awesome; our friend found a few favorites he rarely finds anywhere else. Our service from start to finish was attentive and unobtrusive. We made our next reservation as we were leaving!" --Jaime, Chicago

"The food tasted good...however, the price is way, way, [ital: way] overboard, especially for a new restaurant. Price-wise, they should start lower and build a customer base. After that, maybe start to raise the price. Service [was] just OK. [There were] a million people offering food even when not indicated. [It's] hard to go back for a $140 (for two people) meal when Fogo [de Chao] is better and cheaper." --Ryan P., Burr Ridge

Got something to say about Zed 451? Review the Downers Grove or Schaumburg locations.

Palos Heights
This new south-suburban spot serves as corporate lunch destination by day and slick bar by night.

"It's about time the area got some great food and amazing entertainment! A large group of us went to see the [dueling] pianos on Saturday -- what a blast! It's so fun to have somewhere to go on the south side. The service was excellent, plus everyone in the place is happy and friendly!" --Lisa, Palos Heights

"Never again! The atmosphere is almost as bland as the food. [I] was there for dinner and was completely let down. If Trio is attempting to pull a "Bar Louie" and bring a downtown flair to the 'burbs, it has failed. The crab cakes still had water in them, the nachos had microwavable cheese on them and were soggy, [and the] burger was not cooked to order. I'll stick to Harrison's or Bar Louie for awesome bar food, good drinks, and a nice atmosphere." --Kate B., Tinley Park

"[This was the] first time I visited Trio and I had a great time. The food was exceptional, drinks were delicious, [and] service was good. My only suggestion I would offer to management is [they] need a better seating system. You have people entering from two entrances and people don't know where to go." --Rebecca, Worth

"All I can say is I am so happy you came to Palos Heights! You saved me a lot of cash in gas. All I have to do is drive down the street -- no more downtown or western 'burbs! Stay consistent and I will be a regular customer." --Becky, Palos Hills

Tried Trio for yourself? Post your own review here.

Penny's Noodle Shop
This popular, affordable Thai eatery has several locations in the city and Oak Park, but recently expanded northward with this outpost in Northfield.

"[This] establishment needs to get up to speed on customer service. The food is good for the price, but not exceptional. Recently, they tacked on extra delivery charges without notifying." --Unhappy Customer, Northbrook

"My favorite Penny's dish seemed lacking. [This location] needs to get up to speed with the other sites. Hopefully it will." --Beth, Skokie

"We have been anxiously waiting a long time for a Thai-style restaurant in Northbrook ever since Jasmine closed years ago. Maybe it's the opening jitters... but somehow the food at this location is not as good as the Racine spot in Lakeview. The Thai ravioli were overcooked and fairly tasteless...[and] the 'spicy' Thai fried rice was anything but spicy. Hopefully they aren't overthinking things and dumbing it down for North Shore tastes -- that would be a travesty. We'll give them another chance and see if they can replicate the awesome [ital: tom kar kai] they serve in Lakeview." -HB, Lakeview

Post your own Penny's review here.

Italian fare in an upscale yet family friendly setting is the name of the game at this Naperville newcomer.

"My wife and I have dined here five times since they opened, and we have found the food, service, atmosphere, and drinks to be excellent each time. To us, the pizza seems to be just as great as it was under the [previous] Leonardo's and Brick House Pizza names. The chicken marsala, chicken vesuvio and some of the tasty pasta dishes have become some of our favorites, along with the extremely fresh and flavorful salads. Prices are reasonable as compared to some of the "downtown Chicago" transplants that have invaded Naperville." --Ben, Naperville

"We've been to Tessa's a number of times since it reopened. The first night, the service left a little to be desired, but that's to be expected when first opening a restaurant. The food is always incredible, the wine list is expansive and reasonable and the ambiance is fabulous. Try the veal's to die for." --Jessica, Naperville

"We were not impressed one bit by Tessa's. We had to request new water glasses because both of ours were dirty. The fresh bread with olive oil was delicious and the service was good, but our entrees were nothing special." --Megan, Naperville

After you give Tessa's a try, write your own review here.

Blu Sushi Lounge
From the folks at Blu Coral, this sushi bar and lounge in E-town proffers similar eats in the former Narra space inside Hotel Orrington.

"My friends and I have been waiting for a great sushi place to open up in Evanston, so we're really excited about Blu. We shared the rainbow dragon maki, an assorted sashimi plate and braised short rib from the kitchen. The fish was very fresh and everything was absolutely delicious. Afterward, we were told about the lounge upstairs and of course had to check it out. We ended up spending the next couple of hours sipping martinis. It was nothing we had expected but everything we had hoped for." --Allyson W., Evanston

"Nice wine and drink list. I wouldn't go here and spend a lot on the sushi because it isn't that good. Go there for the drinks and eat sushi at Sea Ranch instead. Best in Evanston for the value." --Frankie, Evanston

"I have been to Blu a few times now and absolutely love it. Each visit is better than the next. The quality of sushi is just awesome. They have a great selection of creative maki and their desserts are fabulous. Then, to top if it off, their lounge upstairs has great ambiance. It's certainly a nice change of pace from all the other Evanston bars. I [ital: really] hope this place makes it, [as] it seems nothing ever lasts at this location." --David, Evanston

Sound off on Blu Sushi by writing your own review.

Distinctive Cork
Downtown Naperville's first wine bar is actually just outside of downtown, boasting a free parking in the adjacent lot and serving up flights of wine, cheese and chocolate as well as as elegant small plates for sharing.

"This place is just wonderful. The owners were around and actively participating with us patrons. The food was out quickly for being made-to-order...[but] I had the twin scallops and the ahi tuna. The food just melted in my mouth, and it was so reasonably priced! We tried to get in last Friday night, but there was a line out the door to be seated. I went back on Saturday and got seated right away. The live band was great and everything just seemed to fit together so well." --Lisa H., Naperville

"While I am so happy that there is finally a wine bar in Naperville, the [Distinctive] Cork did not make a good first impression. The chairs where hard and uncomfortable; [it's] designed more for a cafe than a place to relax. Additionally, the service was just mediocre. When I asked the server to prepare a cheese plate that was congruent with our wine selection, I was bombarded with 20 questions. Our flight of whites was great, I must admit." --Tina, Plainfield

"While I agree slightly with the last comment about the chairs being hard, so what? The service was great, the food was excellent and the owners were awesome. Not only am I going again and again, I have been telling everyone I know that this is a nice change. I frequent Chicago venues often and this restaurant (with cozier chairs, perhaps) will fit into any Chicago scene perfectly!" --Rosie, Naperville

Have you wined and dined at Distinctive Cork? Don't forget to post what you thought.

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