Aba Aba is a lively homage to all flavors Middle Eastern; in a sense, it’s a sequel effort to chef C.J. Jacobson’s Ema restaurant in River North. But Aba shows its independence with its emphasis on proteins. Spreads are a must, if only to get one’s hands on the warm, puffy house bread, brushed with butter and dusted with za’atar. You’ll find a variety of meats in “humble” and “prime” cuts. The former includes eggplant-wrapped braised lamb and beef short rib. Prime cuts are legit steaks and chops, served in petite portions. Ryan Arnold’s wine list is a treat, keeping the less adventurous bases covered while offering a trove of bottles from such places as Lebanon and Israel. Liz Pearce’s cocktails incorporate ingredients found on the menu (turmeric, honey, mango) into nifty takes on daiquiris and margaritas.
Open: Dinner daily. Prices: Main courses $13.95$27.95. 302 N. Green St., 773-645-1400. — P.V.
Arami The reverence with which sushi chefs handle rice here is reason enough to visit, but this is one of the rare Japanese restaurants in which the hot dishes are even better than the sushi. Pay attention to the cocktail list, and don’t skip the black-sesame shortbread and saltedmiso ice cream sandwich.
Open: Dinner daily. Prices: Maki rolls and entrees $15-$17. 1829 W. Chicago Ave., 312-243-1535. — P.V.
Funkenhausen Chicago doesn't have a ton of Southern restaurants and barely any German ones; Funkenhausen attempts to check both boxes. Purists of these styles of cooking are unlikely to be satisfied with this mashup, but for the rest of us, there’s much to admire. The dining room gives off a German beer-hall vibe, albeit one that’s warmer and less noisy than you’d expect. Entrees include the veal schnitzel, as crispy and crunchy as you’d want, and The Whole Mess of Chicken — sort of a pan-roasted Southern chicken on an Alsatian vacation. Indeed, the must-have dish here is the Piggy Plate, a charcuterie and pickled vegetable assortment that arrives on a pigshaped slate slab. The selection varies from week to week, but expect a German-Southern blend of pork tongue, bratwurst and sausages with pickled okra, bread-andbutter pickles and, perhaps, some rib tips.
Open: Dinner daily; brunch Saturday and Sunday. Small plates $6-$15, main courses $24-$27. 1709 W. Chicago Ave., 312-929-4727. — P.V.
Heritage Restaurant & Caviar Bar
Chef Guy Meikle is out to take the mystery, and sticker shock, away from caviar in this Humboldt Park spot. More than a halfdozen roes are available each day, costing as little as $10 for an a la carte nibble to $145 for a full-blown platter of osetra, whitefish and tobikko caviars with accompaniments. Elsewhere on the menu you’ll find odes to Eastern Europe fare, including pierogi and pelmeni dumplings, pork goulash and roast duck with Czech bread dumplings. Partner Jan Henrichsen created the fascinating wine list (which sources from Croatia, Slovenia and the Republic of Georgia, among other regions) and the whimsical, seasonal cocktail menu. Pastry chef Alan Krueger veers from rustic (hand pies) to creative (popcorn semifreddo) to classic (souffles).
Open: Dinner daily, brunch weekends; entrees $16-$35. 2700 W. Chicago Ave., 773-661-9577. — P.V.
La Sardine Executive chef Oliver Poilevey is quick to credit his late father, Jean-Claude, for creating La Sardine’s vision. At the French bistro, you’ll find a picturesque tableau of seared scallops surrounded by coarse fava-bean puree, oyster mushrooms and pickled strawberries. Skate wing gets the classic brownbutter treatment. Salads are delicious, but no place for dieters: The frisee salad is piled high with pan-crisped shredded duck, and the lyonnaise salad is generous with its thick, meaty lardons. La Sardine features $1 oysters and discounted bites and drinks at the bar 5-7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays.
Open: Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner MondaySaturday. Main courses $21-$31. 111 N. Carpenter St., 312-421-2800. — P.V.