Review: Aba

Review: Aba

The Infatuation Chicago |
Adrian Kane |
Oct 1, 2018
Original Article: "Review: Aba"

The last thing the West Loop really needs is another big, trendy restaurant – but that doesn’t stop them from appearing. And Aba certainly falls into this category. Your personal opinion on it will depend at least a little on your patience for crowds, celebrity chefs, and sports cars being dropped off at the valet. But Aba also happens to have very good food, which is why it’s worth checking out the next time you’re in the mood for a sceney meal.

It’s inevitable to be compared to your sibling, so we’re going to get this out of the way – Aba is the sister restaurant to Ema in River North. They have the same head chef, they’re owned by the same restaurant group, and they both serve Mediterranean small plates. But where Ema went to Brown on a scholarship, Aba spent the summer in Ibiza – and just stayed there. You pass a bouncer before taking an elevator to the restaurant, there’s a huge dining room with two bars and a loungey rooftop patio, and wherever you’re sitting, you’ll be surrounded by an awful lot of dressed-up pretty people.

So yes, Aba is a scene – but it’s a scene that comes with fantastic food. Most things on the menu are meant to be shared, but some are so good that you won’t really want to. For example, all of the hummuses and spreads (like the spicy hummus or the sweet muhammara), and the fantastic fresh-baked pita they come with. The kefalotiri might be our new favorite fried cheese – it’s deliciously sharp and salty – and some of the larger meat and seafood plates are must-orders (specifically the leg of lamb with cinnamon and dates, and the harissa-crusted halibut that’s perfectly spiced).

Besides the excellent Mediterranean food, there are some other things you can count on when you’re here. When it’s crowded (which is most of the time), expect long waits, a hectic atmosphere, and groups of loud people moving around the space. In other words, a typical clubby restaurant/occasional sh*tshow. If this is a dealbreaker, plan on coming here earlier in the night, or just go to Ema instead.

The celebrity chef restaurant situation in Chicago is kind of like a magician’s scarf. These places just keep coming, and on the surface, a lot of them can look pretty similar. The good news about Aba is that – as long as you don’t mind a little bit of a party – its delicious food makes it more than worth your time.

FOOD RUNDOWN

Spreads and HummusSpreads and hummuses make up a large portion of the menu here, and we’ve liked every single one we’ve tried. Our favorite hummus is the spicy one (made with chickpeas and fresno chiles), and the version topped with short rib ragu is great, too. The sweet and spicy muhammara (roasted peppers with chili, walnuts, and a sweet pomegranate molasses) is another standout. What we’re saying is that we could come here and happily just eat the spreads.

Charred Lamb TartareThere’s too much lime juice in this dish – it overwhelms the lightly charred meat and makes the whole plate very wet. And the lettuce cups served on the side don’t improve things. Skip this.

Tuna TagliataUnlike the lamb tartare, this dish – thin strips of tuna served with pickled red peppers and mustard seeds – has a great balance of acidity. It’s delicious and refreshing.

Arugula and Iceberg SaladHow much you like this salad will depend on how much you like oregano and iceberg lettuce, because it has a lot of both. It also has hazelnuts, dates, and graviera cheese. We’re not fans.

Jerusalem BagelEssentially a large everything bagel, served with a whipped labneh and honey mixture. The bagel is good, but we’d be happy just eating the labneh with a spoon.

Bone MarrowDon’t order this dish if you plan on doing any close-talking – the marrow is roasted with scallions and a very strong anchovy salsa. But it tastes fantastic. Our only real complaint about this dish is that the pita it’s served with is too thin for the marrow – we suggest saving some bagel for this instead.

Pan-Fried KeflatoriWe’re no strangers to the glory of fried cheese – we’re in the land of cheese curds, after all. And this pan-fried Greek cheese dish is indeed glorious: salty, crispy, and a little spicy thanks to some chile.

Toasted Sesame ShrimpThis fried shrimp dish is dry, and the green harissa sauce it’s served with doesn’t add enough flavor or moisture. Overall, this tastes like something you’d eat at the state fair rather than in the Mediterranean.

Leg of LambThe lamb here is wrapped in eggplant, and served in a tomato sauce with dates. It’s cinnamony and slightly sweet. It will make you think of fall.

Beef TenderloinThis is a straightforward meat and potatoes dish. Kind of boring, yes. Tasty, also yes.

HalibutThis will make you happy. The halibut is moist and flavorful, and the harissa crust gives it a nice amount of spice.

KebabsThere are a few different kebabs on the menu – chicken, salmon, and a lamb and beef kefta. They’re all well-spiced, and they come with perfectly cooked basmati rice. Order at least one for the table.

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-878-7340

You May Also Like...

In The Restaurants
Your Guide to Our Favorite Salads
Jan 14, 2019

A salad a day keeps the doctor away. Well, maybe not. But we know it can be tough keeping your New…

read more >
In The Restaurants
You Can Now Enjoy Aba’s Patio All Year Long
Jan 12, 2019

Introducing the new rooftop igloos at Aba! Why are we so excited for these? Well, it means you can…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Chicago Restaurant Week 2019
Jan 12, 2019

Have you been dying to try one of our Chicago restaurants but were waiting for a sign? Well, Chicago…

read more >
In The Restaurants
8 Food Trends We’re Looking Forward To In 2019
Jan 8, 2019

Just like fashion, food is always trending and it’s up to the experts to decide what’s “in”…

read more >
In The Restaurants
5 Healthier Menu Alternatives to Help You Keep Your Resolutions
Jan 8, 2019

January is here, which means it's time for New Year's resolutions. It's not our fault that the cold…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Kid-Friendly Dining Options and Activities
Jan 2, 2019

You've been to the zoo, the beach, the pool... the kids are starting to get stir crazy. We've got…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants
Nov 18, 2018

Finding gluten-free friendly restaurants has gotten a lot easier than it used to be. At Lettuce…

read more >
How To
Spend Your Scratch Off Reward $$$
Oct 14, 2018

You’ve worked hard all summer playing and earning points during Scratch Off, and now you’ve got…

read more >
How To
Mix It Up: Life on Freezy Street, A Sauv Blanc Cocktail
Aug 13, 2018

It's August which means heat, humidity, plus some more heat. There's no better way to cool down…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Best Time of the Year: Patio Season
Aug 10, 2018

Warm weather is here, which means al fresco dining is too! We've rounded up the best patios at…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Dine Like A Star: Where All of the Lollapalooza Celebs Were Spotted
Aug 7, 2018

The Windy City lights up during Lollapalooza weekend, flooded with festival-goers and a flock of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Lettuce Life: Meet Avril Zayas, Senior Designer
Jul 30, 2018

Welcome to Lettuce Life, a behind the scenes look at what makes Lettuce Entertain You special: our…

read more >
How To
Treat Your Vegetables More Like Meat
Jul 25, 2018

Summa time, and grilling's easy... but what if you just aren't in the mood to eat meat? CJ Jacobson,…

read more >
How To
This Summer, Grill Like A Chef. Here’s How
Jul 19, 2018

Executive Chef Justin Diglia of Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in Chicago and his…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Your Summer Ice Cream Checklist
Jul 19, 2018

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM...we all know the drill so let's get to the good stuff. July is National Ice…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Mix Up the Picnic Basket Cocktail from Aba
Jul 19, 2018

Cocktails are best shared with friends and Aba's Lead Mixologist, Liz Pearce has created a list of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Somm Picks: Top Bottles Under $50
Jun 26, 2018

Searching through wine lists can be a daunting task. Thumbing through dozens of pages filled with…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Valentine’s Day 2019: Chicagoland
Mar 14, 2010

Have you made your Valentine's Day plans yet? Our Chicago restaurants are offering special menus…

read more >

Recent Posts

How To
Recipe: Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba’s! Moroccan Chickpea Stew
Jan 18, 2019

Stews are the perfect way to warm up this winter and Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba's! Moroccan Chickpea Stew is…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Now Serving: Di Pescara Thursday Night Lobster Special
Jan 17, 2019

Kick off the weekend early with this amazing deal! Di Pescara, located in Northbrook Court, is now…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Building The Perfect Bowl Of Ramen
Jan 16, 2019

'Tis the season for a hearty bowl of ramen to warm you up during these colder winter months. But…

read more >
In The Restaurants
DC & Bethesda Restaurant Week 2019
Jan 15, 2019

DC Restaurant Week (January 14 - 20) and Bethesda Magazine Restaurant Week (January 11 - 20) are…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Mon Ami Gabi’s Braised Short Ribs
Jan 15, 2019

It's chilly outside and we've got the perfect winter dish to warm you up: Mon Ami Gabi's Braised…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Ozzie’s Pops & Pretzels Abuelita Hot Chocolate
Jan 14, 2019

Chef / Partner Ozzie Ocegueda of Ozzie's Pops and Pretzels is sharing his family hot chocolate…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Your Guide to Our Favorite Salads
Jan 14, 2019

A salad a day keeps the doctor away. Well, maybe not. But we know it can be tough keeping your New…

read more >
How To
8 Ways to Use Your Lettuce Gift Card
Jan 14, 2019

Racking your brain for the perfect gift? Here's an idea, how about a Lettuce Entertain You Gift…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Big Game Day Carry-out + Brunch Specials 2019: Los Angeles
Jan 13, 2019

The Big Game is February 3, 2019 and if you are in Los Angeles, Stella Barra in Santa Monica and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
What to Carry-Out and Where to Watch the Big Game 2019: Las Vegas
Jan 13, 2019

The Big Game is February 3, 2019 and if you are in Las Vegas, here are some of our restaurants that…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Big Game Day 2019: What to Carry-Out + Brunch Specials in D.C.
Jan 13, 2019

We're already looking forward to the Big Game on Sunday, February 3, 2019. Whether you're hosting at…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Big Game is February 3, 2019: What to Carry-Out in the Twin Cities
Jan 13, 2019

The Big Game is Sunday, February 3, 2019 and this year stock your game day spread with Wildfire or…

read more >
Lettuce Consulting Group

Grow Your Business

Learn More
Career Opportunities

Join Our Team

Search Jobs
Latest Articles

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign Up Now

Lettuce on Instagram

Checkout our feed @lettuceentertainyou!