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“Tasty but very pricey”
Review of Arun's

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Ranked #1,310 of 10,214 Restaurants in Chicago
Price range: US$41 - US$80
Cuisines: Asian, Thai
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Special Occasion Dining, Groups, Child-friendly, Romantic
Dining options: Reservations
Dining style: Fine Dining
Neighbourhood: Northwest Side
Cross street: Between Warner Ave & Berteau Ave
Transit: CTA Brown Line Kedzie Station
Reviewed 24 July 2017

Oh my, this is a tough place to review. Asian food generally doesn't fall into the fine dining category so to find ourselves with a 12 course $150 tasting menu, after thinking it was going to be $125, set us back a bit however when you compare the cost to some of the other tasting menus in the city you realize it really isn't that far off. All that said however we still felt it was a little expensive for what we got.

First, they don't give you a menu to look at so that you can get an idea of what the courses will be, that itself is a problem for me. Second - many reviewer's have mentioned that the food came out at room temperature or just not hot enough. Am going to have to agree that this was the case.

Let's start with the drinks. The cocktails were extremely tasty and inventive.
The wine list however was insanely expensive - prices four and five times retail pricing is just too much. We ordered two glasses of a Zinfandel ($15 a pop!) and they came out tasting pruny and as if it had been overheated. They did give us new pours from a new bottle which were better.

On to the 12 dishes:

1. No picture for this one even though they offered to bring another one by later so I could take a shot of it, they just forgot. It was a shiso leaf filled with crispy coconut and perhaps pork threads topped with a slice of a Thai bird chili. There must've been other stuff in there like garlic and other seasonings. It was a little bit like eating rough slightly moistened sawdust in terms of texture, but the flavors were terrific.

2. A trio of appetizers starting with a small crispy pastry boat filled with chicken and vegetables, a bigger's purse also filled with a protein and the third a blue rice dough intricately designed dumpling filled with chicken? They were all beautiful, but none of them were warm enough and they begged for some sort of sauce.

3. A somewhat more common Thai appetizer - a soft shell spring roll filled with vegetables with a couple of pieces of crab in between and a brown plum type sauce. It was good but not great.

4. Single slice of steak on a Belgian endive leaf with a microscopic tempura carrot. Again, it needed a sauce or more flavor.

5. My absolute favorite dish of the night - it was way more than one or two bites and it had complex flavors and textures. At the bottom of the plate a square of extremely thin egg cooked like a wrapper. On top of that some rice vermicelli noodles that were seasoned with coconut milk and something to turn them pink. To the right of that small pieces of stir fried tofu that were amazingly flavorful. On top of all of this with a nice large prawn that was tempura fried. Some crushed red pepper flakes, some thin cucumber and red pepper slices and a small wedge of lemon were also on the plate to help pull together all the flavors.

6. This course actually was skipped accidentally and we ended up getting it after both desserts because we counted through our pictures and noticed that we had only been served 11. This was called teatime and it was a small little pot of a ginger and lemon grass tea served in a thimble size cup along with a calamari meatball served on a skewer with half a grape tomato and a basil leaf. It was interesting, palate cleansing and I wish we would've had it in the six position instead of the 12th.

Courses 7, 8, 9 and 10 were four entrées that were all brought out at once and served family style.

7. Sweet-and-sour fish fillets held together with a ring of fried pastry dough all drizzled with a Thai sweet chili sauce. Tasty, but other than the intricately carved carrot fish on the plate and the fact that the fish fillets were standing upright, none of this was high-end.

8. Seared sea scallops (1 per person) with sautéed vegetable planks. Again, tasty but other than the intricate serving there was nothing wow in this dish.

9. Braised curry beef with crispy onion strings (?) on top. This was the most flavorful dish of the entrées. The sauce was delicious over the steamed rice that came with the entrées.

10. The supposed "6 1/2 ounce" lobster tail turned out to be a half a lobster tail per person. The only reason we switched to the 12 course menu from the 10 course menu was because they said for the additional $25 we would get two extra courses - one of them being an appetizer and the other being a 6 1/2 ounce lobster tail. Bait and switch! It had good flavor with a ground up sweet red pepper type of sauce although I would've liked a little heat in the sauce and a lot more of the sauce itself.

11. Tapioca "slippery" noodles with (basil?) a light coconut sauce and then a small cup of macerated berries with a sweet syrup.

12. A tiny green tea rice crêpe filled with sticky sweet rice along side a small scoop of slightly icy coconut ice and a perfectly ripe slice of mango all of it drizzled with a mango purée. Sweet, but not too sweet, and refreshing with the ice.

Would I ever return? Maybe, if somebody else was paying!

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Thank ouilv2travel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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8 - 12 of 76 reviews

Reviewed 13 July 2017

Arun's can be recommend as an exceptional fine dining restaurant. The food is delicious and brilliantly presented. The service is impeccable. We found the experience to be romantic. Be sure to try one of the signature cocktails!

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1  Thank Katie K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 May 2017

It is not often that dining experiences are separated by 25 years, so that puts a unique spin on my evening, but a crushing disappointment IS what happened. I waited two weeks to write this review, since my recent dinner at Aruns turned my memories into a gastronomic eulogy. I read recent reviews, but I had hoped they learned from previous mishaps. I understood the portions were small.

We discovered Mr. Arun's other-wordly way with food when he opened a little storefront restaurant on Irving Park Rd., in the middle of a blue-collar, immigrant neighborhood over 25 years ago. My then boyfriend (now husband) and I expected a nice Thai dinner. Instead, we were treated to a culinary masterpiece. We visited often. We once ordered five dishes, running out of room at the table so the plates were loaded on chairs, with a little cockroach paying a visit. We took it in stride- that's how good he was. The dishes promised more than fond memories; the cuisine was transformation. His meals were good medicine and he was the healer. No Thai restaurant I've tried since comes close to Mr. Arun's cooking.

When we saw Mr. Arun featured on the cover of Tribune magazine, we were as thrilled to see him win the top U.S. restaurant award as we were sorry that our secret had been exposed. Foodies flew in to this little corner of Chicago from all over the U.S. We were delighted to see that his new location was still in our midst, humble in location and size if not price. Certainly, the healing offered up at the restaurant might extend towards the economically disadvantaged community in which Aruns had defiantly invested. I had heard of the prix fix menu and the prices that accompanied such artistry, so I decided to wait for the right event to celebrate.

I waited too long. The humble location was transformed into a glorious Thai palace (it is a beautiful if out-of-place structure, with litter swirling around and a neighborhood of residents who wouldn't or couldn't spend so much on a meal). The interior is a nod to elegance and artistry as Mr. Arun's brother has painted whole-wall murals of fascinating complexity, with novel elements that beckon the hypnotized to find a coke bottle or celebrity "where is Waldo"? style. That artistry extended to the many courses presented, as each was garnished or composed of sculpture, often a carrot as fish or basket. Beautiful Thai artifacts decorated the restaurant, some on loan from the King himself (a brief description or written provenance would have been welcome).

That is where my fondness ends. I was bitterly disappointed by the food and service; the literal interpretation of molecular gastronomy and poor service turned a celebratory dinner into a haughty, amateur, service of worship for an artist rather than chef. We were recruited by our host as acolytes though we were still new to this game. Some of the thimble-sized items were good, not great as the exquisite and novel tastes were sacrificed to architecture and prescription (we were told the recommended sequence for consuming our thimbles). Our host-presumed fears that the great artwork of garnish might succumb to retrieved plates were addressed with a plastic cup so that we may preserve the art a bit longer for worship at home.

You know there is a problem when the amount of garnish exceeds the volume of a dish. As a party of five, we were not even provided with even a single item of each dish as the required content of one of the sculptures was two. So we received two edible baskets with four items total, for a party of five. Certainly, one of us would be willing to sacrifice a taste or divide the divine item in the service of preserving artistic presentation!

If the number of platings and silverware replacements for each new course matched the number of erroneous plating and silverware placed before us and removed without a course to go with it (by my count 13- that's right 13 platings or silverware exchanges placed and removed without food, on top of 12 planned tableware exchanges, with wait-staff reaching across people as not enough space was left behind us and the wall to accomplish service with some discretion, all sprinkled with bumbling apologies, interrupting our attempt to salvage the meal with good conversation), I would not have minded the eye-popping price, sans tip, that this Thai palace extracted from me. However, when you charge $ 150.00 per plate, the service had better be closer to impeccable than impossible. Dishes were introduced like revered members of the royal family, at times incomprehensibly rendered by non-English speaking staff. It was so amateurish, bumbling and incompetent as to be insulting. I felt bullied, though I wasn't willing to ruin the dinner for anyone else. Although the manager checked in early (before the service commenced) he was nowhere to be found when service ramped up. If I were the manager, I would have offered to reduce the price, to avoid such bad press. Because I didn't make a scene, and out of shock at what my memories had become, we were faced with a) going home hungry, b) devouring our take-home garnish cache, or c) patronizing our local diner to wash away the feeling of having been taken (this was supposed to be a celebration dinner).

Why do I get the feeling that the restaurant is really a front for the government of Thailand, bent on draining the wallets and fat off Americans? How do I reconcile such a glorious repository of Thai artifacts with a neighborhood it fails to communicate with? How can this resplendent jewel box house the all-time Master of Thai cooking but not the cuisine?

I love Thai food, and I am determined that the recent catastrophe will not ruin my memories of Mr. Arun's cooking long ago. But I am left wondering if the restaurant might better be reinvented as a Thai museum, with an hors d oeuvres night for fans. This might eliminate the bad service. Also, the museum might offer a discounted entrance fee on Mondays, rendering it accessible to the curious proletariat who surround this jewel of Thailand. It would be the neighborly thing to do.

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Thank heidi w
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 April 2017

We were able to eat at Arun's twice over Easter weekend and found excellent service, well prepared food attractively presented. The restaurant itself is a show piece of Thai art and artifacts. The dining area offers secluded tables as well as standard seating. Each course was presented and explained. My nut allergy was taken into consideration and anything that might contain nuts was given to me on the side. The bartender, Brian, made some very tasty craft cocktails for us and, again, honored my request for a light alcohol pour. All in all it was very nice way to spend Easter weekend.

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Thank guidinglight2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 December 2016

I knew it was going to be expensive but this time it was a Joke. I had been here years ago when I visited and enjoyed it very much. This time they were just full of themselves. Arriving a few minutes early with reservations on a
Friday night and no one was in the Restaurant. We should have started to run. Dreadful food. Corked Wine. Don't be fooled by the good reviews. You will do better with a $7.99 lunch special at your local Thai Restaurant.

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Thank ProseccoandRoses
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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