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IPO

Photograph: Erica Gannett
Blue cheese polenta cakes at IPO
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It could have gone one of two ways. Faced with the opportunity to reconcept, the W Hotel’s Ristorante We could have seized the moment and embraced the new menu and new name, IPO. It could have capitalized on the fact that the chef, the servers and everybody in between would remain in place, eliminating the unpolished service that plagues other new restaurants. They could have been the old pros who got their second wind.

But it went the other way. These old pros aren’t just seasoned but tired, and lazy. They can’t be bothered to wipe down a table, to refill a water glass, to pace a meal or to hide their contempt for their jobs. Eating a meal here somehow makes one feel both rushed and ignored: Servers are nowhere in sight until they bring out your entrées while you’re only halfway through your salad.

And that salad isn’t a great consolation prize. Chef Trevor Hoyte calls it “macerated grapes” on the menu, but nowhere in the description is it explained that these grapes are actually grape tomatoes. (It should come as no surprise that the servers don’t tell you either.) Therefore, the resulting salad is more conventional than what you might expect: tomatoes, goat cheese, mâche. But at least is has pistachios— an inspired addition— on top.

From there, it’s all downhill. Blue cheese polenta cakes are laden with cream, but with no salt there’s no flavor via which to enjoy all that fat. Tiny cuts of veal osso buco arrived in varying stages of heat, none of them appropriate (one was room temperature, another was cold). I liked the buttery rock shrimp ravioli that’s paired with the tempura shrimp, but the star of this show had a distracting, fishy aftertaste. Mushroom-crusted tuna may have been a hit, but it arrived so raw and fatty I literally couldn’t saw a piece off of it. (By the way, I had ordered the tuna medium-rare.)

At lunch, a huge butter lettuce salad with sweet bacon and strips of jicama was nothing if not harmless and standard. And a braised short rib sandwich has all the tender, fatty flavors you could ask for (it’s covered in cheese and truffle-oiled tomatoes), and absolutely none of the relief (say, via an acidic element) that such a fatty dish requires. The “smoke chicken,” a big bowl of pasta with some bits of smoked chicken thrown in, is listed under the “Linger” portion of the menu. But linger is exactly what you won’t want to do. Nor will you linger over desserts, like the bready beignets or the tall piece of chocolate cake sprinkled with stale popcorn. In fact, there’s really only one thing that will make you want to stick around in stunned disbelief: the bill.

By David Tamarkin.

Venue name: IPO
Address: 172 W Adams St
Chicago

Cross street: in the W Chicago City Center
Venue phone: 312-917-5608
Website: http://iporestaurant.com
Opening hours: Breakfast (Mon–Fri), brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch (Mon–Fri), dinner (Mon–Sat)
Transport: El stop: Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple (rush hrs) to Quincy. Bus: 1, 7, 28, 126, 151, 156.
Price: Average main course: $20
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