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Playing the Name Game at the Dana Hotel

Dana has a vain adventure at ajasteak.
Tuesday Jan 27, 2009.     By Dana Kavan
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Drink of the week: Almond Pear Blossom

Where you can find it: ajasteak

The damage: $11

Why here? My pal Jennifer's dad Gary tells the kind of jokes that would feel right at home on a Bazooka Joe gum wrapper. His favorite one, which he repeats to me nearly every time I see him, is that if I married his friend Bill Dana, my name would be Dana Dana. Had I sat down to dinner with Gary at the Dana Hotel, I can only imagine the kind of tongue-in-cheek comments he'd make, things like "So, Dana Hotel, huh? Is everything on the house since you own the place?" I'll admit it's not the most sophisticated humor, but it never fails to crack me up. Luckily, Jennifer and I had other sources of entertainment at our disposal when we stopped into the hotel's ajasteak on Friday night: stiff drinks, tasty appetizers and plenty of people-watching.

How it went down: Jennifer and I had just shopped our way around River North, so we climbed into the black leather chairs with a fierce appetite for food and drink. We started with a glance at the cocktails, a surprisingly scant list of just five. Jen opted for the sake sangria, but I settled on the Almond Pear Blossom, wanting to savor the delectable flowery flavor of St. Germain liqueur. I had sampled the elderflower-infused booze only once before, in a simple champagne cocktail. Mixing it with amaretto, basil and pear-flavored Absolut vodka sounded either like a complete mess or a brilliant concoction. The Almond Pear Blossom, garnished with a pear wheel, fell somewhere in between.

The velvety, golden-yellow martini tasted overwhelmingly of pear, with a slight floral aftertaste and a sharp bite from the vodka. I was hoping for a stronger almond flavor from the amaretto, but only got a hint of the stuff. I should've ordered it as an after-dinner drink; it was too sweet to pair with most menu items, but its potency did warm me up nicely for course number one.

Would I want to become a regular? Not feeling up for steak (or not up for shelling out top-dollar for Kobe, anyway), Jen and I opted for a couple appetizers and two maki rolls to get our fill. The hamachi "guacamole" had buttery chunks of tender fish on top, paired with creamy guac studded with just enough jalapenos to add a touch of spice and soy sauce giving it a salty base. Toasted corn nuts and slivers of radish added an unexpected and welcome crunch to the melt-in-your-mouth Waygu carpaccio. The sushi rolls were somewhat forgettable; ditto for the decor, which couldn't quite get away from the hotel feel and had a wood-meets-zebra-print element that seemed a bit like a '90s bachelor pad. The second floor had a more modern edge, but Jen and I were on the first floor, surrounded by starry-eyed couples raving about the steak. I'm not sure I'd rush back there, unless Gary comes to town. I couldn't deny him the opportunity to unleash his comedic glory on me.

Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.


Explore More

Bars & Clubs

Brand-New Bars

Brand-New Bars

Get divey on Grace; go downstairs at River North's Curio.

Food & Dining

New Restaurants

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Go Dutch at Vincent and satisfy a familiar sweet tooth at BomBon.

What's Happening Today
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  • Mrs. O'Leary's Pub
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    $14 pitchers of Absolut pink lemonade, $3 off martinis and Manhattans, $6 Bacardi bombs
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    $3 Corona, $5 Jager bombs