Italiasia: Don't Say It, Just Eat It

New restaurant opens in Chicago Mart Plaza

The first thing you have to overcome is the name. Splitting it in half helps. Italia-Asia. There you go. Admittedly, it may not win awards for the best name for a new restaurant in town, but there's worse offenders we can think of (Eivissa?).

But labels don't really matter -- it's all about the food and value, and that's where Italiasia comes out a winner.

Italiasia is located on the 15th floor of the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza, but despite it's downtown address, it doesn't carry the downtown baggage -- mainly, the high price tag.

As you'd guess from its name, Italiasia is a fusion of Italian and Asian fare. Items like miso soup and tuscan white bean soup sit side-by-side on the menu. And sometimes menu items are fused together in harmony, such as the Veal Osso Bucco, which is slow braised with sake wine, saffron scented arborio rice and served with edamame and gremolata.

Chef de Cuisine Christopher Karl, who trained under chefs such as David Burke, was quick to point out that he's half Japanese and half German -- although his family did have spaghetti nights while growing up.

The restaurant resides in a building connected to the Merchandise Mart, so unless you live or work in the area, it's not always a destination spot. But this is worth the trip. It's connected to Cityscape Bar, which boasts one of the best views around, and excellent happy hour deals throughout the week.

Dinner, which included an appetizer, a bottle of wine, two salads and two entrees was an extremely reasonable $92 before tip. You'll be hard pressed to find that deal anywhere else downtown.

Just make sure you write down the address before you leave the house. Try getting your cabbie to repeat "Italiasia."

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