Mott St.

Restaurants Wicker Park
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Photograph: Martha Williams

Co-owner Vicki Kim describes Mott St's design as "utilitarian."

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St is located in what was most recently MC Bistro, at 1401 N Ashland Ave.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St's menu includes a few noodle dishes, such as ice-cold buckwheat noodles with turnip-top kimchi broth.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Chef Edward Kim made a name for himself at Ruxbin, his three-year-old BYOB down the block from Mott St.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Because the Mott St space lacks a basement, the partners needed to devise storage solutions in the dining room itself, such as these shelves with screens.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St's food aims to be more "visceral" than Ruxbin's.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St's menu includes a "Pickle Plate" with seasonal pickles.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Unlike the appetizer-entr´┐Że-dessert format at Ruxbin, the dishes at Mott St (such as this pickle plate) are meant to be shared.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

"Pickle Plate" at Mott St

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St is inspired in part by Asian night markets.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

The Mott St crew sourced materials for the space from everywhere from Salvage One to Craigslist.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

"Friends and Family" of the Mott St staff get a first taste of the restaurant on June 11, 2013.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

The kitchen prepares for a "Friends and Family" meal at Mott St on June 11, 2013.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St's menu features a ton of seafood, from calamari wok-fried with Korean chili paste to crab-brain fried rice to grilled pike mackerel.

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Mott St opens to the public tonight.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Shelves in the Mott St dining room house ingredients.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St's bartenders prepare for the restaurant's opening.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

The list of cocktails at Mott St is overseen by Chad Hauge.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St's edited cocktail menu is divided into "Daily," "Seasonal" and "Year Round" offerings.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

The "Storms In Spring" cocktail at Mott St is an homage to this season's funky weather in Chicago.

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Fresh citrus at Mott St

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"Everything" wings (which were also featured at the TOC Dining & Libation Society Ruxbin Night Market) are tossed with sesame and poppy seeds at Mott St.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St's cocktails incorporate ingredients like water kimchi, shochu and grapefruit tapioca.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Some of the first guests arrive at Mott St's preview.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Behind Mott St are four partners: Edward Kim, Vicki Kim, Jenny Kim and Nate Chung.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

The dining room at Mott St beings to fill up.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St's menu includes a selection of "Rolled & Steamed" dishes, such as steamed dumplings stuffed with pork, ginger and green onion.

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A couple gets a lucky sneak preview of Mott St.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

"Pickle Plate" at Mott St

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Mott St

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Photograph: Martha Williams

As at Ruxbin, chef Edward Kim pulls from multiple cuisines.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Mott St is located at 1401 N Ashland Ave.

If you sit in the back half of Mott St, you’ll be dining next to shelves stocked with Cholula hot sauce, jars of beans, tea…and a box of Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch. Is that a dessert ingredient?

Nope, it’s breakfast for “the early crew,” our server told us.

With little storage space in the kitchen, Mott St has constructed a pantry within the dining room. The front half of the restaurant features a bar and two- and four-top tables, and there’s a communal table in back. Add in huge windows, materials sourced from Craigslist and pulsing music, and the room has an energy that makes you want to stay all night.

Everyone—the enthusiastic and knowledgeable servers, the kitchen staff, the twenty- and thirtysomething diners, apparently even that early crew—is having a ball at chef Edward Kim’s playful new Asian restaurant, which opened a month ago not far from his much-lauded Ruxbin. But while the vibe may be relaxed, the level of cooking is anything but casual. 

The Asian night market–inspired menu feels overwhelming at first. There are about two-dozen dishes, many of which require peppering your server with questions. What’s the forcemeat of the day? On my visit, it was a mild but flavorful Chinese sausage that’s fried like a spring roll. You fold it into a lettuce leaf with sprouts and basil, then dip it in a tangy fish sauce. What’s the collar of the day? Yep, Mott St has a daily fish collar preparation. We had halibut, pan-fried and served on the bone. (While the cut is rich, the vinegary sauce is delicate, so eat this before the other flavorful dishes overwhelm it.) Is there really boba (chewy tapioca pearls) in the tequila cocktail? There is, and they’re flavored with ginger and served with ginger beer and cucumber. Does that say crab brains? Uh-huh. At Mott St, they’re turned into a creamy sauce that’s served with sausage- and coconut-fried rice. 

Once you’ve ordered, the stress of dining at Mott St is over and a parade of dishes starts to arrive. Make sure it includes the oyster mushrooms, an umami bomb drenched with miso butter and thyme. The pork butt–stuffed cabbage, made with sticky rice and kimchi broth, gives the Eastern European staple a brilliant Asian twist. The multitextural udon is a tangle of al dente noodles tossed with bonito flakes, kimchi and spicy cod roe that pop when you bite into them. I’m still cursing myself for leaving my leftover udon in the car overnight.

But not every dish at Mott St is a great success. The aforementioned crab-brain sauce is merely swiped on a plate of unremarkable fried rice. While the sesame-poppy-fried-shallot everything wings strike a balance between sweet and spicy, the chicken is dry. The cocktail list includes a bourbon and Malört concoction that overpowers the food, and the boba cocktail is strange—I adore bubble tea, but boba should not be used in a fizzy drink. Stick to the edited wine, beer and sake selections. But by dessert, when I bit into a whimsical mini-banana dipped in chocolate and coated with peanuts, Szechuan peppercorns and salt, I nearly forgot about any quibbles I had with the meal.

Mott St has a chill patio and a sliding window hints at future take-out service. When we asked our server about the restaurant’s “late” closing time listed on its website, she said they’re hoping to extend dinner service past 10pm, in part so chefs can hang out there after work. I can’t blame them—with food this good and an atmosphere this cool, everyone wants to hang out at Mott St. I'd even eat a morning bowl of cereal there.

Mott St (1401 N Ashland Ave, 773-687-9977, mottstreetchicago.com) is open Tuesday–Saturday from 5:30–10pm.

Venue name: Mott St.
Contact:
Address: 1401 N Ashland Ave
Chicago

Cross street: at Blackhawk St
Opening hours: Dinner (Closed Sun, Mon)
Transport: El stop: Blue to Division. Bus: 9, 56, 70, 72.
Price: Average plate: $13
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