0 Love It
Save it

Chicago's new crop of Asian restaurants

The latest Asian spots share a few things in common. Hint: pork belly.

 (Photograph: Joel Wintermantle)
1/6
Photograph: Joel Wintermantle

Octopus sashimi at Chizakaya

 (Photograph: Joel Wintermantle)
2/6
Photograph: Joel Wintermantle

Hamachi with bone marrow at Chizakaya

 (Photograph: Joel Wintermantle)
3/6
Photograph: Joel Wintermantle

Puffed pig's ears with jalape�o vinaigrette at Chizakaya

 (Photograph: Michael Jarecki)
4/6
Photograph: Michael Jarecki

Jidori chicken bento box with jasmine rice, nuoccham Vietnamese sauce and pickled potato salad at The Bento Box

 (Photograph: Joel Wintermantle)
5/6
Photograph: Joel Wintermantle

At Chizakaya in Lakeview, diners sample unusual takes on Asian small plates.

 (Photograph: Joel Wintermantle)
6/6
Photograph: Joel Wintermantle

Pork-miso ramen at Chizakaya

New Asian spots…
Chizakaya
(3056 N Lincoln Ave, 773-697-4725)

Chef Harold Jurado cooked at Charlie Trotter’s, Japonais and Sunda, but at this izakaya he’s sticking to traditional Japanese.
…are inching away from traditional eats and getting creative…
Addictive puffed pig ears one-up pork rinds, but our favorite clever concoction tucks jellified bone marrow under slices of raw yellowtail garnished with crunchy garlic chips and hits of umeboshi, a pickled plumlike fruit.
…especially with pork belly…
A crispy slab paired with two soft poached eggs is our new breakfast craving.
…and offal…
Chicken gizzards and beef tongue, heart and liver can all be had grilled as traditional kushi-yaki (skewers). The liver is also served sliced raw sashimi-style, drizzled with sesame vinaigrette.
…to (mostly) good effect.
Our only complaints: the high-priced cocktails, and inconsistency with
the skewers.

New Asian spots…
Saigon Sisters
(567 W Lake St, 312-496-0090)
The Nguyen sisters are Vietnamese and opened a banh mi stand in the French Market in 2009. In their standalone spot, American chef Matthew Eversman injects a bit of global creativity into the Vietnamese-rooted menu.
…are inching away from traditional eats and getting creative…
Eversman adds lobster to traditional shrimp-sugarcane lollipops then plates them with a crunchy salad of kohlrabi, fennel and chayote dressed in limey vinegar.
…especially with pork belly…
The Momofuku buns are okay, but we’re more impressed when the roasted belly gets paired up with a slow-cooked egg, shredded sambal-spiked brussels sprouts and broken rice.
…and offal…
The pâté on the classic banh mi is fine but could use more oomph.
…to (mostly) good effect.
The pho isn't bad,
but it isn't exactly revelatory either.

New Asian spots…
iNG
(951 W Fulton Mkt, 855-834-6464)
The Moto crew closed Otom and reopened with a concept that’s equal parts China (steamed buns and hand-pulled wheat flour noodles, a.k.a. “la mian”) and Japan (housemade udon, sashimi and Wagyu cooked on a hot rock tableside).
…are inching away from traditional eats and getting creative…
Homaro Cantu’s trademark playfulness is alive and well in dishes like a liquid nitrogen–frozen “waffle” topped with butter-shaped pats of mango sorbet and stout reduction posing as syrup.
…especially with pork belly…
Thick slices of glistening belly are fanned over a tangle of just-made la mian, softened with an intense oxtail broth hiding maitake mushrooms. It’s the least “weird” of anything this team puts out.
…and offal…
Bluepoint oysters get a hunk of foie-gras torchon and are smoked in a cast-iron pan and finished with fresh red uni. Some of the smoke is captured in a beer glass that’s inverted over the oyster, removed tableside and then used as the serving vessel for a beer pairing.
…to (mostly) good effect.
Are there pitfalls? It’s too early to judge.

New Asian spots…
Arami
(1829 W Chicago Ave, 312-243-1535)
Chef B.K. Park is a veteran of the slick sushi spots Mirai and Meiji, and he’s staying true to form with Japanese ramen and raw fish.
…are inching away from traditional eats and getting creative…
Park plays his top-notch offerings pretty straightforward, but one unique item is the togarashi-dusted seared tuna over a pasta-like tangle of kelp noodles drizzled with creamy Meyer lemon dressing.
…especially with pork belly…
Soft slices of belly in the ramen almost melt on your tongue, a deceptively light flavor compared to the dark, beef-boosted broth.
…and offal…
Silver dollar–sized hunks of monkfish liver adorn cool slabs of akamai, the lean, deep-red portion of bluefin tuna.
…to (mostly) good effect.
If anything, the prices. Most everything is delicious, but $15 for ramen and an average of $4 for one piece of nigiri add up quick.

New Asian spots…
Bento Box
(2246 W Armitage Ave, 773-278-3932)
The name and serving vessels may be Japanese, but Bento Box chef-owner Rick Spiros pulls from many parts of Asia to put out a daily chalkboard menu as tiny as the shoebox-sized space.
…are inching away from traditional eats and getting creative…
Brisket and rice noodles in beefy, lime-spritzed broth go beyond authentic pho to deliver the right balance of various Southeast Asia flavors.
…especially with pork belly…
The requisite buns are fine, but the fleeting belly and sweet-potato curry is more interesting and more flavorful, gaining good kick from chile jam.
…and offal…
(Every rule has an exception: There’s not much here in the way of offal.)
…to (mostly) good effect.
At around $15 a bento box, prices seem steep, but the servings are generous enough that two people could split one for lunch.

Comments

0 comments