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Mott St.

Restaurants, Pan-Asian River West/West Town
4 out of 5 stars
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsCo-owner Vicki Kim describes Mott St's design as "utilitarian."
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St is located in what was most recently MC Bistro, at 1401 N Ashland Ave.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St's menu includes a few noodle dishes, such as ice-cold buckwheat noodles with turnip-top kimchi broth.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsChef Edward Kim made a name for himself at Ruxbin, his three-year-old BYOB down the block from Mott St.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsBecause 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.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St's food aims to be more "visceral" than Ruxbin's.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St's menu includes a "Pickle Plate" with seasonal pickles.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsUnlike the appetizer-entr�e-dessert format at Ruxbin, the dishes at Mott St (such as this pickle plate) are meant to be shared.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams"Pickle Plate" at Mott St
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St is inspired in part by Asian night markets.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsThe Mott St crew sourced materials for the space from everywhere from Salvage One to Craigslist.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams"Friends and Family" of the Mott St staff get a first taste of the restaurant on June 11, 2013.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsThe kitchen prepares for a "Friends and Family" meal at Mott St on June 11, 2013.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott 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.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St opens to the public tonight.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsShelves in the Mott St dining room house ingredients.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St's bartenders prepare for the restaurant's opening.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsThe list of cocktails at Mott St is overseen by Chad Hauge.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St's edited cocktail menu is divided into "Daily," "Seasonal" and "Year Round" offerings.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsThe "Storms In Spring" cocktail at Mott St is an homage to this season's funky weather in Chicago.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsFresh citrus at Mott St
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams"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.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St's cocktails incorporate ingredients like water kimchi, shochu and grapefruit tapioca.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsSome of the first guests arrive at Mott St's preview.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsBehind Mott St are four partners: Edward Kim, Vicki Kim, Jenny Kim and Nate Chung.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsThe dining room at Mott St beings to fill up.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St's menu includes a selection of "Rolled & Steamed" dishes, such as steamed dumplings stuffed with pork, ginger and green onion.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsA couple gets a lucky sneak preview of Mott St.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams"Pickle Plate" at Mott St
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsAs at Ruxbin, chef Edward Kim pulls from multiple cuisines.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha WilliamsMott St is located at 1401 N Ashland Ave.

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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, is open Tuesday–Saturday from 5:30–10pm.

By: Amy Cavanaugh



Address: 1401 N Ashland Ave

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