Friday, May 18, 2012

Chicago Eats - Sunda New Asian

Pan-Asian cuisine in River North.

Spicy Tuna and Jalapeno Crispy Rice
Take some rice. Pan fry it, throw on some soy-sauce glaze, and top it with spicy tuna. The spicy tuna was pretty light, using a on oil to spice it up as opposed to a mayo or cream based solution. The rice was definitely different, and a nice way to start the meal.

Pig Sticks
Pork belly on sticks. Sweet glaze. Red cabbage is an Asian Slaw. It all worked and it's definitely a good alternative to the Adobo Braised Pork Belly if you're looking to try a few different things on the menu.

Duck Hash
 Crispy fried egg and duck, what's not to like?

Pork Adobo Flake Fried Rice
Awesome fried rice. Maybe a hint of truffle oil (they love truffle oil here at Sunda, which I normally shy away from). Wish they put in two eggs instead of one.

First Visit: 

  • Crispy shrimp "toast" and spicy tuna "jam" - Nice, fun dish. The shrimp were definitely ground up within the "toast", but this was delicious. Definitely something to get instead of edamame for a starter.
  • Miso bronzed black cod - Fork-tender and flavorful, a perfect complement to the pork belly.
  • Adobo braised pork belly - Sorry for the terrible photo, but the serving size was enormous, and one of my favorite pork belly dishes of all time.
  • Lychee and raspberry sorbet - Light and refreshing, this was a perfect dessert for the time (90 degree summer heat). It was gone before I knew it!
The portions here at Sunda are pretty generous. I definitely over-ordered my second time around, but it was worth it to try some different things on the menu. With all of the new Asian restaurants opening up in the area like Roka Akor and Red Violet, Sunda isn't as popular as it used to be, but it's still cranking out pretty good food.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chicago Eats - Me Dee Cafe

Me Dee Cafe is a Thai place. They love cows. I don't know why. There are mini golden cow statues, the wall is a painting with a half dozen cows, and the logo is a cow. They seriously love cows. Luckily, this Ravenswood restaurant serves up some pretty damn good food, and they're open late too! Although there's a lot of OK dishes on the menu, there are some standouts - if you're a fan of congee, look no further...

Sunny Sunny
Pan fried quail egg. So good and fun to look at.

Mushroom n Cheese
These are mushrooms. With chihuahua cheese. CHIHUAHUA! I mean, need I say more?

Bowl of Congee (Large)
You start off with a bowl of congee. If you order 5 or more congee dishes, you get a large bowl for free! Not a bad way to save $3.

Ong Choy, Thai Style Chicken Sausage

Stir Fried Chicken, Baby Clams

 Crispy Pork Belly

Almond Pad Thai
 Lots of sauce. Good overall. Nothing that blew me out of the water.

Crab Fried Rice
They put in big chunks of crab meat. Awesome. Lots of other places break up the crab so you don't even know if you got any. Me Dee does it right and gives you lots of nice, big pieces so you know exactly how much crab you're getting.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chicago Eats - BadHappy Poutine Shop

Poutine - french fries, fresh cheese curds, all smothered in a healthy ladle of gravy. What's not to like? This French-Canadian dish seems to be getting more and more popular in the city, with it popping up on menus all over. But there's only one dedicated poutine shop, and that's BadHappy, located on the Near North side just down the street from my apartment. Dangerous, considering that BIG & little's is just down the street (and BadHappy actually took over B&l's old spot).

The Chef-Owner Tom and his wife Jaime run a great little restaurant. Jaime stopped and talked with us for a while giving us the history of this place; Tom is Southern, and has fine dining cuisine under his belt. The couple decided to open up a poutine shop in Chicago with some Southern flare...and it works out. Just beware, this stuff is pretty heavy, but definitely worth a visit!

The Good, the Bad and the Happy Poutine
Pork belly, braised veal cheek, fromage beaucronne (cheddar cheese curds), truffle mayo, foie gras mousse & gravy, sunny egg. Wow. Rich. Decadent. Amazing. Maybe a bit too rich and decadent, it was hard to defeat this one. But I did it. This is their signature poutine. Must try.

BadHappy Sauce Burger
Single patty for $8, then just a dollar more for each additional patty. They're about 6oz a patty, so be careful going for that triple burger. This has BadSauce, HappySauce (see pics of the bottles below), bacon, lettuce, pabalano, onion, and 'Wiz (which I assume is the cheese sauce on top). Great burger, but REALLY messy. Oh, and you can order ANY poutine on the side with a burger for only $3; what a bargain!

BBQ pork, fried mac-n-cheese, fried okra, Carolina cole slaw, PBR (yea, the beer) gravy. Not enough BBQ pork IMO. Mac n cheese was a bit sweet. Overall, this dish works, but not nearly as amazing as the Good, the Bad, and the Happy.

The AfterParty
Big forks bacon sausage, frites, lettuce, BadSauce, fried cheese curds, sunny egg, cajun mayo, and pickles. I didn't get this, but I thought it was worth taking a picture of.

BadSauce, HappySauce

Birthday Cake Shake
This is just 1/3 of the original; Jaime gave us this freebie while we were sitting around talking with her late at night. Amazing. The shakes are awesome, and definitely a must-try. Little pieces of homemade cake thrown in made for delightful little surprises.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chicago Eats - Korean Food! May 2012 Update

Lots of random shots at a variety of Korean restaurants in Chicago.

Great Sea (Albany Park)
Great Sea is another Korean-Chinese restaurant serving up similar dishes to what you'll get at Peking Mandarin (below). I actually never went here as a kid, but I went for the Ggampongi (sweet and spicy wings) and it didn't disappoint! The ggakdoogi (spicy pickled radish), however, did disappoint a bit. 

Han Bat (Lincoln Square)
The best sullangtang and ggakdoogi in the city. Hands down. Great for a hangover or just good, cheap eats ($10 total after tip). And I always seem to get more than my money's worth considering how many bowls of ggakdoogi I put down. Make sure to get the clear noodles, and the flank steak is generally the most popular option.

Chosun Ok (North Center)
Chosun Ok ("oak", not "okay") is a popular Korean place mostly known for its Korean BBQ using table-top gas grills. They're also know for their chadolbaegi (beef brisket) bbq where they end up making you bokkumbap (fried rice) at your table once you grill up all of the meat. But we opted to try out some of the other stuff here this time. Good food all around! 
Hae Nangmyun - cold noodles with a sweet and spicy sauce and raw skate fish
Japchae - noodles with various vegetables and beef

Various banchan

Dancen (Lincoln Square)
A Korean bar that serves amazing Korean comfort food. Also conveniently located next to Jimmy's Pizza Cafe!
Dduckbokki - rice cakes in a spicy and sweet sauce.

Fire Chicken - AMAZING. Best thing here. 

Seafood Stew. Delicious.

Sweet and spicy chicken with cheese.

Da Rae Jung (Lincoln Square)
Known for their mool (water) nangmyun, and I would recommend that for a hot summer day as it (and bibim nangmyun) is served cold. Just up the road from Dancen.
Bibim Nangmyun - spicy cold noodles

Maeaentang - spicy seafood stew

Pekin Mandarin (Albany Park)
I used to come here a lot with my family, and everything is familiar. One of the best places for jajangmyun in the city, and great chicken wings too!
Jajangmyun - noodles in a black bean sauce.

Ggamppongi - spicy and sweet chicken wings. Amazingly good.
Jang Choong Dong (Niles)
Jang Choong Dong is another good Korean restaurant in the 'burbs, and they have a $23 all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ. This time around, we opted to get some more "bar" food since we were here late. Jang Choong Dong is open til 4am, and they serve both food and alcohol til then, so it's a good option for those late night cravings for Korean comfort food. And even though it's in the 'burbs, it's only a 25 minute drive. It takes me 25 minutes to get to Lakeview from River North somedays, just to put it in perspective.

Bossom - sliced pork
Jjokbal - sliced pig's feet

Sundae - stuffed blood sausage

Budaejigae - Cozy's is better (below)

Cozy (Morton Grove)
This is more of a Korean bar, but it still serves good food. Really close to the "new" Korea Town that's been relocated to the burbs. 
Fried Chicken, Korean style

Budaejigae - spam, tofu, ramen noodles, cheese and plenty of other deliciousness in a giant pot. 

Kimchi bokkumbap - Kimchi Fried Rice!

H-Mart (Niles)
This is a Korean grocery store, but it has a pretty good food court. Also has a nice little bakery for Korean pastries. It's definitely worth a drive up!
Bibim Nangmyun

Mandu - Korean dumplings the size of your head.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

This Japanese 'inspired' Korean BBQ restaurant is fairly unique; you have traditional Korean BBQ, some other Korean style dishes (like bokkum bap, Korean style fried rice), and some dishes that lean more Japanese (such as the Oxtail Ramen). However, it's not the Japanese/Korean style that is the true differentiator, it's the quality. Chicago Kalbi isn't your ordinary all you can eat KBBQ; it's higher quality beef with the requisite higher prices. But don't be turned off by this; order the Japanese style kalbi and marvel at the beautiful marbling on the meat. You won't be disappointed.

Japanese style Kalbi
Look at that marbling! An order of Korean style kalbi is around $23, and the Japanese style kalbi (no bones) is around $18. However, the meat portions themselves are smaller than you maybe accustomed to at other KBBQ joints. However, this was so tender and pure (it tasted like it had a light sesame oil and ponzu marinade) that it's worth every bit. That's two order worth, by the way. 

Chicken Kara-age
I also tried the Kara-age and it's one of my favorites in the city, although I think I might prefer Lure's more. Tender, juicy, and at around $5, not a bad deal. 

Ssamgyupsal - steamed pork
The steamed pork, which is pretty much Korean bossom. Freshly made, a good amount of brined shrimp, and a spicy soy sauce for dipping. Another good appetizer choice.

The banchan is decisively Korean, and the ggakdoogi (spicy pickled radish) is really good, and almost rivals Han Bat's. Even though we went late (around 11pm, they close at midnight every night), the rice was fresh and service was excellent. Despite the higher prices, Chicago Kalbi is definitely worth a visit!