Thursday, July 23, 2009

Urban Belly

My parents were in town and they offered to watch Lucy for us so we could go out. One place came to mind and that was Urban Belly. I had already read so many things about this place that I knew this is the place I wanted to dine. You know, when you only have one chance every so often to get out, it's always scary knowing that it may not end up being that great. This was not the case with Urban Belly. This place was amazing. I have not stopped thinking about it since that night.

Chef Bill Kim is the former chef of Le Lan and the legendary Charlie Trotters. He was born in Korea and graduated from Kendall College here in Chicago. I have to say, this man has got it right. I have read some say that this is his response to David Chang's Momofuku in New York City, which we have also dined at several times. I have to say, this is what made me worried about eating somewhere like this. David Chang is the man. He makes the most incredible food. I must say though, this was just as good, if not better. I hate to say it but it's the truth. Sorry David. Although, you do have it going for you with the pork buns.

We ordered the pork and cilantro dumplings which were out of this world. You know that moment when you taste the first bite of something and you know, well, I knew. I knew that what was about to happen under this roof was going to be memorable and beautiful and tasty. The food was hot, which was nice and the dumplings were packed full of tender pork and cilantro with a very nice dipping sauce that was reminiscent of hoisin sauce. A little sweet and salty with deep Asian flavors. It was perfect.

Because it was communal seating, we ended up sitting next to a younger couple and got talking with them. The guy was cousins with one of the cooks. Jackpot. We ended up talking quite a bit and as the waitress brought out an order of duck and pho spiced dumplings, they kindly offered us a taste. I did the usual, refusal, but after them insisting we try one, I couldn't resist. How could you pass that up? They too, were amazing. I knew that nothing could go wrong here.

Jason really wanted to try the pork and pineapple rice, so we decided to share that and a order of the Urbanbelly Ramen which was full of pork belly, shitake mushrooms and pho broth. I must admit, I am now obsessed with pho broth. It was so robust with the perfect amount of spice. There was a surprising amount of pork belly. I felt like just as I thought it was gone, another piece was discovered lingering at the bottom. The noodles were excellent and there was plenty of them for the both of us.

The rice: heaven. This was the most delicious rice that I can remember ever having. It was loaded with bits of pork belly and sweet tender bits of pineapple in addition to fried egg and cilantro. This rice was phenomenal. I am so happy that we ordered one of each and shared because it was the perfect amount.

I must say that there isn't anything on the menu I wouldn't try. There were some bacon and squash dumplings that I wanted to try. Later seeing other people's food, I would like to try the lamb and brandy dumplings. They were served over a bed of edamame and drizzled with some Asian sauce. Looked really yummy. A rice I would love to try was organic pea shoots with Thai basil. Yummy. I don't know if I could ever get enough of this place. It makes me sad that it's all the way in the city, but you know what, I would drive there anytime, any day to have a taste of that deliciousness.

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