Several weeks have passed, since I provided my first installment of Chicago’s Best Asian Restaurants. It’s an impressive list but today I have more recommendations for you. Below is part 2 of Chicago’s Best Asian Restaurants by CTA ‘L’ Line. Whether you are looking for some elegant Japanese fare or some down and dirty
tacos with a twist, I’ve got you covered here. So, ditch the car and ride the rails to these tasty Asian spots!
CTA Blue Line:
Fat Rice is one of the newer kids on the block and it sits high atop the list of Chicago’s best Asian restaurants. They are serving up Macanese cuisine which is a mash-up of Chinese and Portuguese food. How can that happen, you might ask? Well, the peninsula of Macao was once a territory of Portugal. So, the Portuguese left a lot of their influence behind.
Macanese cuisine has some familiar and more interesting flavor combinations. Sweet, sour, spicy and tangy can all make an appearance on the same plate. On a recent visit to this tiny, non-descript spot on Chicago’s northwest side, I ordered two dishes. The first was a salad of seasonal shisito peppers, tomatoes, corn, pork belly, basil, mint and a delightful vinaigrette with some sweet heat.
My second dish was the Malay vegetable curry. I like to order at least one vegetarian dish when I go out to eat because it can be a sign of how creative a restaurant is. Can they bring out the flavors of vegetables and still pull off a filling entree? Fat Rice did just that with this lighter version of a yellow curry.
Tofu puffs, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggplant and pineapple were all in the mix. There was just enough heat in this entree without overpowering the vegetables. The touch of pineapple was not over-the-top. Basically, it mellowed out the curry. Very nice!
I will be back to try the Portuguese sausage, the other meats and the signature “fat rice” entree. The latter is the Macanese version of paella. Yum! They also have a new bakery nearby which I will definitely be checking out very soon.
Fat Rice is located in Logan Square, just 1 block north and 3 blocks east of the Logan Square ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Blue Line. – 2957 W. Diversey.
If you read my blog you know I am thrilled at the number of chefs who are alumni of the Bravo show Top Chef and who have restaurants in Chicago. For instance, Fabio Viviani has Siena Tavern and Bar Siena. Stephanie Izard (winner!) has Girl & the Goat, Little Goat Diner and Duck Duck Goat. Most recently, Sarah Grueneberg opened Monteverde. It’s such a stroke of luck that they have set up shop in my own backyard 🙂
Now, Chef Beverly Kim and her husband, Johnny Clark have joined Chicago’s best Asian restaurants with their awesome spot, Parachute. I love this place! It’s focused on Korean-American fusion which matches their combined heritage. It is one of the most inventive restaurants in Chicago.
The space at Parachute is very casual and like, Fat Rice, the building housing this restaurant is very unassuming. You could easily walk right by it and miss the fabulous culinary experience that awaits inside.
Here are a couple of examples.
I began with the popular crispy pork belly pancake which was topped with a perfectly runny egg and dressed with kimchi and black garlic purees.
Wow! I have eaten my share of pork belly and where many of those were poorly executed, Chef Kim made a slam dunk! She really nailed it. The pork was pounded thin and cooked perfectly with a good amount of crispiness.
The egg was nice and runny and, best of all, those purees you see on the plate are not some bogus garnish. Each of them packs a really nice punch. This dish is a winner!
Since I am such a seafood fan, I also ordered the seared tuna. It arrived in a shallow bowl that was filled with seasonal and market fresh greens. Not just one or two different greens but, rather, a multitude of greens. There was basil, mint, lemongrass among other lemon-tinged greens which I could not identify. The variety and intensity of each green paired with each bite of the tuna made me think I was eating more than one dish. Yet, it absolutely worked. I have never eaten anything more interesting than this. Brava, Chef Kim!
I washed it all down with a lovely rum, blackberry and mint cocktail. Refreshing!
Parachute is located in the Avondale neighborhood, 3 blocks north and 4 blocks east of the Belmont ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Blue Line – 3500 N. Elston Ave.
Even the laziest person can be persuaded to leave their car at home and ride the train to this Korean-Puerto Rican fusion spot directly underneath the Western ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Blue Line. Why would you want to fight traffic and look for parking?!
Belly Shack is a no-frills joint in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Chicago’s north west side. Chef Billy Kim is in charge. I love the beef taco platter with kimchi and lentils. So hearty! – 1912 N. Western Avenue.
If Indian and Nepalese cuisine is more your bag, then head over to Cumin in the Wicker Park neighborhood. I like the cozy dining room and crafty cocktails. The latter are an unusual find in Indian restaurants.
Cumin offers a traditional buffet lunch which is quite good but i prefer stopping by for their dinner menu.
Take the CTA Blue Line to the Damen or Division ‘L’ stop and walk approximately 4 blocks to Cumin at 1414 N. Milwaukee Ave.
CTA Green and Pink Lines:
If you are looking to enjoy some Japanese food in an upscale, vibe-y setting, you need to check out Momotaro in Chicago’s West Loop.
Momotaro is a tri-level restaurant. The main level is the most ornate and the spot to “see and be seen.” The lower level is the late night izakaya grill with a dark and sexy feel. The upper level is where I chose to dine. That space has large, bright windows and is perfect for more intimate dining and quiet conversation.
Here’s how my dinner at Momotaro went down.
I started things off with the most wonderfully fresh salmon belly with some dill and fish roe. it was accompanied with some wasabi and fresh ginger. My server confirmed my suspicion that the soy sauce, even though it was provided, would take away from the flavor of the salmon. I agreed.
I also got my veggies in for the day with this flavorful broccoli goma ae (sesame sauce).
I rounded off my meal with this badass hot pot filled with beef, crispy rice and a quail egg. Awesome!
I can’t wait to return to Momotaro with some friends and check out the sexy, subterranean izakaya grill 🙂
Momotaro is located just 2 blocks east of the Morgan ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Green and Pink lines – 820 W. Lake St.
There are a few good ramen shops in Chicago. I’ll have to add Ramen Takeya in the West Loop neighborhood to my list from 2015. I stopped by for the first time last night and I can fully support the quality of the noodles here.
What makes Ramen Takeya different from some other ramen shops in town is that it specializes in chicken-based broths versus purely pork-based broths. While I had a difficult time choosing from the menu here (so many delicious noodles, rice dishes and appetizers), I went with this spicy chicken paitan ramen.
The broth is chicken-based but there is Berkshire pork belly added. If you prefer chicken rather than pork, just tell your server. Their are fermented bamboo shoots, scallion, chili paste and, of course, a poached egg. I liked it very much.
I am looking forward to returning to Ramen Takeya to check out their chili sauce shrimp buns and the vegan ramen bowl.
Ramen Takeya is located 2 1/2 blocks east and 1 block north of the Morgan ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Green and Pink Lines – 819 W. Fulton Market.
*It’s sister restaurant, Wasabi, is located in Logan Square and it has a different menu which I will need to check out.
Chef Billy Kim (Belly Shack) is at it again with Urbanbelly in the cool West Loop neighborhood. This spot is larger than Belly Shack and it offers up great noodles, dumplings and rice dishes. Even Urbanbelly’s soft serve ice cream rocks!
Urbanbelly is located 3 blocks west and 1 block south of the Ashland ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Green and Pink Lines – 1400 W. Randolph St.
CTA Brown, Red and Purple Lines
This small store front in the Lincoln Park neighborhood is serving up some of my favorite bites in Chicago. Korean street barbecue, anyone? Hell, yeah! I’ve been here a few times and I love it. Whether you are looking for a Korean twist on traditional tacos or you prefer to stick your face into a bowl of bibimbop, put Del Seoul on your list of Chicago’s Best Asian Restaurants.
I’m a fan of this blackened tofu taco.
Del Seoul is located 1 block north and 8 blocks east of the Fullerton ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Red, Brown and Purple lines – 2568 N. Clark St.
De Quay is a fusion of Dutch and Indonesian flavors. It is also the only other Indonesian-focused restaurant in Chicago besides Rickshaw Republic.
The space inside De Quay is very much a pub. The cocktail list is fantastic. Check out this pretty “P.Y.T.” made with tequila, tamarind, vermouth and lavender bitter. Potent and tasty 🙂
I also love their house made gravlax. The accompaniments will change with the seasons. I enjoyed some sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh greens and a side of egg salad with it.
Lastly, I chose the lemongrass pork skate skewer over a salad with watermelon and papaya vinaigrette. Perfectly thin and crunchy plantain chips rode shotgun. Beautiful dish!
De Quay is located 2 blocks north and 2 blocks east of the Fullerton ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Red, Brown and Purple lines. – 2470 N. Lincoln Ave.
That’s a wrap, folks! Part 2 of my picks for Chicago’s Best Asian Restaurants is yours for the keeping. Hungry yet? What are you waiting for?
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA trains and buses to Chicago’s Best Asian restaurants. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!