Mango Lime Chicken chili lime marinated chicken, with fresh mango, avocado and aoili
Plant burger with tomato, grilled onions, lettuce, vegan aioli on a sourdough bun
Resident Foodies say: We’re thrilled to see that The Plant: Organic Cafe has made it north to Marin County opening a location in Mill Valley. The Plant serves all organic food from locally grown ingredients. The Cafe has locations already in SF and SFO, but this is the first one across the Golden Gate bridge into Marin.
The menu is creative and lunch combinations very well done. We’ve been sampling some of their sandwiches. The Mango Lime Chicken panini is our favorite so far–it’s unique and yummy, with the bread toasted to perfection. The Plant Burger was fun to look at, but the veggie patty disintegrates too easily when you bite into it. In other words, it gets sloppy. It pales in comparison to North Star Cafe’s veggie burger in Columbus, the best we’ve tried.
Resident Foodies say: We made it out to Chef Bill Kim’s new restaurant BellyQ, located at 1400 Randolph Street in Chicago. Michael Jordan is a part investor, but don’t let that scare you off. Chef Kim is control of the menu, thank heavens. The menu features Modern Asian barbecue–hence the name “BellyQ,” which combines the name of Kim’s other restaurants “Belly” (BellyShack and UrbanBelly) with barbecue. First things first, the restaurant is in a marvelous, if not cavernous, space, with an industrial and rustic feel. There are window tables that have barbecue grills for cooking (in a modern kind of Korean restaurant way), and a take-out station out in front. One mystery: we were only able to get 5:15 pm reservations on Open Table, but there appeared to plenty of open tables even at 7 pm, given how large the place is.
We were seated close to the kitchen, where all the action is at! As shown below, the kitchen is equipped with a word burning oven. The service is excellent, with several servers who periodically check in on your table.
We started out with the chilled soba noodle salad, with Thai basil, olive oil poached shrimp, and Chinese eggplant. It was a light, refreshing combination, although the shrimp had a little kick, which we enjoyed.
Next, we tried the tea-infused lamb rib with Hoisin BBQ sauce, served with 3 sauces and Chinese buns. The char on the lamb was out of this world. It was so good, the dish tasted better without the buns. Hands down, the tea-infused lamb was one of the best dishes we’ve tried all year. It was the star of the evening. We also ordered a side of kimchi, which had a combination of interesting flavors making it more Americanized or “modernized” than authentic Korean style.
Finally, we ended our evening with the seafood hotpot, which is reminiscent of Korean sang sun jjigae. It was both soothing and tasty!
All in all, we give BellyQ a huge thumbs up. The food is creative and different from other Modern Asian restaurants at a price that is quite reasonable. This easily is the best of Chef Kim’s three restaurants.
Resident Foodies say: Bon Appetit magazine selected only 2 restaurants in Chicago for its 50 best new restaurants in 2012 list. Balena is one of them (Yusho the other), and deservedly so. We made it back there this weekend to try a few more of their Italian fare dishes. We were not disappointed.
Our cheerful server, who greeted us with a warm “Happy Saturday,” recommended two of the new pizzas on the menu: the heirloom tomato pizza with ricotta salata, garlic, oregano, or the eggplant pizza with pecorino, chili, and mint. We opted for the heirloom tomato pizza sans ricotta, and our server suggested that, if we didn’t want the cheese, it might be better to go with a pizza that was half tomato and half eggplant. Great suggestion because we got to sample both pizzas instead of just one.
The pizza is cooked in a brick oven, which can be seen from the back of the restaurant looking through glass to the kitchen. The dough is cooked to perfection, not too thin but not too thick. The heirloom tomato pizza was simply delightful. The eggplant pizza was almost as incredible, with the eggplant cut amazingly thin, although we tasted a bit too much heat from what we think was the chili. Not to be forgotten, the plating of the pizza is a work of art. Balena just may be our favorite new restaurant of 2012. Bravo, Balena!
Chocolate chip pancakes with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar
Buttermilk pancakes with fresh, seasonal blueberries
Resident Foodies say: We had a delightful breakfast at Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe on Randolph Street across from Millennium Park in Chicago. We tried the omelette, crepes, and, of course, pancakes. Pictured above are the decadent chocolate chip pancakes and the the flavorful blueberry pancakes. A regular stack comes with 5 pancakes and the short stack has 3 (large) pancakes. We got the upgrade side order of 2 pancakes with our eggs.
The pancakes are nice and fluffy, but the chocolate chips and blueberries steal the show! Breakfast is served all day, so if you are looking for a snack near Millennium Park, Wildberry Pancakes is your place!
Resident Foodies say: Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago is a master artist with food. His dishes are creative beyond belief, leaving you dazzled and amazed. The plating of his dishes are beautiful to behold–like a painting or sculpture of edible material. It’s no surprise that Alinea is rated by some as the best restaurant in the United States, if not the world. Alinea’s so good that it can eat The French Landry for lunch.
From the moment you walk in the door of Alinea, you realize you are in for an other-world experience. The front door leads you to a dark passage way in which the floor is grass. Yes, grass. It’s almost pitch dark, and a wind chime sounds lightly in the background. On the left is a tub of lemonade to whet your palate. Then, mysteriously, a door opens, emitting light into the corridor. You have arrived.
All of the dishes are unique, with interesting composition, plating, and taste. Chef Achatz definitely pushes the boundaries of culinary delight–he is an artist at his craft. Alinea is perfect for special occasions. It’s pricey and dinner takes 4 hours, but you will discover new possibilities with food and have a memory you will never forget. Some of our favorites include:
(A) Burn morels, ramps, asparagus, smoked date served on stones
(B) Hot potato, cold potato, black truffle, butter
(C) Black truffle explosion, romaine, parmesan served on silver spoon
(D) Squab inspired by Miro (served on spoons to reflect on silver pitchers)
(E) Blueberry dessert with buttermilk, sorrel macadia (liquid nitrogen to start), served with a straw to sip from center
(F) White Chocolate dessert strawberry, english pea, lemon (liquid nitrogen to start)
Be sure to check out our photos and videos of the tasting at Alinea below.
Steelhead roe with coconut, curry, yuzu
Oyster leaf mignonette, king crab with passion fruit, heart of palm, lobster with carrot and chamomile, top neck clam with shiso, soy, daikon
Woolly pig with fennel, orange and squid
Scallop acting like agedashi tofu
Otoro with thai banana, sea salt, kaffir lime
Burn morels, ramps, asparagus, smoked date
Hot potato, cold potato, black truffle, butter
Black truffle explosion, romaine, parmesan
Squab inspired by Miro (spoons appear melted in reflection)
Anjou pear with onion, brie, smoking cinnamon
Ginger five other flavors
Blueberry dessert with liquid nitrogen, buttermilk, sorrel, macadamia
Balloon dessert with helium, green apple
White chocolate dessert with liquid nitrogen, strawberry, english pea, lemon
Resident Foodies say: If you like vegan food, you will absolutely love the vegan fare at Native Foods in Chicago. It tastes so good, you can’t even tell it is vegan food.
Our favorite dish is the vegan portobello, sausage burger. You can select the side, and tonight we chose the irresistible sweet potato fries with chipotle dipping sauce. Chef Tanya describes the dish on the menu: “Juicy grilled portobellos, our homemade Native Sausage Seitan, caramelized onions, pomodoro, sweet roasted garlic, creamy pumpkin seed pesto and mayo.” The portobello is the star of the sandwich. And the sweet potato fries are sweet and savory, a delectable combination.
This weekend, Native Foods will have a special item–drunken tofu banh mi sandwiches! Can’t wait.