Resident Foodies: Review of Simply It–Vietnamese restaurant

Clay pot chicken

Vietnamese steamed pork ravioli

Resident Foodies say:
We made it out to Simply It, a neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant near DePaul. It’s a cute little place on Lincoln Ave.

We tried the Clay Pot chicken (simmered with ginger and caramelized sauce in clay pot) as well as the Vietnamese steamed pork ravioli, a specialty of Northern Vietnam. Both were tasty dishes. The ravioli is reminiscent of the dim sum rice noodle rolls, given the use of the same style noodle. The flavor of the Vietnamese dish is more mild, but it has a nice combination of textures and flavors. The claypot chicken was tasty, but lacked the caramel sweetness of Slanted Door’s famous claypot chicken in San Francisco. The red peppers provided a nice contrast, but our dish could have use a few more peppers. For a neighborhood restaurant, though, Simply It is a pretty solid option, especially for lunch. Street parking was decent, too.

Salmon teriyaki plate at Glaze Teriyaki


Resident Foodies say: We absolutely love the fast casual restaurant Glaze Teriyaki in Chicago (other locations in NY and SF). Glaze is the Chipotle for Japanese food, but the food at Glaze is higher quality. The menu allows you to choose a protein (chicken breast, thigh, steak, salmon, tofu, pork loin, or veggies) in a teriyaki plate that comes with salad and rice. You can also get a salad plate instead of the rice.

Above is pictured the teriyaki plate, combination 2 with salmon, veggies, white rice, and salad with carrot-ginger dressing.

Review of BellyQ: soba noodles, tea smoked lamb rib, seafood hot pot, kimchi

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.

Chef Danny Grant (Ria) cooking talk at Chicago’s Chipotle Cultivate

Resident Foodies say: We got a real treat today, and it was free. Chef Danny Grant, formerly of 2 Michelin-starred Ria (now closed), gave a cooking demonstration at Chipotle’s Cultivate festival in Lincoln Park. Grant was one of several big-time Chicago chef to participate in the food/music show, which was meant to highlight the farm-to-table and use of sustainable ingredients in restaurants. Food and Wine selected Chef Grant as one of the Best New Chefs of 2012, and we can see why. His food is incredible.

First tasting: For the first tasting, Chef Grant prepared cheese curds (aka cheese balls) deep fried in a panko crust. The cheese was a petit frere cheese from Wisconsin’s Crave Brothers. He also used what he called the “meth,” but we missed what he said was the actual ingredient. Whatever it was, it tasted good.

For the plating, Chef Grant used the actual cheese box from Crave Brothers to serve the cheese balls on a bed of greens. The cheese balls were small, but downright delicious–they had a nice crunch that led to a delightful taste of cheese.

Second tasting: As if one dish was not enough, Chef Grant treated us to a second tasting–heirloom tomato salad. The salad was so fresh and amazing for a late summer Saturday. The best dish of the day!

We especially liked the over-the-counter cooking mirror that showed the audience all of the chef’s moves. That was neat.

Chef Grant said he’s still enjoying his time off, but hopes to make his next move soon. We got the chance to chat with him after the show, and he’s very friendly, humble, and down-to-earth, especially for a chef of his acclaim.

Ramen, agedashi tofu, and bao at Chizakaya in Chicago

Agedashi tofu

Chicken ramen

Resident Foodies say: Chizakaya is an izakaya Japanese bar in Chicago that serves ramen and small plates of Japanese and Korean food. After wanting to go here for some time, we finally made it to the restaurant in Lakeview.

Chicken bao

Our favorite item was one of the specials: the chicken bao, consisting of chicken, brown sugar togarashi dust, kimchi, and cilantro. It may have been the best bao of our lives–the kimchi gives it an extra kick. The combination was wicked, in a delicious way. We could have eaten several of these as our meal. It was that good.

We also liked the agedashi tofu, deep fried with potato starch and served in a broth of dash, shoyu, and mirin. The texture of the tofu was just right–crispy, but easily dissolving into the soft center. The chicken ramen was good as well, but we’ve tasted better, homemade noodles.