Modern Asian barbeque at West Loop's bellyQ
September 29, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Bill Kim's latest project, bellyQ, has completely transformed the former onesixty blue on West Randolph. Yes, Michael Jordan is still an owner here, but the food has moved from classy to 'cue. That's because Kim is tapping into his Korean roots.
"It's my take on all the goodness of Asian food that has a little bit of spice, a little tanginess, but it's our take on it, which means it's always gonna have a little twist," said Kim.
Take his savory pancakes from the wood-fired oven. A vegetarian version with zucchini, garlic and onions arrives topped with a mound of goat and feta cheese-flecked baby spinach and crispy rice noodles; on the side: black vinegar-sesame-soy sauce for dipping. Another twist comes in the form of his barbecue. In America, that term usually means "low and slow," but at bellyQ, the technique is quicker.
"We actually take Szechuan peppercorn and kosher salt and we really smoke it until it turns black," he said. "Then we do equal parts mixture of flour, sugar, tea and rice and put it into this gigantic Chinese water smoker and we let it go to a super, super hot smoke, and we smoke it for 10 minutes."
For his duck and pork blade steak entrees, both proteins get that intense smoking, then are cooked through on the grill. In the case of the pork steak, a garnish of Chinese black beans and sun-dried tomatoes are matched by crispy shallots and Thai basil. As for the duck, it's sliced thin, draped over a mound of cooked Chinese broccoli, then served with puffy, homemade steamed buns, which become defacto Asian sandwiches.
The hardwood grill also gets a workout, be it for thinly-sliced kalbi, the popular Korean short rib.. Or for giant pieces of salmon, grilled over sturdy banana leaves that impart additional flavor to the fish. Like most dishes, they arrive with vibrant garnishes.
"We like to add flavors at the end instead of imparting it through a long period of time; so you get the light, crispy, fresh, citrus overtones in our food," said Kim.
Now clearly, you're not gonna get the same kind of barbecue experience as if you were up on say, Lawrence Avenue in Koreatown, but that's fine with Kim. He is, afterall, going for a more modern approach.
Belly-Q also offers a semi-private karaoke room, if you feel like singing with your supper.
They also serve lunch and do a grab-and-go business from the side of the building.
1400 W. Randolph St.
restaurants, steve dolinsky
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