3053 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
Urban Belly is amazing. Seriously, go there. Now. Tucked into a little strip mall, nestled in next to a laundry mat, the restaurant is a hidden gem. Chef Bill Kim has created a warm, communal space and a menu that comprehensively represents his evolving philosophy on food and nourishment. Yvonne Kim is a gracious and inviting host as well as super efficient managing influence. And, the next most brilliant thing besides the owners/chef and the food is that this place is BYOB with no corkage fee!
COLYN says: [This entire exceprt may be found, entact, in a post labeled ‘fashionably late’. However, I could not bring myself to steal Mr. Flynn’s immense thunderous joy by taking away his first full, real post…so I have duplicated the important stuff here, and you may also read it in his very own Lushie blog post.]
Ok, just to be clear I’m not (finally) writing on this blog because of peer pressure, nor has my job been threatened (over blogging anyway), I’m doing it for the short ribs. I’m sure I won’t be the first to praise these deliciously prepared delicacies from Urban Belly, but as a rather avid carnivore, and son of a meat business family, I thought that these babies deserve some props from me. Now I’m no foodie, I’d love to be but I keep spending all my money on booze and hiking boots, but the short ribs are well worth the trip up California (I just wish I had discovered them before the biking season, for us sissies, was drawing to an end).
I do want to make note of a few other parts of our experience at Urban Belly that made the whole evening one that we Lushies will be talking about for a while (besides, of course, the stroke of genius that was the decision to go to the Map Room afterward). First, whenever the Lush crew gets together we drink very well (Duh!), we showed up to the restaurant rolling heavy on booze and brought our own glasses to boot (and we call ourselves “unpretentious”). We had everything from last year’s Bell’s Hopslam, compliments of the Lance cellar, to Pax, but the favorite for me was actually the Pagodel Petite Verdot Rose (roses and asian food, love it!). As a post script to that statement, and a little sales pitch of my own, there are a ton of roses that have made their way from the wall to the $10 cart, hint, hint! Second, (sorry for the third grade essay format, but hey, I don’t do this very often) I loved the way the seating was set up. There are just four or five large tables where you sit alongside other guests, so unless you show up with six to eight people like we did, you share a table, which could work in your favor if you’re friendly and the people next to you like to share their booze! I also dug how people I knew kept walking through the door. As I’m sure has been mentioned in other posts about our adventure, Lincoln, our friend from 3 Floyds was there, and I ran into some friends I worked with in high school. But even if your long lost pal doesn’t show up, I’m sure that you can cozy up to someone at one of the tables and make a new one, what with that bubbly personality of yours.
So there you have it, the first, Annual, post from Colyn on the Lush blog. Enjoy!!
[And, with Colyn’s first post…my first heckle…check out this photo of Colyn in his free time!]
ERIN says: BUBBLES and NOODLES. Who would’ve thunk?
Lance, Colyn and I arrived at Urban Belly early, thanks to a generous offer from Colyn’s parents to drive us all the way up to the restaurant from University Village. (Thanks, Mr and Mrs Flynn!) We were so early, in fact, that we decided to walk down the street to Orbit Room and grab a beer before the real eating and drinking began. Fun times ensued, as usual, but despite the yummy brews (what up Three Floyds’ Pride and Joy?) we were all thinking of only one thing: the intense foodie field trip on which we were about to embark. Fast-forward twenty minutes and nearly our entire merry brood was sitting at the big communal table in the cozy restaurant, delicious bottles of wine laid before us. We started getting busy uncorking the vino. All except one bottle, that is. We waited for Mitch to do the honors of opening one of the most exciting bottles we brought: the 2000 Launois Special Club, a delicious blanc de blancs Champagne, and a recent addition to our shop’s selection that has swiftly become one of our favorites despite its humble label and oddly shaped bottle. Yes, it’s true: My name is Erin, and I am addicted to the Special Club.
Mitch and Cliff rolled in, and we finally busted open The Club. Cliff proceeded to order everything on the menu for us, and as we toasted our happiness at the prospects of filling our own urban bellies with delicious noodles and dumplings, I wondered at Champagne’s remarkable ability for food pairing.
I will leave it to my colleagues to discuss some of the other standout dishes–and trust me, there were many!–instead focusing on one of the sides: the wrinkle beans. Delicious green beans, fried until the skin is slightly wrinkled, and then tossed with a hot, sweet-and-sour, salty, satisfying sauce that turns humble veggies into edible crack. Now, vegetables on their own can be difficult to pair wine with: most red wines’ tannins will not interact favorably with the vegetal notes, and a salty sauce can clash with the tannins. So leave it to a white wine, for sure. But which? Many people favor sweeter whites, like Gewurztraminer and Riesling, with Asian food, and I have often suggested both of those. But this was to be a special evening for our special group of wine geeks, and ultimately, the pairing I liked best was the crisp, refreshing, bubbly acidity of the Launois Special Club juxtaposed with the ridiculous savory goodness of the wrinkle beans. Ultimately, the experience went to reinforce my belief that when in doubt, Champagne is the answer. Thank you to Bill and Yvonne for all the delicious food and warm hospitality. I will be back, Special Club in hand!
Korean short-ribs, alternatively known as galbi or kalbi, are — in a word– delicious. My aunt is Korean, and my sister and I would always excitedly await her visit because it meant, among other things, several dinners consisting of what we would call “Korean beef.” A seemingly endless supply of these chewy, sweet yet salty, sinewy strips of meat would be grilled then piled high on plates. There was usually sticky rice on the table as well, and maybe a vegetable or two, but this was beside the point. The short-ribs were messy, sticky, and perfectly delicious to our young palates, and to our family’s more advanced ones as well.
When we arrived at Urban Belly, a new Asian place (with serious Korean influences) in Avondale, my eyes were immediately drawn to the “Short Rib and Scallion” rice on the menu. Yes, please! The short-ribs were just as I remembered them from childhood, and –surprisingly– the bed of rice underneath held its own against these perfect little ribs of beef. The flavors in the rice played off those of the ribs without overpowering them. But the meager two ribs atop the rice did not satisfy my appetite; I remembered the days of sucking down dozens upon dozens of them with my family, and instinctively wanted more. Luckily, Chef Bill Kim and his wife and business partner Yvonne were gracious enough to bring a whole plate of just the short-ribs to the table.
My stomach was full, but I could not resist a few more to end the meal. As great as they were with the rice, they were autonomously perfect as well. I washed my last bites down with the 2005 Pax Syrah from the Majick vineyard. This wine, which was overpowered in our Pax tasting due to its delicate and feminine nature, was magical (yuck, yuck) with the short-ribs. The ethereal fruit and pleasant gaminess were bold enough to stake a claim against the short-ribs, and the wine’s florality and soft earthiness added a new and interesting dynamic. The experience of drinking wine with the beloved “Korean beef” of my childhood elevated it to a level that I had yet to experience. What remained the same was the ever-delightful experience of eating delicious food with friends and family.
This is my first time reviewing food, and I don’t really know how to explain all the spices, which is why i feel a little “yelp-ish.” Also, the wine and beer that I was going to write about, I didn’t actually LOVE it with the food, but I do love them. I mean, I thought they were ok with dinner, but after thinking about it the next day, I think that the Savennieres was actually my favorite with the food, but I am going to write about the PX and the Rogue Morimoto Pilsner. So, here it goes.
First of all, I have to thank Urban Belly for locating itself just a few short blocks away from the Orbit Lounge. Colyn, Erin and I arrived a bit early, and there was no better bar to waste a few minutes in while we waited. The cool blue lighting and delicious Three Floyd’s beer I enjoyed did a great deal of good preparing me for the over-indulging I was about to enjoy.
I love going to dinner with my coworkers. No group is better at immediately and enthusiastically filling a table with laughs, food and an armful of bottles upon taking their seats. I’m sure this blog post is already full of detailed tasting notes and thoughts on our various eats and drinks, so I’ll summarize my opinions with a simple thought. Urban Belly’s food, to me, was a display in how simple, traditional dishes made earnestly, attentively and with high quality ingredients can result in remarkably powerful and memorable experiences. This mentality serves as a fitting parallel to the honest, unique, and expressive wines and beers that we brought to drink with them. Regardless of how well the flavors of the wines and food matched each other, well-made wine was drunk with well-made food in the presence of good people, and that’s a winning recipe everytime.
So, the Lushes descend upon Urban Belly at 6pm on a Sunday evening, fresh from our Sundays with LUSH free wine tastings, famished and salivating and thirsty. Yvonne met us at the door as the staff watched in shock as we kept pulling out bottles from our boxes, our bags, our jackets…and glasses and wine openers, as well. [You bet we arrive prepared for anything]. Mitch and Cliff take the heads of table and the Lushes fill in. We briefly, oh so briefly, glance at the menu before heading to the counter and ordering one of everything. Then, more menu reading and discussion. Wine opening. Beer opening. Our first dumplings arrive and we immediately order more. And then the short ribs and rice. And then the noodles. Whew. We are eating and drinking and passing plates and bottles and sipping and slurping. I am not a huge noodle fan. I am Italian and love me some pasta, but something about asian noodle dishes just don’t do it for me most of the time…maybe it is a texture thing. BUT, these noodles radically adjusted that opinion. The texture of the noodles were firm, the flavors mingled perfectly, and even the pork belly didn’t freak me out…yum. Each of the rice dishes were unique and tasty. Again, the short ribs were melt in my mouth delicious. And, then my FAVORITE dish, the wrinkle beans!!!!
Our meal rounded out with a slow tapering of eaters…the boys and the full plate of short ribs being the last to go. We kept drinking, though, and talking and they didn’t hurry us on. We received a candied ginger as a chaser to the meal…and of course, we then tried that with our wine and beer pairings, too. I know, we are super geeks about food and wine and beer. Numnumnummy.
I am craving a plate full of ALL the dumplings right now…duck and pho, chicken and mushroom, lamb and brandy, Asian squash (remarkably savory), pork and cilantro…they are all different shapes and textures, some are served with dipping sauces, and all are extra delicious. Really really good dumplings. I could have made an entire meal out of just dumplings. And, they are pretty enough and tasty enough for a fine dining establishment…but perfectly wonderful and thrifty in the cozy, communal dining room at Urban Belly.
Being the Lushes that we are, I believe our table was filled with 18 bottles of wine and beer for the eight of us. Here is our full list of beverages, forgive me if I have left anything out…and, no, we didn’t finish it all…we shared with friends (Lincoln from Three Floyds Brewing and the Urban Belly staff) and transported some unopened bottles home.
BEER: Bell’s Hop Slam, Three Floyds Alpha Klaus or Kong (can’t recall), and Rogue Morimoto Imperial Pilsner
WINE: 2000 Launois ‘Special Club’ Grand Cru Champagne, Scholium Project Naucratis Verdelho(thanks, Jane!), 2005 Baumard ‘Clos de Papillon’, 2007 Odysseus PX, 2005 Saviah Viognier, 2002 Parent Corton, 2007 Pago del Petite Verdot Rose, 2003 Terre Nere ‘Guardiola’ Nerello Mascalese, 2003 Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny Pinot Noir, and 2005 PAX ‘Majick’ Syrah
Savennieres, a small wine growing region in the Loire, very near to Vouvray and Anjou and also producing the Chenin Blanc grape nearly exclusively, is a 700 acre appellation on the banks of the Loire River in France. The vines are grown on three hills with volcanic, schist soils and terroir driven by the soils and river influence of the Loire. Chenin Blanc may be a dry, off-dry, or sweet wine depending on the weather and whim of the winemaker…sometimes it even sparkles as a delicious alternative to Champagne.
The stony vineyards lie on steep slopes of slate and sandstone. They must be worked by hand, as they are too steep for machinery. All Savennièresvineyards lie close to the Loire, where the warmer temperature and morning fog protects the vines from frost, a common problem in the area. The stones in the soil retain heat from the sun, providing essential warmth, as well. At one time, Savennières was made sweet, but the style has evolved over the years to a point where Savennières is now often fermented to fully dry wine. Whichever style the winemaker chooses, sweet or dry, the wine retains perfumed intensity and poise.
Savennièresis always made entirely from Chenin Blanc. Yields are strictly managed to remain low to insure high quality and concentration of flavor. Grapes are harvested by hand for optimal ripeness and pickers will make several passes through the vineyards to select individual ripe grapes from bunches that may not yet be ready. Unlike the other great Chenin Blanc wines of the Loire, the impression of Savennièresis of fresh, rich minerality, soil, and chilly, stony water.
Intensely perfumed, with full, rich and concentrated flavors, Savennieres will lay down and age elegantly. Over time the flavors will evolve and make a remarkable transition…originally dominated by lime, honeysuckle blossom, chamomile and citrus peel, these wines will become more honeyed and ripe with notes of pear, quince, apricot, ginger, acacia, vanilla and almond. The Savennières’s mineral nature is amplified as well with a fascinating suggestion of beeswax developing with time. Finally, Savennières’s texture evolves from lean and angular to rich, waxy and caressing. Most interestingly, regardless of its age, somehow Savennières always seems to retain a aristocratic sense of restraint and firmness, even when fully mature. Our favorite producers, Joly and Baumard, are entirely organic and biodynamic, utilizing natural growing techniques, crop cover, horse drawn ploughs, and forsaking all things sulfurous.
The LUSHes convened and voted the Domaine de Baumard ‘Clos de Papillon’ 2005 as our favorite wine pairing of the evening, playing off each of the various Urban Belly dishes with a wildly intriguing spectrum of flavors and aromas. This particular evening, the Savenneires was captivating and beguiling, vivid and cerebral, delicious and satisfying…the butterfly entirely swept the competition. No small feat, mind you…refer back to our crazy list of yummy wine. The Clos du Papillon is one of Savennières’s finest and most famous sites. The name Clos du Papillon derives from the vineyard’s shape, which resembles roughly that of a butterfly. In addition to its special shape, the geology here is especially complex, with multiple variations of volcanic rocks mixed with Savennières’s famous green and purple schist. The result is an exceedingly intense and mineral wine, which often requires many years before revealing its latent complexity. This is Savennières at its most lithe, sleek and linear. The minerals here are both flinty and salty; the wine’s flavors run the full Savennières spectrum from fresh straw to pears, acacia blossoms, honeysuckle, candied ginger, gardenia and green apples. As the wine warmed and opened, beeswax and honey mingled with the stone fruits, and blossoms.
Savennieres may be the most ageable, intensely flavored, complex dry white wines in the world, so let’s just keep them our little secret, shall we? Shhhh.