Anyone who pays a modicum of attention to the Chicago restaurant scene has heard of the "Belly" restaurants: Urban Belly, Belly Shack, and, now, BellyQ. Just 8 weeks old, BellyQ, located in West Loop in the old One SixtyBlue space, aims to put a modern twist on traditional Asian barbecue, educating its customers in the process. Critics have been bombarding the restaurant, and the resulting reviews have generally been good. I agree. The food on my recent trip to BellyQ was not only transportive, but also reasonable. By sharing food (and therefore getting to try even more...my favorite m.o.!), we kept per person price under $25, including tip and tax but not including drinks (it was a school night/we were being boring).
My favorite dish of the night is also one of the healthiest choices on the menu, the spicy lemongrass chicken. The grilled "succulence" chicken breast must have been marinated for hours (if not days) before being grilled to perfection (not by us, although at some tables you can grill your own food). The beautifully placed charcoal grill marks on the chicken added a crispiness that expertly counterbalanced the juiciness of the meat, and each bite burst with sweet lemongrass flavor. A definite order again.
- Lemongrass Chicken
Also delicious was the vegetable tofu hot pot, and, more specifically, the chewy rice cakes that came in it. As a lover of all things mochi and boba, it's no surprise that I fell for these rice cakes as well (wonder if you can order just a side of them?). I would also bet they are extremely caloric. Sigh. Another favorite of the night was the chilled soba noodle with poached shrimp. For me, it was too spicy. But I'm a total spice wimp, so take the other's word for it.
The one major disappointment of the night was the soy balsamic "addictive" edamame, apparently a Belly restaurants favorite. But our edamame was drowning rather than drizzled in sauce, and since it turns out whole pod edamame is hard to eat with a fork, too much of it remained uneaten. Despite this, I will definitely be back. For one thing, there are still a bunch of dishes I want to try (Asian pancake - yes, please). For another, the hubby didn't join for this dinner and, as a kimchi fanatic, was sorely disappointed to miss out.
Try BellyQ at 1400 Randolph St. in the West Loop.
Filed under: Restaurant Challenges