Chicago: Bottlefork, Tanta, and Momotaro
On my most recent trip to Chicago, I had some of the best meals I’ve encountered there in quite some time. Every meal was excellent and each very different from the other. I would highly recommend any/all of these for your next visit to the Windy City!
For those of you that may not have been following my blog for long, here’s a little background on me and Chicago: I love this city. One of my very best friends lives here. I’ve visited Chicago at least once every year since 1996. In recent years, my visits have become more frequent, and now I typically come at least 2-3 times a year.
So that’s that.
My friend Libby loves food as much as I do, so I never have to worry about doing too much (if any) research beforehand on where to go; I just put my trust in her, and she never steers me wrong.
Gnocchi at Bottlefork Chicago
441 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
This time my only request was that we didn’t do all American-type food, as I was craving some ethnic eats that I can’t really get much of in Nashville. That said, she’d really been wanting to take me to Bottlefork, which serves “New American” cuisine, and I was happy to go along knowing that we’d get a little more adventurous the next couple of nights.
Pork belly, cocktail and octopus & spam at Bottlefork
Well, once again, Lib knew what she was doing. This meal was so delicious, hearty, and satisfying. The Potato gnocchi with butternut squash, wild mushrooms and fresh goat cheese was out of this world!
Oh, and the cider braised pork belly on mustard greens and sweet potato puree? I would like to eat it at least once a week. The pork belly was perfection. Fatty, but not too fatty. Incredible. Then there was the grilled octopus and house made spam with brussels sprout kimchee and sugar snap peas. Brussels sprout kimchee is my new favorite. For real.
After that, we were completely stuffed, but of course had to order some ridiculous (in a good way) soft serve sundae with pretzel crumbs, caramel, chocolate fudge and a sweet stout to finish off the evening. I mean, how could we not?
118 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
Peruvian!!! I was so excited about this meal. Described as being influenced by the Incas as well as Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish immigrants, Peruvian food is a cuisine I rarely eat, but always love when I do.
You know a meal is going to be great when the free bites they give you to start are out-of-this-world. I went a little nuts and ate WAY too many of the plantain chips that are served with a creamy aji amarillo (bright orange Peruvian chile) dip. They were just so addictive I could. not. stop.
Anyway, despite eating too many of those, I made room for everything else that was put in front of me. The Pulpo Anticucho, a traditional Peruvian street-food skewer made up of tender octopus that’s marinated in olive oil and garlic, was perhaps my favorite dish of the night. Served over potatoes, sprinkled with fried garlic chips, then drizzled with olive sauce, it was one of the best octopus preparations I’ve ever had.
Nekei, Chi Jau Kay Marino, and cocktail at Tanta Chicago
From the Tiraditos* section of the menu (*peruvian style sashimi) we ordered the “Nekei”: ahi tuna, passion fruit leche de tigre, and honey with chifa sauce. The flavors were so vibrant, and it was a nice light dish in the middle of our meal since, as I’ve already divulged, I ate WAY too many plantain chips.
On our server’s suggestion, from the Del Chifa* section of the menu (*Chifa refers to Chinese cooking, in which Peruvian and Chinese ingredients are fused to cantonese culinary tradition. Source: Wikipedia) we ordered the Chi Jau Kay Marino, a shrimp crusted mahi with soybean & sesame sauce over vegetable fried rice. I can’t say this is something I probably would have chosen from the menu by the description alone, but OMG. I am sooooo happy he suggested it.
We were completely blown away by this dish. It’s too bad that it didn’t photograph well, because I need you to understand how amazing it was, and my sad little picture doesn’t reflect that!
820 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60607
Momotaro is the newest restaurant from The Boka Restaurant Group which also has a couple of my other Chicago favorites, Girl & the Goat and GT Fish & Oyster. In fact, the new Japanese restaurant was only 1 day old when I visited, which makes my experience even more impressive.
We ordered so much food at this meal that I can’t even begin to go into it all – partly because I can’t remember what everything was called! But, I can tell you what my absolute favorites were.
First, the Hamachi Tuna Roll (seen in upper left corner) – tuna, satsuma orange ponzu, serrano chili, and shallot all stuffed inside of a crispy wonton wrapper. This was so good that we ended up getting three (yes 3!) orders.
Toro Tartare at Momotaro Chicago
The dish that was mind blowing in its presentation was the Toro Tartare: beautiful red bits of tuna and sweet red onion garnished with a ginger blossom and wasabi sauce, served atop a slab of ice. Again, I wish my photos did it justice.
Toro Tartare and sushi at Momotaro Chicago
A couple of other standouts were the Smoked Bacon and Eggs – soy marinated quail eggs, bliss maple syrup (photo upper left corner) and the Kurunchi Wasabi Salad – tempura flakes, pickled beets, creamy wasabi dressing (photo upper right corner). That salad. There are no words. I am determined to recreate it at home. How had I never thought to make wasabi dressing?? Genius.
For dessert, they all sounded so unique that we couldn’t choose just one, and it was my last night in town, so why not go all out, right? The Waka Momo was baby green peaches served on a bed of whipped tofu with almond pralines. While it didn’t blow me away, it certainly was interesting and I’m glad we got to try it. On the other hand, the Soy Milk Custard with huckleberry jam and brown butter financier was definitely one of the best parts of the entire meal! I think Libby and I are probably both still dreaming of it.