Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Fave Bites: Urban Belly (Chicago, IL)

Lamb & Brandy Dumplings
On my recent trip to Chicago, at the Chicago Foodie's urging, I had the good fortune to visit Urban Belly, Chef Bill Kim's modern take on a noodle joint. We drove out to the 'burbs and pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall (many of my favorite eateries are in unassuming locations like this one).

Ever since my trip to Japan, I've been on one hell of a noodle kick, eating more than my share of ramen, soba, and other noodle concoctions. All that said, Urban Belly has got to be at the top of my noodle-eating list.

But let's not even start with noodles. Let's start with dumplings, because Urban Belly has some of the best I've tasted in a long time. While I loved the "Chicken & Mushroom" and the "Pork & Cilantro" dumplings, the "Lamb & Brandy" were the clear favorites. I even got an extra order to go to eat on the airplane. They were meaty and succulent, perfectly seasoned and cooked. In truth, they were my favorite single bite of the meal.

We also sampled the "Pork Belly & Pineapple" rice, rich and sweet. The Chicago Foodie claimed half the bowl for herself. And I got an order to go, also for the airplane. This is the kind of food you don't want to leave behind. I also loved the "Seasonal Kimchi," a modern take on the traditional Korean dish with little cucumbers studding the dish, giving a refreshing counterpoint to the spicy chili. And the "Eggplant with Thai Basil" was tasty - sweet and sour and everything in between.

And then we came to the noodles. Among the four of us diners, we sampled three different noodle preparations. Kuzak noshed on the "Urban Belly Ramen," which was full of pork belly and shitake mushrooms, all in a "Pho Broth." While lovely, we both conceded that we were chasing the dragon with Ippudo's ramen (see my article here). The Chicago Foodie dined on the Soba, a unique take with a very buckwheaty noodle with bay scallops and oyster mushrooms in a Thai Basil broth. This was a tasty and hearty combination. The noodles had great flavor.

However, my favorite noodle concoction was definitely the humbly named "Rice Noodle" with hominy and kimchi in a spicy pork broth. I should confess that I'd read about this dish in "Food & Wine" magazine, and thus had been planning to order all along. I like my noodle dishes spicy, and this broth brought the flavor and then some. I loved the delicate rice noodles combined with the hearty broth. The hominy added a nice, unexpected texture, and the kimchi was delicious, as always.

But as with any good noodle dish, the broth was the true star. I slurped down every last drop, wishing I didn't have to fly back to Los Angeles and leave Urban Belly behind. At least I had my to-go containers of pork belly and pineapple rice and lamb and brandy dumplings. If I couldn't take the restaurant with me, at least I could bring a little sampling aboard my flight.

Urban Belly
3053 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60618-7005
(773) 583-0500

Photo Gallery:

Seasonal Kimchi
Eggplant with Thai Basil
Chicken & Mushroom Dumplings
Pork & Cilantro Dumplings
Urban Belly Ramen
Rice Noodles


  1. yes good, but thanks for reminding me of ippudo.

  2. The eggplant dish is really grabbing attention! Something about the Thai basil with the eggplant sounds intriguing. Might have to make that one.

  3. Dawn, do you have a working title for your book/manuscript.