Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: Mott St. is the second venture from Chef Edward Kim and his team, whose first restaurant, Ruxbin, earned a nod from Bon Appétit as one of the 10 best new restaurants in the country (I had a killer clambake there two years ago). When I heard that Mott St. would have more of a night market vibe, I was definitely in – and our meal delivered, one dish after another in a parade of intriguing, unexpected flavors. The everything wings had drawn comparison to the huge, sticky ones at Pok Pok, which I tasted in February, but I found them to be entirely different. These chicken wings seriously tasted like an everything bagel (hence the name), with a slightly sweet glaze and generous dusting of sesame and poppy seeds, plus subtle heat from the chilis. The bagel comparison drew even stronger when you added the creamy, dill-heavy tzatziki dipping sauce. As with most good wings: messy to eat, but worth it.
The theme continued with the stuffed cabbage, which surprisingly recalled comforting lasagna from the very first bite – just lasagna that was layered with zingy kimchi, crispy rice, and pork instead of ricotta and red sauce. The flavors married especially well in this dish, everything extra-seasoned by the kimchi broth at the bottom. And as our server enthusiastically promised, the ice cold noodles made a lovely palate cleanser after the rest of the savory dishes. Between the chilly temperature and mellow flavors, it was an incredibly clean dish, with the tender beef and quail egg adding just enough richness.
The details:Mott St., 1401 N Ashland Ave., Chicago.
Last night, I was thrilled to attend the kick-off event for Fête, the first food and design festival of its kind in Chicago. Fête is also distinctive in its curation: Fête’s founders, which represent past and present editors at Tasting Table, Daily Candy, and Time Out Chicago, are well-positioned to understand what’s really trending in the city’s dining and cultural realms, and it showed immediately when the creative four-day line-up of tastings, seminars, and tours was announced. A night market was a great way to open the festival, with an impressive list of chefs and artisans offering both edible and non-edible wares.
However, when you pack a market with that many outstanding vendors – including pop-ups from two not-yet-open-but-already-buzzed-about restaurants – you should expect a lot of people. With a line around the block to get into the building and attendees squeezing shoulder-to-shoulder between booths once inside, I don’t think the space was quite equipped for such a barrage, even with two floors. But, inconvenience aside, there was so much to savor. I loved my chicken sandwich from Pecking Order, with juicy, Filipino-style fried chicken and slaw, and was talked into buying their homemade banana ketchup as well (I have a soft spot for artisanal condiments). I was also able to support Lillie’s Q, who recently suffered a fire in their main Bucktown location, by picking up another bottle of their matchless barbecue sauce. And Firecakes, one of the newcomers to Chicago’s gourmet donut scene, definitely delivered with its butterscotch praline donut, creamy in the center with crunchy praline bits atop its sticky glaze. I’m a little sad I didn’t get to try anything from Mott Street or Parson’s Chicken and Fish, the two aforementioned pop-ups, but I’m planning to get the full experience of both restaurants once they open. My ticket also included two cocktails from Longman & Eagle and a glass of Virtue Cider, all of which were lovely to sip as I walked around.
I’m attending two more Fête events this weekend, and will share those on the blog soon as well. But for now, check out more photos of the night market below.