Chicago is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to restaurants. I recently discover two more reasons why I love to dine here. Parachute provides an uplifting ride, and Ruxbin is as playful as the name suggests.
The cab ride from my hotel on Michigan Avenue to Parachute in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood is not a quick one. The area has an urban/industrial feel, which the restaurant decor mirrors. The American-Korean restaurant is owned by former “Top Chef” contestant Beverly Kim and her husband Johnny Clark. I am unaware of the “Top Chef” connection until I return to my hotel later that evening, which is an unusual fail on my part. The James Beard nominated restaurant doesn’t seem to need the affiliation to attract customers.
It’s been a long workday, but I am immediately uplifted by baked potato bing bread. The chewy bread is studded with bits of potatoes, scallions, cheese, and smoky bacon, and further enhanced by a crisp sesame coated exterior. Sour cream butter takes it over the top. I can already tell this Parachute ride is going to be heavenly.
A crunchy pork belly and mung bean pancake topped with a runny egg is divine. Sliced pineapple contrasts nicely against the generous cubes of pork tucked inside the pancake.
Black lentil mandu (soft dumplings) in a green curry sauce are camouflaged by thick leaves of bok choy. Diving into the dish to discover its unique elements is an adventure.
Dolsot bi bim bop is a filling hot pot, chock full of treasures including albacore, escarole, preserved lemon, barbequed onion, a soft egg, and irresistible crunchy rice.
Parachute’s cuisine reflects a thoughtful fusion of intensely unique and flavorful ingredients. The result is intoxicating. This is one of my favorite meals in recent memory, and I promise you, that’s saying a lot.
Parachute, 3500 N. Elston Avenue, Chicago, IL
Chicago Tribune review by Phil Vettel
Washington Post article by Tom Sietsema
The quirky Ruxbin has some commonalities with Parachute. Chef Edward Kim is French-trained, but accents his food with Korean and Asian influences. The restaurant is a small space in the funky Ukranian Village neighborhood. The interior as described on the website is “steam-punk decor in a sepia-toned menagerie.” The BYOB policy initally takes my companions and I aback (we need a drink!), but our fears are quickly allayed. There’s a neighborhood wine store down the street, and someone is at our table in no time with a bottle and cork.
While the decor is offbeat, the food at Ruxbin is elegant in presentation and taste.
Appetizers include an impeccable serving of scallops as the crudo of the day.
A fresh-picked salad of rooftop greens is laced with plums, celery, and manchego cheese.
Beets get a fresh take, offered roasted, pickled, and as a sorbet. The trio is served with house labne cheese, pistachios, and cocoa beet sponge cake. As a frequent beet order-er, I am impressed by the originality.
It’s hard to leave the appetizer section of the menu, with such tantalizing options. Halibut with wild rice in a kimchi and bacon tarragon broth makes it well worth moving on.
Dinner at Ruxbin finishes strong with sumptuous desserts like pot de creme and berry shortcake.
This may sound odd, but a visit to the restroom at Ruxbin is mandatory. It’s the most playful spot in the place. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, just trust me.
If Ruxbin brings to mind the teddy bear, it’s intentional. Chef Edward Kim was nicknamed Teddy Ruxpin in his youth. This is a chef who clearly likes toying with flavor. I’ll happily play with his food anytime.
Ruxbin, 851 N. Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL