When I attended Chicago Gourmet a few weeks ago, I heard many chefs – including those visiting – mention BellyQ as the place they had to try out. It was on my list as well. Bill Kim introduced some profoundly unique Asian flavors all over Chicago with Belly Shack and UrbanBelly – but could BellyQ really be any different from those? My answer is absolutely.
The whole setup of BellyQ is definitely different. It doesn’t have the casual hipster vibe of Belly Shack in the least. I thought the restaurant was able to pull off a more sophisticated vibe without being too stuffy or over the top. Some of the decor seemed a bit off, though. The tables are set up cafeteria-style, and the combination of the intense lighting and waiters’ smocks/aprons is a slightly reminiscent of a slaughterhouse. It’s worth seeing nonetheless.
While the desserts are not unique to BellyQ, the rest of the food is. Start off with a savory Asian pancake. The goat milk feta and rice noodle pancake (pictured) is unlike anything I’d ever tasted. Kind of a scallion pancake meets quiche, although that doesn’t really do it justice. The sweet soy sauce is a perfect pairing. You can then grill your own meat at your table, if you’re at a table with a grill. Otherwise, the chef can do the job for you.
The salads are all incredibly different as well. I really enjoyed the chilled soba noodle salad with poached shrimp and will need to return to try the rice puff and spinach salad – whatever that means. If you’re going with a few friends, try a tofu hot pot. It’s a giant bowl of soup you’ll want to share. The seafood version is spicy, full of a variety of fish and shellfish and some interesting doughy, flat dumplings. I had no clue what was in there, but I liked it.
The obvious ending to this meal would be soft serve, at least in Bill Kim’s mind. Our waiter recommended the huckleberry flavor, which ended up being a tangy huckleberry granita topped with plenty of creamy, sweet vanilla soft serve and a huckleberry topping. Incredible. In the end, you can’t really put your finger on anything you’ve eaten. Is it some type of fusion cuisine, or is it just Bill Kim?
1400 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60607