At Solga Restaurant, guests finish barbecuing their short ribs, pork belly, and brisket in tableside charcoal pots, as chronicled in a feature by the Chicago Reader. But chefs do their fair share, too. They sear Atlantic king salmon and octopus atop the kitchen's grills and they heap steamed white rice into warm stoneware bowls before topping it with vegetables and dollops of red-chili paste. For noodle dishes, the chefs stir handmade wheat flour noodles into steaming or refreshingly cool broths.
The bench-style seating at Yeowoosai—which translates to “Let’s talk about love at this place”—encourages bar-goers to snuggle up to share drinks and plates of Korean fare calibrated to feed two to four people. Since 1996, owner Stella has crafted each batch of the yellow sauce that accompanies the house favorite, popcorn chicken, from a recipe she keeps under lock and key. Other popular dishes include classic galbi (marinated beef ribs) and bibimbap (mixed rice and vegetables). Guests can sip one of eight hand-crafted original cocktails and after 10 p.m. K-pop videos pump from eight flat-screen televisions, lending the red room an upbeat air.
Outside, the street bustles with people, but inside Tanpopo, a calmness floods the senses. The serene restaurant glows with softly lit paper lanterns, which illuminate wooden room dividers and matching tables, Japanese wall tapestries, and plates groaning under colorful sushi rolls. These vie for taste bud's affections with other Japanese dishes and Korean eats, such as koroke deep-fried potato balls with corn and beef morsels, skewered shrimp, and housemade curries.
“Gosu” is a Korean word implying exceptional skill, and in this case, it refers to the mastery of Korean and Japanese food preparation by the restaurant’s chef and owner, Bang. As diners luxuriate in velvet booths and banquettes, Bang’s cadre of skilled chefs whips up appetizers of boiled soybeans, soft-shell crab, and vegetables or shrimp swathed in savory tempura. The dining room, with its tiered, wooden ceiling and paper lanterns, inspires mellow conversation, and decorative mirrors steam up from menu entrees of Korean-style steamed pork and beef in bold citrus and curry sauces. Gosu invites diners to unwrap artfully packed sushi before warming spoons in a cinnamon tea or Japanese cider, which offer spicy relaxation without the sneezing repercussions of bathing in black pepper.
Mio Bento’s storefront windows stretch from floor to ceiling, treating passersby to an unobstructed view of the Japanese restaurant’s casual yet elegant dining room. Lights affixed to a lofted ceiling shine on scarlet walls and plated arrangements of seaweed-wrapped sushi and creamy wasabi. As eyes take in the refined surroundings, chopsticks spar for fried shrimp tempura, udon noodles, and specialty sushi hand rolled by chefs. Green tea and vanilla ice cream stand out on the dessert menu, which also features traditional Japanese mochi and ocean-fresh swedish fish.
Orchid’s 7,000 square feet of sleek feasting space invites diners to sample a smorgasbord of contemporary pan-Asian cuisine featuring fresh sushi, hearty Korean barbecue, sweet Thai curries, and more. Entrees such as the braised Korean short ribs ($22) and the Thai green curry with shrimp ($16) detonate saucy taste explosions along thin red lip lines. Chlorophyll-friendly options include the vegetarian dinner plate ($15), a meatless medley of tofu steak, seaweed salad, kabocha mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables glazed in a miso-teriyaki sauce. For professional chopstick twirlers, Orchid offers an expansive selection of specialty sushi, including Crunch Melt, with shrimp tempura, cream cheese, and melted mozzarella, drizzled with unagi sauce ($14), and Salmon Obsession, a savory mix of fried and fresh salmon ($16) named in honor of Calvin Klein's best-selling portable grill.