Urban Belly

I decided I’m going to see how many of the 2011 Chicago Michelin Bib Gourmand Restaurants I can dine at before the 2012 winners are announced. I’d like to think there is a very good reason these establishments received such recognition; therefore the restaurants should be worth a visit. So far I’ve been to about a third of the places on the list and Tuesday night I had the opportunity to try another one of the recipients of said award, Urban Belly.

Urban Belly is a BYOB offering a variety of dumplings, rices and noodles in a minimalistic environment with communal seating and counter service. We tried two dumplings, two rices, two noodles, and a side of the Wrinkle Beans. As we ate the food, we kept describing it as “interesting”. There were so many unique flavors, some of which seemed unfamiliarly delicious and some I wasn’t sure I liked. Nutmeg seemed to be prevalent throughout, but then again, I couldn’t quite put my finger on some of the notes.

The Short Rib & Scallion and Organic Pea Shoots & Thai Basil rices were incredible. I could have eaten them for days. The dishes were a more exciting and seasoned version of traditional fried rice.

Rice

We had the Chicken & Mushroom and Asian Squash & Bacon dumplings. The Chicken & Mushroom were my favorite, as the Asian Squash dumplings were too reminiscent of a sweet potato, which I am not a fan of. Everyone else I dined with loved them though.

Chicken & Mushroom Dumplings

Squash & Bacon Dumplings

The noodle dishes are giant bowls of noodles swimming in broth. For being such a noodle and soup lover, I expected to enjoy these more than I did. We had the Udon with shrimp, coriander and sweet chili lime broth, as well as that evening’s special, Ramen with Korean BBQ beef, bean sprouts and kimichi. The later was the group’s favorite of the two, although the Udon noodles were big and chewy and fun to eat. The melding of flavors in these two dishes was just ok for me. Like I said, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I didn’t love, but I preferred the rises and dumplings to the noodles.

Udon Noodles

Ramen Noodles

Last, but definitely not least, we ordered a side of the Wrinkle Beans. You cannot go to Urban Belly and not try the Wrinkle Beans! The flavors in these green beans were quite contrary to the noodles, as we absolutely loved these. They were in a sauce that was part teriyaki, part soy, part chili sauce – whatever it was, they were amazing.

Wrinkle Beans

 

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