If you idea of adventurous eating is shrimp-fried rice, just skip Mott St. ( 1401 N. Ashland Ave.; www.mottstreetchicago.com/ ) right now.
The spot specializes in mixing the familiar and unfamiliar, resulting in dishes that challenges patrons' taste budsand maybe even their mindsets.
For example, the Asian-focused menu takes appetizers like grilled cauliflower and adds sahmjang butter, fennel seed and almonds. Brussels sprouts are wok-fried, with additions such as lamb pancetta and maple brown butter. ( I could've eaten this dish all night. ) The shrimp-and-kohlrabi salad ( which comes with chicken, peanuts, oranges, lime, fish sauce and fresh herbs ) was delicious and refreshing.
And there is what many consider the restaurant's centerpiece: the Mott Burgera dish so popular that it's been hailed as Chicago's best burger ( even besting Au Cheval's, in some people's minds ). Mott St.'s concoction ( only available during brunch, at the bar during the week and in the restaurant for only the first hour of operation during the week ) is a work of art, indeed, consisting of double chuck patties, sweet-potato shoestrings, hoisin aioli, pickled jalapenos, dill pickles, miso butter and American cheese. This is a must-try.
However, there are plenty of other enticing dishes as well. I was pleasantly surprised with the bone marrow ( accompanied by pineapple-pickled peppers and imperial black rice ) as well as the stuffed cabbage ( napa kimchi stuffed with pork butt and sticky rice ).
Desserts are enjoyablealthough the apps and entrees set an almost impossibly high that the sweets fall just short. The mango sticky rice is a solid treat, although my friend dove into the ricotta donuts with relish, uh, joy.
There's also a wonderful assortment of drinks, from cocktails to wine to sake. ( I highly recommend the Gin Cloudkicker, a cocktail with gin, shochu, lemon, sweet potato and egg white. ) Also, we were treated to small servings of coffee mezcal, post-dessertand that unique cocktail really hit the spot.
The only possible drawback to this place, at least for me, involves the hours ( Tueday.—Thursday at 6—10 p.m., bar until 11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday at 6—11 p.m., bar until 12 a.m.; and Sundays at 10 a.m.—2 p.m. ). However, as my dining companion pointed out, that could also be construed as a smart marketing move.
Regardless, if you manage to make it to Mott St., you're in for a culinary ride.
Center on Halsted's Silver Fork program
Center on Halsted's Silver Fork is a free nine-week culinary arts and job readiness program.
It is ideal for adults who want to enter or re-enter the hospitality industry and experience a fresh outlook on their career potential. Participants experience intensive culinary training coupled with service training, job readiness and career counseling.
Applications are being taken Thursday, July 12, with the first class taking place Tuesday, July 24. ( Classes meet Tuesdays through Thursdays at 11 a.m.-4 p.m. each week. ) Graduation is Thursday, Sept. 20.
See CenterOnHalsted.org/silverfork.html, call 773-472-6469 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.