My black ass learned a minute ago to NEVER prejudge a restaurant just because it’s located in a strip mall (see CG San Soo Gap San post). Pan-Asia’s freshest chop house in Chi-City, Urban Belly (UB), nestles into the company of a restaurant pool which is content with calling retail stores such as White Cleaners and Barry Coin Laundry “mall neighbors.” There is something to be said about a restaurant that has the audacity to pick a location like this. I mean, heads ain’t driving to Avondale to get cultured. Seriously, A-Dale don’t fuck.
Needless to say, Le Lan’s Bill Kim has officially killed it once again; effectively fusing dumpling, noodle and fried rice dishes along with a communal dining experience reminiscent of the far east street food scene. Kim keeps the dining room packed like a Christmas Bazaar by furnishing the room with four eight-top tables. Total disregard of reservations aids the theme. If you have to wait for a table, I suggest avoiding the clusterfuck that UB calls a foyer. Go back to your car and get your drank and smoke on. Shirk the nervousness playboys…servers will come to your ride when the table space is a go.
UB is all bidness when it comes down to their service model. After you’re sussed out on seats, you’ll be immediately directed to the ordering counter which is directly in front of the service window. You place, pay, and sit your ass back down. Ten minutes later, dishes start coming at you with no regard like Somali Pirates.
After some civilized conversation and Chilean Pinot Noir, CGs quickly fell back into gluttonous role-play which included the ordering and ingestion of copious amounts of food, and later, “the itus.”
Dumplings make the debut:
Of course, we started off with the Pork and Cilantro dumplangs. CG krew couldn’t figure out if they preferred the golden, perfectly fried exterior, or the soft, succulent pork center. No doubt, this dish was on some tastebud emancipation shit.
Next up, the Chicken and Shitake Mushroom dumplangs were chopsticked into our gullets. As the photo shows, the searing technique was correct. This is what George Foreman originally planned for his busted ass grill. Flavors were locked in like camel toes behind chastity belts.
And then it was time for the Duck and Pho Spices dumplangs deep fried hard-n-shit. If you’ve been reading CG posts for a minute, you know that CG Krew are sluts for anything Peking. And, oh no, tastebuds would not be disappointed on this night.
Hells nah, we wernt done with dem ‘langs yet.
We also got the Lamb and Brandy dumplangs with Edamame. Things headed 3rd World tribal when the lamb came out wrapped in doughskins and presented with a dowry of sauteed red chilies and sweet soy. We got all presidential on the Edamame…Baracking pods like they were Pixie Sticks.
Finally, we had the Asian Squash and Bacon dumplangs. This dish was a perfect melding of fall and summer flavors, showcasing just the right amount of acid against the sweet squash.
Round two was fried rice:
CG Fam went with the Phat Rice (featuring fried Dirkies on top of the short rib) and the Pork Belly and Pineapple Fried Rice. As for the latter, CG’s RinRin said, “this shit tastes just like Hong Kong.” She’s Chinese; I wouldn’t even create inner bubble thoughts to second guess her Hakka Proclamations. Pineapple and pork belly…it all seems so simple. My 6th grade teacher spoke the truth when she said, “Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S.).”
(BTW, combine both of these dishes for full-flavor orgasm).
Dang Dang…time for the TKO:
Choices for the final section of our dining experience brought on Asian Egg Noodles and Urban Belly Ramen. Asian Egg Noodles were the fiyah. The spicy broth made the tofu squares taste like Hooter’s Hotwangs. After a couple of bites, I began to search the dining room for D-Cups in white tank-tops.
Roy is all about trying the house dish, so we went for the restaurant’s namesake. Shockingly, Pork Belly and fungus link up like Jewish kids on J-Date. The Pork Belly was juicy and flavorful, profusely soaking up the dark broth. Properness.
So here’s the thing about Urban Belly: every dish is pretty much fucking delicious and AFFORDABLE. This same meal at Japonais cost Gluttons Krew like 5 Bills. Inquisitive parties keep hollerin out: ‘but, is it worth the hype?’ And somehow these would-be patrons maintain a steady weariness of the restaurant chatter surrounding Urban Belly. Well, would-bes and would-haves, I’m sending out a QDBAWLS 92.5 FM request to fall the fuck back.
UB is steady pushing heads through the do’ and STILL has a line that wraps around the Dollar Plus. Why? Because motherfuckas are feeling it.