Mar 052014

The plan last weekend was to enjoy date night at a trendy new seafood restaurant. But as the day wore on and the snow piled up, I really wasn’t feeling trendy. We kicked around some ideas…Italian, French, macaroni and cheese, until we agreed that what we really wanted was comfort — stick to the bones, grade-A comfort food.

We found what we were looking for at Chicago Q.

Appetizer | Chicago Q

A trio of popular barbecue goodies began the meal.

The complimentary chips and bread & butter pickles were amazing, but did nothing to stop us from over-ordering hush puppies, fresh crab with avocado, and the barbecue trio for starters. The hush puppies came with an amazing hot sauce — I couldn’t get enough. We dipped the oh-so-tender dry-rubbed chicken, brisket, and pulled pork in each of the four house sauces before settling on favorites. My combo was the brisket in vinegary Carolina sauce, and his was the brisket in sweet, tangy hot sauce over honey cornbread. Neither of us were disappointed.

The main order of St. Louis slab was even more tender and succulent than the barbecue sampler, but at this point a half-order would have been prudent. Sometimes too much meat is too much. A chunk of poblano cheddar corn bread rounded out the plate, but the bruleed macaroni and cheese was the star of the side dishes. I thought at first the sauce was a too runny, but cooled to a creamy texture. I could have made a meal from any of the sides alone.

Our waiter was excellent and a credit to the front of the house. Not only did he make great drink recommendations and keep the pile of plates balanced, he also talked us into dessert. Cookies with a vanilla bourbon milkshake? Yeah, we went there. The cookies were warm and the shake was boozy — a tasty finish to the evening.

Despite our best efforts, we took home enough barbecue, sides, and sauce to last for two days. The boyfriend picked up an ambition to start mixing milkshakes and I can’t wait to start pickling again. The barbecue? We know where to find the experts and heaping plates of comfort.

Chicago Q
1160 N Dearborn Street

Feb 262014
5 Spice Chocolate Stuffed French Toast | Jellyfish

French Toast stuffed with chocolate is genius.

Weekend brunch in Chicago is a dicey proposition — finding the latest spot before it becomes popular is key. The better the food, the longer the crowded, shivering wait in the cold. And after the line? The deafening clink of coffee mugs and regretful gossip drowns out the recitation of specials that have sold out.

Often the best options are to go early, go late, or stay home. Fortunately there’s another choice! You could consider downtown sushi hot spot, Jellyfish* as an alternative to the mad brunch scramble.

Chicken and Green Tea Waffles | Jellyfish

Enjoy an Asian take on chicken and waffles.

Jellyfish is best known as a cool sushi restaurant, but I like it better for its chill brunch vibe. The vibrant blue lights and thump-y music fade to reveal a quiet, tucked away spot along the popular shopping corridor. In the daytime the restaurant reminds me a bit of a tree-house.

If you have a choice, elect to sit in sunny atrium area. It’s bright, fairly quiet, and lined with comfortable couches along the tables. During my meal, I was able to hold a conversation without once raising my voice or asking anyone to repeat what was said. A relaxing brunch time rarity.

Eel Benedict | Jellyfish

The best of breakfast and sushi in one roll.

Available Saturday and Sunday between 11:30 A.M. – 3 P.M., Chef Jason Im offers an Asian twist on breakfast favorites like French toast as well as a uniquely breakfast twist on Japanese classics.

We put ourselves in Chef’s hands, and he delivered excellent coffee along with the menu favorites — starting with the Crispy Chicken and Green Tea Waffles. I’ve never been a huge fan of chicken and waffles, but maybe that’s because I’ve never had such tender hunks of chicken atop pastry. The green tea added subtly to the waffles and the coconut drizzle lent an exotic vibe to the dish. Perfect.

Not satisfied to stuff us, Chef also plated a 5 Spice Chocolate Stuffed French Toast to try. The brioche was curiously light though the bread was able to deliver the generous filling, candied blueberries, and hazelnut whipped cream without falling apart. Absolutely delicious, though I would be just as happy to see this dish on the dessert menu.

Airy atrium | Jellyfish

The atrium is a convivial spot for brunch.

Eel Benedict sushi completed brunch. Mainly filled with tamago, a smidgen of eel and avocado rounded out the roll. A generous amount of edamame, corn, and hollandaise was drizzled over each bite. I liked this breakfast version of sushi, though I craved a bit more savory to balance out the sweet. It’s a great choice for the sushi-phobic.

Though we didn’t get a chance to try all the dishes on this trip, I will be back for the Fruit Sushi, stuffed with tropical sweets and topped with shaved chocolate. I also want to try the Lychee Mimosa or Coconut Gimlet with my meal. The lighter island influences are a nice change from heartier menus found elsewhere.

In all, I enjoyed Jellyfish for its unusual take on brunch classics as well as the quiet, civilized atmosphere. If I need a weekend brunch choice, I will keep them in mind. Have you been? Let me know what you think!

1009 N Rush Street, 2nd Floor

For reservations, call Jellyfish at (312) 660-3111.

*Brunch provided courtesy of Jellyfish for this review.

Feb 082013
Jellyfish Bar

Under the sea at Jellyfish. It’s very blue in here, can you tell?

I’m hitting five places this week for Restaurant Week, which is pretty ambitious for me these days. Trying to visit mostly new places, though a few old favorites slipped into the line-up. Don’t know about you, but I use Restaurant Week to gage whether or not I’d return to a spot for a regular meal. The menus always feel a little too…on best behavior and I question whether or not it’s representative. In the case of Jellyfish, I wonder if they were trying to appeal to non-seafood lovers.

Jellyfish Drink

The symbol for prosperity floating atop my drink

I say that because their RW menu seemed a “safer” than their regular menu, ie, no raw food to scare the newbies. Me? I’m all about the danger. You can tell because I drink my cocktails with barista-style symbols stenciled on top.

We started with The Firecracker Roll — a tempura coated Spicy Tuna with dabs of avocado and cream cheese. It was smooth and a little greasy and probably didn’t offend anyone who hates the idea of raw fish. I love raw fish, so I was disappointed.

Jellyfish Lobster Mango Roll

Lobster and mango, together at last

The Lobster Mango Roll was more up my alley. The fruit overpowered things a bit, but it had a cleaner mouth-feel. I should have ordered a Yellowtail Nigiri to see how they execute sushi. But next time, right?

The entrees were well prepared, though very heavy. My friend had the Braised Pork Belly and I had the Silky Salmon. Pork belly, sure, you’d expect that to be meaty and fill you quickly. The runny egg was a nice touch, and I especially liked the pickled vegetables. I didn’t expect the Silky Salmon to be quite so heavy, but the corn congee glued it down and I could only finish half. I wanted to save room for dessert…

Jellyfish Leche Flan

Flan, swimming in a sea of syrup

The sweets started with the Leche Flan. I’m not a huge fan of leche, but the peculiar fruitiness was no match for the syrup that coated it. The flan had a nice texture, and I particularly enjoyed the blackberries and blueberries atop the super sweet caramel. For all the world, it reminded me of pancakes. The Strawberry, Mango and Green Tea Mochi were as expected.

Jellyfish is sandwiched between a clothing store and the street, and the entire restaurant is bathed in a cool, blue light. I may pop in again, but if I do, I’ll expect more bounty of the sea than I experienced on this visit.

Jellyfish Restaurant
1009 N Rush St (2nd Floor: Look for the blue light!)
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 660-3111