I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opening of Laughing Bird (4514 North Lincoln) ever since getting a tasty teaser at this year’s Baconfest. The restaurant’s first seating was Friday, and I was there on Saturday to try Chef Chrissy Camba’s menu.
The menu was brand new, so I reached out to the restaurant on Twitter to ask what to try on a first visit. Since “the whole menu” was impossible, even with two people, we opted to begin with the charred octopus. What a fantastic dish. The incredibly tender octopus was presented on a bed of broccoli rabe, fresh radish, and dotted with peanut sauce, micro-greens, braised cubes of pork belly, and hot pickled banana peppers. The only bad part of the dish was having to share.
We also tried deviled egg from the “snack” menu with more micro-greens and sprigs of fresh cilantro. The creamy yolks were mixed with house-made pickles, spices and I’m guessing, sour cream. The eggs were well prepared and seasoned — I would order them again.
Make it spicy
We ordered draft beers with dinner, but the CO2 tanks weren’t online. Not all of the bottle selections were available, either, but we managed to whittle down the the list to a Belgian brew, Fatty Boombalatty, and Le Merle saison. Both beers held their own against the plentiful heat of the entrées. BTW, the beer menu seemed well curated with a nice selection of local brews. I look forward to trying more.
We ordered the Adobo Chicken, a traditional Filipino dish. The slow-cooked chicken was served sliced even though the tender meat was easily pulled apart. The dark meat soaked up the vinegary sauce and was more flavorful than the white, so we seasoned lighter pieces with the house-branded banana ketchup. Thankfully we tested the heat before showing too much enthusiasm. Whew, hot! The razor-thin sweet onion pickles provided a nice contrast to the savory meat.
We also enjoyed Spicy Noodles with a mix of shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli rabe, and green onions that completely meshed with my idea of comfort food. The thin noodles and crunchy vegetables were too easy to wolf down.
Sweet to the end
I had every intention of ordering the halo-halo, a hodgepodge of shaved ice, evaporated milk, sweet beans, jello, and fruit. The Filipino dish was tempting, but when the waitress said Blueberry Cobbler, I really couldn’t say no.
The cobbler topping was thick, with a perfect bite to the texture — crunchy on top and slightly juice-soaked on the bottom. They were generous with the blueberries, too, and a dollop of whipping cream on top. It was the perfect spring dessert and more than enough for two people.
In the Tank
The layout of the restaurant has changed a bit since it was Tank Sushi. The sushi bar has given way to a shortened, full service bar, and more space has opened up in the back of the restaurant. It’s still a deep restaurant, and I felt a little bad for the waitstaff hauling dishes to and from the sidewalk seating.
The interior banquets, bathrooms, and walls have all been freshened up. A large Laughing Bird stencil faces the dining room, reminding you of the new name. However, they couldn’t quite erase the presence of Tank Sushi from the bags.
I was really happy with my first outing at Laughing Bird, and can’t wait to explore more of the menu. I’ll need to go early, though, because this spot does not take reservations. See you in Lincoln Square!