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Critics Mixed on BellyQ, Hot For Andy's Thai Kitchen

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BellyQ
BellyQ
Photo: Barry Brecheisen

Bill Kim grows up with BellyQ and is on his way to becoming "Chicago's version of David Chang," according to Phil Vettel. "Crunchy and vibrant" kimchi is the star ingredient atop the crepe-like Asian pancakes crisped "like micro-thin pizzas in a wood-burning oven." The hot pots are "20 ounces of soul-nurturing delight," as are the thick slices of duck breast with Chinese broccoli and lamb ribs served with "addictive" Chinese steamed buns. "Very nice" short ribs with crisped garlic are available for tabletop grilling, while vanilla soft-serve and fruity ice desserts are "light and delicious, fitting finales."

Add newly opened Andy's Thai Kitchen to the list of standout Thai restaurants. Kevin Pang is impressed by an "impossibly improve[d]" som tam salad with green papaya slivers fried in tempura batter. Raw shrimp is a "Thai beachfront interpretation of seviche, the creamy and sweet shrimp peeking through the three-alarm spiciness" while kapi fried frice is a "fascinating mélange of sweet and briny, crunchy and tender." Boat noodles yield a heaviness yet are a "hearty satisfying antidote" and the pad prik khing pork belly are "crunchy, chewy" pork cubes camouflaged in a red curry. The only negative comes from the service, which is inattentive and approaches "Mr. Bean-level maladroitness." [Tribune]

The experience at BellyQ is a little less enjoyable for Mike Sula, who writes that the menu suffers from a "lack of seriousness" and the flavors are "restrained, inoffensive, and muted." The kimchi "bears none of the heat or funk" of proper, fermented kimchi yet is "startling fresh," and a trio of tea-smoked meats "bears not a whiff of the tea leaves it's said to be smoked with." Short ribs are almost "too tender" and fatty salmon on banana leaf takes less time to eat than to cook while "inharmonious" Korean pancakes are "denser and drier" than ideal, and topped with ingredients that make it an "awkward munch." The drinks program fares better though, with the Serpentine and Thermador cocktails being "surprisingly complex, grown-up beverages." [Reader]

Michael Nagrant thinks newly opened Andy's Thai Kitchen might be Chicago's best Thai restaurant. The kai tod is marinated fried chicken whose "juicy flesh" is covered in a "magnificent crackling skin that flays from the bone," while the kao soy are "noodles you [will] want to linger over," plunged in a "thin, rich, mild" chicken curry spiked with sour mustard. Just as good is the rib-sticking duck red curry tempered by "plump, bursting" teardrop tomatoes and peeled "succulent" grapes. But the real showstopper is the crispy on choy, a "righteous jumble" of shrimp, watercress, scallions, chilis and mint. The accompanying fish sauce-enriched sweet chili is a "burning and bursting yin-yang fireworks display of flavor," and an item Nagrant calls "one of the very best dishes in Chicago." [Sun-Times]

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