After first announcing the new concept back in January, Bill Kim is finally ready to open BellyQ. Eater met with GM Alex Smith this morning who said the restaurant could open anytime between now and Friday. Smith wouldn't reveal the exact timing because they want to keep some mystery around the look of the restaurant and just exactly what will be on Kim's modern Asian barbecue menu.
What is already known is that BellyQ will have a Chinese water smoker, will have six tables with infrared tabletop grills, a karaoke room and a separate walk-up counter called BellyQ To Go and will have a really focused Peter Vestinos-created beverage program.
While BellyQ isn't allowing photography of the space before it opens, Eater has learned that the former one sixtyblue was completely gutted and now has a more urban feeling with exposed brick, concrete floors, steel, black walls and other raw elements.
To bring more life into it, the Randolph side of the restaurant is almost all windows allowing for natural light and the team, which also includes Kim's wife, Yvonne Cadiz-Kim, and his partners at Cornerstone Restaurant Group, enlisted former Time Out Chicago food editor Heather Shouse, who has a new company called Bottle & Branch, to install a living moss wall toward the back of the restaurant.
The approximately 200-seat BellyQ has both semi-private and private dining rooms, and also has an open bar/lounge area just inside the entrance with a long communal table and olive-colored leather wingback chairs. Kim will offer a $50 five-course tasting menu at an eight-seat chef's table that will also feature the tabletop grills.
The general menu is being kept under wraps for now, but Smith said most plates will fall under $20 and sharing in an Asian-family-style way is encouraged to get a more full experience of the dishes. A couple of dishes that have been introduced in the past include a tea-smoked duck with Chinese broccoli and steamed buns; and chilled soba noodles with basil and marinated eggplant.
The restaurant will offer dinner only to start, but people looking for a quick bite can patronize BellyQ To Go, located near the main entrance on Randolph, starting at 11 a.m. each day when the restaurant opens this week. BellyQ To Go will have a separate menu from BellyQ with wraps, salads and grilled and smoked meats incorporated into dishes.
And that Vestinos-designed drink program? The former Wirtz Beverage mixologist told Eater recently that it will all be based around the concept of fives. So five beers on draft, five in cans, five large-format beers, five wines (will rotate between reds, whites and one sparkling in bottle), five sakes by the glass and five more in bottles and for the cocktails? Yup, five of those, too.
Vestinos worked really closely with Kim to design the drinks to pair with the food and those will change when the menu does. For this first run, Vestinos is using some interesting spirits and ingredients like the Southeast Asian arrack, pastis and roasted pineapple that is being infused into a drink. BellyQ will also have a full bar and will have La Colombe's cold-press coffee on tap as well as two Rare Tea Cellar teas on tap, one of which is a BellyQ proprietary black tea.
So now that all of this information is finally coming together, be on the lookout for the restaurant to actually open any day this week ... maybe even today. Once it does, watch for a full gallery here. Are you excited yet?
· Bill Kim Teams with Cornerstone, Michael Jordan to Open Belly Q in Former One Sixtyblue Space [~EChi~]
· BellyQ to Have Karaoke Room, Grill-Top Tables, "Grab and Go" Window [~EChi~]
· Bill Kim Reveals a Few More BellyQ Details [~EChi~]
· Vestinos on BellyQ [~EChi~]
· More Details on One Sixtyblue's Closing to Reconcept [~EChi~]
· All Bill Kim News on Eater Chicago [~EChi~]