A Korean restaurant the likes that Chicago has never seen opens tonight in Andersonville when Passerotto debuts on the city’s North Side. The atmosphere is casual inside the former Brixton space at 5420 N. Clark Street, but the chef/owner Jennifer Kim (Nico Osteria, Blackbird) takes her craft seriously serving refined dishes with dashes of Italian influences including unique noodle dishes, large sharable dishes like short rib and barbecue octopus accompanied by banchan, and raw fish including bay scallops that harken back to her time at Snaggletooth, the seafood-centric deli in Lakeview.
Korean food is hardly a secret to Chicagoans as the city’s been familiarized through Korean barbecue, soy-glazed chicken wings, and Korean tacos. Avondale is home to Parachute, the nationally acclaimed restaurant from Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark. Passerotto builds on that foundation and departs in a different direction. Jennifer Kim draws on Italian inspiration, using pastas and Calabrian peppers, the restaurant’s heart is unapologetically Korean and Korean-American. Korea’s national dish is kimchi, and it represents a point of pride for many. Kim uses her mother’s recipe. Ji Young Kim’s version is a red cabbage variation and it’s served on the side with the Passerotto’s thick-cut short rib.
The restaurant features four signature cocktails, including one with Jeppson’s Malört which could be a call back to a previous tenant, the Brixton. While Kim honors many traditions, she also wants to smash archaic boundaries including the notion that beer is the go-to beverage to imbibe with Korean food. Kim touted the wine list. She wants customers to know that wine pairs well with Korean food.
Kim befriended Diana Dávila, the chef/owner of Mi Tocaya Antojeria in Logan Square. Dávila, who has an endless supply of thoughtful words, answered some of Kim’s questions when it comes to the challenges of opening a restaurant. The two share much in common including the drive to share their family’s culinary history and a desire to tell a personal story through food. If Passerotto can do for Korean food in Chicago what Dávila has done for Mexican food, the city is in for a treat.
Kim’s father, Myung Seok Kim, would call her daughter chamsae. That’s Korean for “little sparrow.” That childhood memory inspired the restaurant’s name. Kim translated the nickname from Korean to English to Italian. Passerotto represents the Italian translation.
The raw fish portion of the menu may change from day to day, but read the opening menu below. Taste how Kim is pushing culinary boundaries starting tonight at Passerotto.