Customers blitzed Kasama on opening day, as the new Ukrainian Village bakery cafe and Filipino restaurant sold out of food. Genie Kwon focuses on sweets while husband Tim Flores concentrates on the savory side. The couple were appreciative of the community welcome, but they want the neighborhood to know Kasama hasn’t yet reached its full potential. They’ve opened up the restaurant’s patio and are slowly rolling out new items.
Kasama’s debut isn’t what Kwon and Flores imagined. The two restaurant vets worked at several top Chicago establishments, including Michelin-starred Oriole and Mako. Under normal circumstances, Kasama would sell coffee and Kwon’s pastries in the morning. Flores would unveil lunch options, like sandwiches, in the afternoon. The evenings were reserved of Flores’ dinner menu of modern Filipino-American cuisine. But the pandemic altered that plan. Kasama is still open in the morning to showcase Kwon’s cakes, cookies, and croissants. But the afternoons and evenings now feature a condensed menu including Adobo chicken wings, lumpia Shanghai, and silogs with a fried egg over garlic rice and a choice of mushroom adobo, a char siu-like pork tocino, or loganiza. The tocino is tender and tasty, but don’t sleep on the vegetarian option.
Not everything has direct Filipino ties. There’s a dish of diced corn and asparagus that’s been charred. It’s mixed with scallion mayonnaise, wasabi tobiko, and nori-citrus powder — the perfect summery dish to enjoy on a patio.
Kwon is also experimenting and has unleashed what could be Chicago’s 2020 bite of the year: the Ham and Cheese Danish. This isn’t the tired pastry folks will find on a hotel spread. Kwon says it’s not the most Instagrammable dish, but it’s designed so each bite has a perfect amount of the Danish, raclette, and shaved Serrano ham. The correct proportions are integral; there are no unsatisfactory nibbles where customers will get too much cheese or not enough ham. The sweet and savory flavors combine for a genius dish that will keep customers returning. Kwon jokes that many of her pastries will shaped like eclairs for better “eatability.”
The couple has entrusted the drink menu to Carlos Matias, the veteran bartender who’s worked at Band of Bohemia and other restaurants. Matias happens to be Flores’ best friend. There’s a fun wine selection that includes Piquette, a spritzer that’s becoming increasingly popular. Think of it as a White Claw alternative for those fed up with the hype.
There’s seating in front, but the back patio is a little oasis where customers can kick back with a coffee and a croissant, or gobble up a few lumpias and wash them down with a beer. Kwon and Flores built versatility into their plan for Kasama. As the first-time restaurant owners grow more comfortable and confident during the pandemic, they’ll add more offerings. They hope to grow into the space and are preaching patience to customers as they discover their groove. But even in the restaurant’s infancy and under tough conditions, Kasama’s food remains ambitious. The future is very bright for Kwon and Flores.