Mott Street – 1401 N Ashland St.
If there’s a place that’s becoming our spot for go to Asian comfort food, it’s Mott Street. (see my original review at (http://chohschow.com/2014/02/06/mottstreet) It’s a completely unique spot – nowhere like it in Chicago, and really probably in the midwest. And I think you’d probably have to search to find something like it even in NYC, LA, or SF. Edward Kim’s modern take on Asian street food is phenomenal and like it’s sister spot Ruxbin, very reasonably priced for what you’re getting (for the most part).
Sara and I have now hit it up twice in a little over a month. The first time was jaunt over a few weeks before the wedding to help reduce some stress – the second visit was just this weekend, as she had a friend in town from Louisville, and it seemed like a perfect spot to take an out of towner looking for some good asian food.
There’s a bit of overlap in the dishes we ordered, so I’ll reconcile a little – but also wanted to stress there’s a few dishes that our now our standard go-to’s and highly recommended if you’re headed there for the first time.
The first of our go-to’s is the everything chicken wings – fairly jumbo, high quality fried full chicken wings dressed in a Kang Poong Gi-influenced sauce, but finished off with some spices simulating the everything bagel. Just dip it in a bit of the tsaziki sauce served on the side, and it’s a great complement of sweet, heat and cool. My only complaint is that there’s three wings to an order – tough if you’re in a group of 2 or four, but perfect if there’s three (like we had last night!)
The next go-to is the crab brain fried rice – the dish that seems to get the most press from Mott Street, probably because of the novelty of having crab brains in a dish, even though it’s not really the brains, but more the guts of the crab. The slimy, creamy texture mixes perfectly with the starch of the rice, and the addition of sprouts and chinese sausage balance the dish perfectly, along with just a bit of lime.
This pic does not do the dish justice, but the stuffed cabbage at Mott Street is definitely on my top 5 dishes in Chicago list. A healthy heaping of kimchi, braised pork butt, and rice that’s perfectly seared so it gets a crispiness, similar to a plate of dolsot bibimbap. Plop that on top of an amazing kimchi broth that has a deep buttery taste and texture to it, and you have the perfect mixture. The spice of the kimchi, the buttery flavor of the broth, the tenderness of the pork, and the texture of the rice all combine to create a perfect mixture of flavors in your mouth.
The brussel sprouts dish was solid, but nothing too unique – the lamb pancetta was a bit different, but overall, similar to any brussel sprout and bacon dish you might get elsewhere – a solid side nonetheless.
We got a bit adventurous our second trip around, getting the duck hearts and strawberries, and the lamb sweetbreads. Both were suprisingly awesome. The duck hearts had a great meaty texture, and had an underlying duck flavor with a bit more umami, and the strawberries mixed well with the savoriness of the dish.
The sweetbreads were perfectly cooked and prepared in a General Tso’s fashion, but with the peanuts and the Chinese chili peppers, it was more reminiscent of a kung pao dish. That being said, the sweetbreads for nice and tender, and the sauce not overpowering. Still, I enjoyed it better than the General Tso sweetbreads at Next!
For three of us, the whole red snapper seemed like a good fit. The whole fish is fried in coconut fat and served in a tamarind broth, garnished with lime. It includes a bowl of brown rice mixed in with plantains. Served with sesame leaves and two sauces – a spicy house sambal sauce and a nuoc pham, a Vietnamese broth-based sauce with a thick fishy flavor. The fish was perfectly fried and melted off the bone, making it easy to fillet and eat. The broth had great coconut flavor and the mixture of sesame leaves, fish, rice, and sambal sauce made a perfect wrap (the nuoc pham was alright, but not a standout). The rice portion was a bit small, so for a group of 3 or 4, you may want to ask for a second bowl if possible. Also, for $50 and up, depending on weight, the fish will definitely be one of the less cost-effective dishes on the menu.
Finally, for dessert, the tres leches is unqiue – it’s less creamy than most tres leches cakes I’ve had, but the addition of coconut milk give it a very unique flavor, and the coconut whipped cream blends in perfectly. Surprisingly, the coconut flavor in the cake is not overpowering.
From a cost standpoint, methinks Mott Street is affordable, particularly for the quality and the innovation of the food. You could spend $30-40 a person here and leave fairly comfortable, and $50-60 and be absolutely stuffed (minus drinks, which I didn’t get into to, but the new shave ice drinks are very refreshing, although a bit weak).