like a lot of restaurants on my wishlist, i first heard about iNG restaurant from redeye chicago. the mastermind behind this restaurant is hamaro cantu, who is also the chef and owner of the futuristic moto restaurant that focuses on molecular gastronomy. he defeated iron chef morimoto on iron chef america in battle beets - so that must mean something right?
i made reservations for two for 7:30 pm and when we got there there were only about three other tables occupied. at the front of the restaurant, one of the chefs were making hand pulled noodles. the restaurant was long with two communal tables occupying the right side of the restaurant and several other small booths on the left. decor was very much casual but modern and minimalist in shades of red and white with a wood panel wall on the right and tiled wall on the opposite side. though it was simple, i actually liked it.
we were seated at the communal table and waited for several minutes before our server brought out the menu to us in the form of an origami cube. the cube was unfolded to reveal a sake cup with pieces of green onion and tofu where our server added miso soup at the table. i thought that was a really cool idea but the miso soup tasted average. if you asked really nicely, the server would teach you how to refold the menu into its orginal origami cube :)
there are five categories on their food menu: heatiNG, cooliNG, boiliNG, meltiNG and sweeteniNG and there are about three options for each category. there is also the option of going for "let us cook by the hour" which is a four course tasting menu in one hour or a eight course tasting menu in two hours. we asked about it but decided on a la carte just so we can order whatever we wanted to try.
ryan also tried a bottle of white ale called hitachino, real ginger brew from japan. ($12)
i remember it being really light and i liked the flavor which is surprising cos i usually don't like beer. but i am a terrible at giving assessment on beers since i don't drink very much, if at all.
heatiNG | baozi buns . pork . enoki . melted scallions . ($10)
it may not be as authentic as the real thing but it's a great tasty interpretation. the bun itself was soft and doughy as it ought to be and the meat itself was slightly sweet and tender, almost melt in your mouth. then your taste buds get smacked a lil by the fried jalapeno slice. it didn't even need the special spicy sauce which was a mix of sriracha with something else. at the end of our meal, i wanted to get these baozi buns to go for a snack but they didn't have any to go boxes :( though it was nice that our server went out his way to ask if there was any way we could have some to go.
cooliNG | poke . avocado . sesame wanton . ($10)
an intepretation of a hawaiian classic called poke. it resembled a mock sushi with a layer of sushi rice, tuna tartare and avocado cream served with two slices of crispy sesame wanton triangles. this was one of my favorites of the night. creaminess of avocado (drizzled with lemon juice), richness and freshness of the tuna highlighted by the sushi rice served atop the crunchy wanton skins for the much needed textural difference. i enjoyed the flavor combination immensely. lovely :)
cooliNG | okonomiyaki sake . pancake . salmon . himalayan salt .
served in a square bowl, i was quite excited about this dish. i love noodle soup in general and was wondering how this would fair. this was a disappointing dish for me. the good points: the pork belly was cooked well, the soup had a depth of flavor and i love the mushrooms. unfortunately, the hand pulled noodles were blah paired with fried strips of noodles which ended up being soggy in the soup were just a bad combination. okay let me be more specific, the hand pulled noodles wasn't springy and almost like melted in the mouth without any texture. the dark soy egg which is a quail egg marinated in soy sauce was like a burst of soy sauce when i bite into them which wasn't exactly pleasant. on top of that, i like noodles soup to served warm, almost hot but it was lukewarm which added to the disappointment factor. the server said that texturally hand pulled noodles are supposed to be like that but i need to do some reading if that is in fact true.