the bristol

10:00 AM sians 0 Comments

with the restaurant named as the bristol, you'd assumed that they'd be dishing out british classics. 

but they don't...

in fact, they've expertly infuse the new american seasonal menu with their mediterranean roots. a couple of friends have sung praises of this place and i was excited to try it out for myself. 

the bristol adopted a rustic yet cozy decor that was fitting for the neighborhood it's located at - bucktown. i love the canvas artwork against the exposed brick wall which gives the place its personality and across from it is a bar with counter seats. there is a chalkboard lining the backwall, listing their seasonal menu and specials of the day. {xy} and i were there an early dinner so evening light was still streaming through the front wall lined with ceiling high window. i just love it :) as the dinner progressed, the sun was setting and the room was noticeably dimly lit.

from the looks of the menu, bristol's dining style was probably leaning towards shared plates (i.e. tapas) since they have a lot more small plates variety while the bigger plates were four entrees or three pasta options. 

starters :: monkey bread | pull apart . dill butter . sea salt ($6)

this was one dish that {cn} insisted me on trying. when i think of monkey bread, i think of sweets. in fact, even {rmc} and wikipedia agree with me. you could say this was the remix version - savory edition. i loved bristol's rendition where the soft bread segments which can be easily pulled apart (hence, perfect to be shared) is contrasted by the occasional crunch from the sprinkle of sea salt over the top. the herbaceous dill butter is what makes the whole dish special. i liked it quite a bit :)

mains :: roasted half chicken | dill spaetzle . crunchy salad ($20)

call it a dill themed dinner but it just so happens that the spaetzle came with dill. and honestly, i typically don't order chicken when i go out for dinners at restaurants - esp roasted chicken but i wanted to cross off spaetzle from my {1oo things to eat before you die}. our wait staff forewarned me that it would take a half hour to have the dish ready but promised me they served the best roasted chicken in the city.

did they keep their promise? arguably so. the crispy chicken skin fairies did their magic because the the skin was roasted to crispy perfection, locking the juices to give a flavorful moist chicken. the spaetzle was rich but was too salty. it was semi counter balanced by the tartness fresh lightly tossed green apple salad with slices of radish that i wished there was more of the salad on the plate. solid plate with generous amount though.

mains :: head-on prawns | a la plancha, anchovy butter, tarragon ($21)

{xy} loved his plate of food. it was literally just prawns sliced half lengthwise on a plate but flavorful fresh prawns does indeed make this dish where the its natural sweetness was highlighted. i had a small piece which was really flavorful. the price tag on this dish is a tad steep but i guess that's part of living in the midwest where fresh seafood has to be flown in from somewhere else. {xy} said he would order it again if he returned.

sides :: duck fat fries | house ketchup . garlic aioli . ($7)

we didn't initially plan to get a plate of fries. but thanks to my order, we waited so long that {xy} got antsy and hungry that we decided to just order another side while we waited for our mains. however, the fries came exactly at the same time so it defeats the purpose as an in-between-starter-and-entree snack.. the fries were crispy, salty goodness - solid but nothing out of the ordinary.

between the cozy rustic decor, the lively atmosphere, and the solid display of new american cuisine, the bristol has provided satisfaction to yet another happy belly or two. did it warrant a return visit? probably. i like this place but i'm still deciding if the bristol made it as one of my top favorites in chicago.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

Bristol on Urbanspoon


kimbap shaped bibimbap

10:36 AM sians 0 Comments

note | i submitted this recipe in the 'discover korea's delicious secret'. i am excited when i found a competition that combined both my loves together :: food and super junior :) i remember staying up for hours trying to come up with something interesting. this was chosen as one of the five winning recipes ^^ (uber excited about it!). congratulations to the other four winners! love you girlies!

i remember the first time i had korean food which was probably sophomore year in college. that was a long time ago and my love for korean food has grown quite considerably.

the first thing i ever tried that was korean was bibimbap. my first experience with bibimbap wasn't quite the right way of having it since i didn't mix vegetables + meat + rice + sauce together although a few of my friends insisted i should.. bibimbap {비빔밥} literally means "mixed rice" (hence the reason why i said it is the right way to eat it). it encompasses a lot of flavors korean cuisine represents - a healthy mix of meat (typically bulgogi) and various julienned vegetables which are brought together by the gochujang sauce.

kimbap {김밥}, on the other hand, is korean version of a sushi roll. gim or kim {김} is roasted seaweed while bap {밥} translates as rice. i've combined two of these iconic korean dishes to make my very own kimbap-shaped bibimbap so you can get the ingredients you would in a bibimbap in a roll that you can easily share with others or enjoy it as a snack/meal on the go.

there are two parts to this recipe :: bulgogi preparation and kimbap assembly. in a past entry, i have shared a bulgogi recipe which you could use for this recipe or you can skip forward by buying bulgogi from a korean restaurant or use a bottled marinade. this is also a perfect way to finish leftover bulgogi! :)

so the second part of the recipe which is the kimbap involves a bit of julienne-ing and a bit of stir frying but i promise you it's very simple.

instragram-ed :: ingredients preparation for kimbap

once you have all the ingredients ready, the next part is probably the most challenging step which got me a tad nervous at first :: the assembly of kimbap which involved rolling all the ingredients into a tight roll and making sure it doesn't fall apart.

instagram-ed :: kimbap ingredients done

instagram-ed :: assembly and rolling of kimbap

after getting a hang of it, it really wasn't that hard to roll the kimbap. although kimbap is typically not served with any dipping sauce, i made a gochujang sauce which is what you would get with bibimbap.

verdict | my co-worker, SL is my korean food tester since he's actually from korea. :) when i brought some to work to have a few friends try it, SL was quite impressed that i made kimbap lol. his exact words were, "whoah, this tastes legit!" and he added it was tasty! haha. that is quite the compliment. well that and this being the winning recipe :) christina pretty much concurred with SL's views and although she has not tasted kimbap before, she could still tell that this was a korean dish which makes me really happy.

my thoughts? the best description is probably this was "bibimbap in a bite" especially if you dip it in the gojuchang {고추장} sauce which is awesome because that was exactly what i was aiming for.. i love the flavors as much as i love how attractive this colorful kimbap it truly is yummy!

if you are feeling adventurous and would love to try this recipe ::

bibimbap kimbap {비빔밥 김밥}
my original recipe inspired by my first love with korean food. the bibimbap

ingredients |
  • 1/2 medium zuchinni, julienned
  • 1/2 medium carrot, julienned 
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 packed cup of fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup of sliced kimchi, drained
  • 1.5 cups of cooked rice
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Bulgogi (leftovers or made fresh)
  • Sheets of gim or roasted seaweed
gochujang dipping sauce [optional]
  • 3 tbs red pepper sauce
  • 1/4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1tsp brown rice vinegar / apple vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
special equipment needed: bamboo mat for rolling the kimbap and plastic wrap


ingredients preparation for kimbap
  • firstly, beat 2 eggs in a bowl and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. pour the egg mixture into a medium frying pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium low heat and swirl the mixture to make a thin layer of omelette
  • when the bottom of the omelette is cooked (~5 minutes), flip over gently with a spatula and continue cooking for about 2 minutes. you do not want to burn the omelette so patience is needed here
  • once cooked, remove from the pan and let cool for a few minutes. once it's completely cooled, slice the omelette into about 1 cm strips
  • using the same frying pan, add a teaspoon of sesame oil to saute the julienned carrots with a pinch of salt. this is just to remove the rawness of the vegetables so it will only take about 3-5 minutes
  • repeat this step for zucchini and spinach. remove from the pan and place all your ingredients on a plate to let cool before rolling the kimbap
  • for the cooked rice, add about 1-1.5 tbs of sesame oil and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds (personal preference) while the rice is still warm. mix thoroughly and let it cool to room temperature

kimbap assembly

  • prepare all the ingredients and equipment needed. first, start off with a bamboo sheet, then place a plastic wrap and finally a sheet of gim atop the plastic wrap (more for the purpose of easy clean up)
  • spread a thin layer of rice over the gim, leaving about an inch from the bottom edge. (try to make sure it's not too much rice or not it will just taste mostly rice)
  • arrange all the ingredients neatly (zucchini, carrots, spinach, bulgogi, egg and kimchi) on the top edge (the end where the gim is covered fully by rice). try not to put too much ingredients or not it will be difficult to roll the kimbap tightly
  • take the same end and slowly and gently roll over with the bamboo mat around the filling (if it fails the first time, don't worry - it takes practice)
  • after fully encircling the kimbap filling, give it an extra few squeezes with your hand to tighten and firm up the roll
  • continue rolling till it reaches the end. (this is what i learned from the master himself) at the end where you left 1" of gim uncovered, brush a very tiny amount of water and then roll it until it sticks to give you a tight roll. face the sealed end on a surface for a few minutes before cutting to let the make sure the roll stays intact.
  • now, you can use a sharp knife to slice up the kimbap roll. keep a paper towel soaked with some sesame oil nearby to wipe your knife ever so often to keep it from getting too sticky
  • slice them about 1/2 inch pieces. serve with the gochujang dipping sauce to mimic the flavors of bibimbap but this is optional. it is still delicious without the sauce

note | the pictures for kimbap assembly does not match description since i have since learned the correct way  to roll the kimbap at the demonstration in seoul so it will not fall apart  :)
disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.


2sparrows cafe

11:36 AM sians 0 Comments

st patties' day weekend.  the one time every year when chicago river turns green and i really wanted to see it for myself. yes, yes.. almost eight years here and this was my first time! there was also a sea of people, all dressed in some kind of green out to "observe" the celebration and not to mention, the copious amount of alcohol consumption, true to the spirit of the irish. now, if you were here in united states in time for st patrick's day - if you're not wearing green, they might just pinch you. the celebration here is loud and pretty interesting but the situation could get pretty ugly if you add people who are wasted into the equation.

this is xy, doing what he does best! :)

regardless, it was cool under the shade but warm under the sun, the weather was perfect for a brunch date with my food buddies, xy and tw :) actually, i've not heard of 2sparrows cafe until xy told me of its existence. the first thing that popped into mind was.. what a cute but odd name for a cafe.. but that was all i knew about the place. so i had to do a bit of digging up about 2sparrows before deciding to try it out. i was half expecting it to be uber busy since i assumed everyone was out partying and feasting in conjunction with st patrick's day but we managed to get a table almost immediately. 

the restaurant was tastefully decorate. in fact, it was reminiscent of the style avec adopted - half of the restaurant was clad in wooden slabs from the walls to the ceilings and the other half was covered with art pieces. i liked the coziness of it and i especially love the cashier station where the light fixture mimics a bird's nest - 2sparrows.

the menu had quite an interesting range of selections - a lot of the southern comfort choices with a couple of other usual brunch suspects. there were also a few surprise guests on the menu like the maple bacon donut and unique pop tarts (which i don't see very often served at restaurants)

doughnuts :: maple & bacon ($4.50)

this wasn't my first savory donut (refer to sf's dynamo donuts for its maple glazed bacon apple donut). when i first saw it on the menu, i asked xy and tw if they wanted to split this donut with me. i actually almost regretted that i asked - because it was so damned good that i wish i had one all to myself!

i love bacon and yeast donut is the only way to go for me! (no cake donuts, please) the salty chunks of bacon sharply contrasted by the sweetness of the bacon. but what makes it was the texture of the donut itself - it was crispy on the outside with a pillow-y soft inside. great balance of sweet and salty and terrific donut. LOVE! i was considering ordering another, a whole one, all for yours truly but managed to refrain myself.. i might go as far to say that it might be the best donut i've had thus far!

one thing that irked me was that the donut is small for the price.. well also i wish it was bigger because it was very delicious but it was literally smaller than the usual donut. so much so that i have think twice if it is worth paying $4.50 no matter how amazing it is :/

breakfast :: shrimp & grits etouffee | grilled shrimp, creamy grits, etouffee sauce, braised green ($12)

i'm a shrimp&grits virgin and thought this would be a great opportunity to try my first. grits were creamy but i'd say a tad too salty for my liking - probably from the etouffee sauce. shrimp was cooked tender and seasoned beautifully. i loved the contrast of slight burst of tartness from the braised greens to cut on the richness of the grits (which after a few bites became a bit heavy for me) so i wished there were more of it. i'd say it was a pretty yummy and good first shrimp&grits experience for me.

lunch :: noodle bowl | noodles, pork belly, bok choy, poached egg ($11)

i've noticed a pattern that whenever i go try a new restaurant with xy we seem to gravitate towards pork belly. this was xy's choice of the day. i tried a spoonful of the soup and some noodles - thought the soup had good flavors but a tad heavy on the salt. not the best bowl of noodles but it was alright. xy loved the pork belly the most on this dish and thought it was a good bowl of noodles.

lunch :: chicken sandwich | potato roll, grilled chicken breast, rosemary squash butter, crispy onions, fresh greens ($10)

tw comment was - everything is alright on this plate but the chicken. (/facepalm) the chicken was dry and burnt on one side which is disappointing considering it is supposed to be the main ingredient. did i mention under seasoned too? tw had to dredge the sandwich with ketchup to make it better and that barely helped. yeah, he was really disappointed with his lunch. :( he was happier with the tots than he was with the sandwich >.<

2sparrows cafe shows some promise of great flavors but the price is a tad steep for the portions they serve. 2sparrows cafe gets a "i kinda like it but don't love it except for its maple bacon donut" - pretty much mixed reviews all around with the food.

i hate to admit this.. although i think the maple bacon donut is more than how much i'd pay for a donut, i'd probably find myself getting me another one of those if i happen to be in the neighborhood. i blame this on my addiction to bacon >.<

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.
2Sparrows Cafe on Urbanspoon