Urban Belly is Bill Kim's flagship establishment. It is a Pan-Asian restaurant with communal dining arrangement specializing in dumplings and noodles. It is a cool spot in a strip mall on Chicago's Northwest side.
I spent a good deal of space singing Chef Kim's praises in my review of his latest operation, Belly Shack. He generates a great deal of buzz because his restaurants are fun and offer a lot of bang for the buck.
The chairs at the long tables are built from wood from salvaged Indonesian ships. The decor is minimal, understated and inviting. There is a fairly brisk turnover of the seats.
While there are no vegetarian dumplings listed on the menu, Urban Belly offers the squash dumplings prepared without bacon. The dumplings were garnished with daikon, green onions and tangerines. They were stuffed with squash that had a spicy accent. The veggie squash dumplings were a subtly sweet and absolutely sublime.
The Asian egg noodles consisted of a bathtub-sized bowl of delicious noodles, fried crispy on the ends and soft in the middle, in a chili garlic broth with eggplant and tofu cubes. The massive portion provided plenty of satisfying flavors the run the gamut from spicy to vegetal to savory.
The Szechwan wrinkled green beans were a delightful take on a Chinese classic. The rich, spicy sauce was accented with crunchy almonds that add another layer of texture to a dish that already possesses a pile of flavor.
Prices are reasonable, and although there are limited choices for vegetarians, the options are good enough to make Urban Belly a foodie destination.