Mexican, Korean & S. Indian Flavors at Two New Finds

We’ve seen the Mexico-Korea mashup before in Chicago, namely, at Del Seoul in Lincoln Park. It typically means tacos with Korean-influenced bulgogi beef, or at the very least, a few tablespoonfuls of kimchi carefully placed between the corn tortillas. So when I stepped into Takos Koreanos recently, located a few blocks west of the bustling intersection of Foster and Clark in Andersonville, I was expecting the usual half dozen options, showered with sesame seeds and drizzled with gojujang. I had no idea there were so many ways to combine Mexican and Korean dishes.

guac

Kimchi-embedded guac

We started out with a wide bowl of chunky guac, a dollop of assertively seasoned kimchi in the middle of it. The tart, funky cabbage’s heat was instantly mitigated by the cool creaminess of the Haas avocados. The tacos are all topped with a vinaigrette-laced slaw and roasted sesame seeds, but the kalbi (marinated short ribs) and spicy pork proved to be the most interesting; with all of the places making their own tortillas these days, the ones using pre-made, packaged versions always seem to fall short, and these were no exception. If they were somehow able to make their own – or use a completely different medium, like parathas, as En Hakkore does – they might be worth the effort.

 

The biggest surprise came from the Omelet section. Think bibimbop bowl (meat, vegetables, rice) topped with a two-egg omelet, and a sidecar of Korean potato salad (pictured, at top). I could have this dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and I wish more places would offer this humble meal. The care with which the meat (or pork or chicken) is seasoned and grilled is evident. Yes, fusion is usually code word for a kitchen with ADD, or dyslexia. But here in Andersonville, it works. The restaurant is cash only, by the way.

 

Takos Koreanos

1706 W. Foster Ave.; 773-654-1220

 

We wouldn’t even have tried Shree, in a non-descript strip mall in Westmont, had it not been for the surly waitress at Katy’s Dumplings. Trying to slip in to pick up some dan dan noodles and a dozen or so of the namesakes, she greeted us with a terse “to go only; we closed,” despite it being 8:58 p.m. on a recent Saturday night. When we asked if we could sit for a few minutes, she said no way, so we walked the few doors down to Shree, which has apparently been in the area for many years. It’s a completely Southern Indian menu, and our server told us they were the first in the region to be exclusively from the South. “We were before Mysore, before Udupi,” he boasted, referring to the two legendary vegetarian spots on Devon Avenue.

Thali platter at Shree

Thali platter at Shree

On weekends, they offer thali platters ($12.95), a kind of vegetarian “greatest hits” all on one, circular steel platter.  Vegetables steeped in curry, bracing coconut chutney, warm, soft paratha or naan and tiny bowls of yellow lentils and spicy sambar form a kaleidoscope of colors and textures, making it difficult to choose which silver bowl to dip your bread into next. I also tried one of their large, horizontal dosas, or rice and lentil crepes, stuffed with a mound of mashed potatoes seasoned with mustard seeds and coriander. The crepes look like wind tunnels. You tear off a piece, dip it into one of the chutneys or the spicy sambar (soup) alongside, then alternate by picking up hunks of the seasoned mashed potato. A cooling mango lassi extinguishes any oral fires that might flare up, and as we watched a cricket match being held in Melbourne on the TV above the bar, I was kind of glad the lady at Katy’s was such a pill; afterall, finding hardcore South Indian food in a sleepy Westmont strip mall isn’t something you can do everyday.

 

Shree

655 N. Cass Ave., Westmont; 630-655-1021

1 Comment

  1. Norm

    January 23, 2015 at 7:42 am

    Katy’s just doesn’t get customer service. We continued to go and put up with the bad service at the Naperville location just because some of dishes were SO good. Since that location is pivoting into something else, we go to Mapo now. They understand customer service and have great food.

    Good to see Shree is still there. I used to enjoy their lunch buffet when I worked out that way. I’ll have to make a point to get back there.

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