Parachute | 3500 N. Elston Ave. | (773) 654-1460 | parachuterestaurant.com
You know, there’s all this hype around the word “foodie.” How do you define a foodie? Who’s truly a foodie and who is a fake? Some critics dislike the word all together. Me? I think everyone’s overthinking it. Foodie: Someone who is obsessed with all things delicious and edible. More or less.
Anyways, what I’m getting at here is that me being a foodie causes me to obsess over new restaurants in town. Especially those opened by top chef contestants – in this case, Beverly Kim.
Kim and husband John Clark opened their Korean-American inspired restaurant Parachute a little over six months ago, and I have been dying to go ever since. Unfortunately my friends do not share the label of diehard “foodie.” Translated: They would rather spend their money on something else. But last week I finally found someone to go with me. Horray!
No, but really, it was awesome.
I’m not even really sure what neighborhood Parachute is in, but it sits on Elston between Kedzie and Roscoe. Let’s just call it west west Roscoe Village? Anyways, it’s on a nondescript block, sitting on a corner, boasting a small sign with a neon squiggly ‘P’ – their insignia – which lights up and dances at night. If it weren’t for that ‘P’ we probably would have missed it. Actually…we did pass it once.
Stepping inside, the restaurant exudes character. It’s dark, oblong and very narrow with exposed brick and wood peppered throughout the space. Small, uncovered bulbs hang from the ceiling to dimly light diners. With only 40 seats, the majority of patrons sit at the bar top, which extends out into the dining area. The décor is both homey and funky, with a retro flair. On the wall above the handful of tables hangs a colorful assortment of vintage stereos and radios.
Luckily we happened to walk in at some miraculous moment when there was no wait. But as the night went on, I noticed patrons pooling in the front by the door.
We were seated at the part of the countertop that sits across from the bar. This was probably my favorite area of the restaurant. Behind the bartenders sat wooden cubbies that housed cook books, a vinyl record player, stacks of albums, a plant or two and an eclectic assortment of bottles of booze. This little space gave you the feeling of sitting in someone’s kitchen.
Speaking of the bar, let’s talk drinks. The drink menu featured a solid selection of carefully chosen wines, a small variety of bottled and canned beer, and a handful of liquors served in 1.5 ounce pours. Plus one beer on tap and three featured cocktails. I had the luck of getting to try a couple of the wines and all three cocktails. Plus a special desert cocktail, let’s call it the secret #4? My favorite of the lot was the #2: bourbon swizzle, rooibos, amaro and pastis all served in a highball glass filled with that crushed ice we all love. Delish.
Alright, enough about alcohol. On to the most important part: The food. Parachute’s menu is designed to be shared. Starting with smaller plates at the top of the menu and getting larger as they go down. It was recommended we order about four plates to share between the two of us. We had five, plus dessert. Naturally.
For starters, there are two items you must have: the house pickles and the baked potato bing bread. I know you’re thinking, “Pickles. What?” You’re right. These aren’t what you think of when you think pickles, though. These house-made pickles come in three small glass containers that look like flattened out mason jars. Or we could just call them what they are – pickling jars. Each jar holds a different delight: kimchi, chili chayote and watermelon radish zuke. All three are jam-packed with Korean flavors that aggressively entice your taste buds. They’re sweet. They’re sour. They’re spicy. They’re tangy. They’re freaking delicious. Bonus: You get these rad silver chopsticks to eat them with.
I could eat like four servings of the baked potato bing bread. I mean, potato bread + bacon + scallions + sour cream butter. What does that equal? Greatness. That’s what it equals, absolute greatness. It’s almost like eating a fancy potato skin, but in the form of bread. Is anybody mad about that? I think not.
Moving down the menu, there are a lot of different directions you could go in. Potato and salt cod croquettes, poached salmon, slow-cooked chicken, boudin noir. Don’t worry, there are veggie-friendly options, too: caramelized cauliflower mandu (Korean dumplings), grilled carrots with chermoula, crispy sesame leaves with bourbon barrel soy.
If you know anything about me, I rarely go vegetarian. So we of course took the carnivorous route. First to the table: Pork belly and mung bean pancake. The pancake was crispy so it contrasted nicely with the fattiness of the pork belly. But it didn’t stop there. On top of that goodness was kimchi, black garlic, pineapple and a perfectly cooked hen egg. The spicy and sour flavors from the kimchi mixed with the savory notes of the black garlic and the sweetness of pineapple. Simply scrumptious.
Next up: Smokey thick-cut kalbi. What the heck is kalbi you ask? Great question. Kalbi is Korean barbequed beef short ribs. Woo! That’s a mouthful to say. And speaking of mouthfuls, holy moly were these ribs tasty. And I’m from Memphis, y’all, so I am a ribs snob. But these ribs were some of the juiciest ribs I’ve ever had. Topped with honey, crispy shallots and shiso, there was no lack of flavor here. And a lot of times with ribs, I feel like I’m wishing there was more meat on the bone to be had. Not the case here. These ribs were well-endowed.
Last but certainly not least: Dolsot bi bim bop with barbequed tripe, Brussels sprouts, pickled soy bean sprouts, scallions, perilla seed and a duck egg. This dish was insane in more ways than one. And I mean that in a good way. It came to us in a large, hotpot that was singing loudly. The vocals were coming from the sizzling of all the ingredients in this delicious bowl. As we broke the egg and mixed everything up, the cracking and hissing and popping got even more intense. Think of this dish as an interactive experience. A very tasty interactive experience.
After all that savory, we were craving something a little sweet. More often than not, I skip dessert. Not because I don’t want it – don’t be silly. But because I’m normally so full by that point that I can’t imagine putting anything else in my mouth. But at Parachute, this was not the case – which is a testament to the perfect portioning of their food. For dessert we went with the baked apple. La la la, baked apple – heard it, seen it, had it. Nope, not like this baked apple! This baked apple was topped with a burnt miso ice cream, pine nuts, apple crisps and sage. The ice cream was some of the tastiest ice cream I’ve had. It was salty with hint of sweet. The pine nuts and apple crisps contrasted with the softness of the rest of the dish. Basically it was a happy marriage of flavors and textures in my mouth. Needless to say, I left a very happy camper that night.