photo: chicago dining scout
Udon and flan and Vu Sua.
First thing you notice:
All the countryside decor from Erwin (the previous inhabitant) is gone. It’s minimalist Asian, mostly Vietnamese, very clean, and they opened the kitchen to create a very small sushi bar on one side. It’s BYO, but going for a liquor license, so that’s temporary. They took our bottle of white and kept it on ice for us. Anya is a wonderful, sweet waitress, and she’s really good at bringing fresh plates every couple of courses without being asked.
Here’s the deal with the spring rolls:
The basic spring roll is all the same. They might be cut into a different number of pieces and arranged slightly differently, but they’re all wrapped the same way (too-sticky wrappers), and they all have the same ingredients inside—julienne cucumber and carrot, Vietnamese noodles, mint, bean sprouts. Citrus-y peanut sauce—could use more oomph—is the same for each. And then the ingredient is laid across the top. So you could get one with shrimp and pork belly, one with shrimp tempura, one with spicy octopus, or the yummy ones we got: the lobster/foie gras and the spicy lump crab.
What’s in a salad name?
I would call the baby lotus salad a shrimp salad because it’s completely paved with tiger shrimp. I’m just sayin’.
About the udon:
Bowl of udon smells—and tastes—fantastic, and there’s a single tempura shrimp on the side. I love that it’s on the side because then it doesn’t get all soggy in the soup. The tempura breading is too thick, but it stayed crisp!
The sashimi ain’t simple.
Tuna sashimi, an artful presentation, has teeny snipped chives, and fried garlic—a teeny mince of that too. There are a lot of things going on here (more than the menu mentions): mini salad of pickled onions, some greens (cilantro?), fried almonds, lotus root, shiitakes. If you are up for simple sashimi, consider yourself warned.
Pass the fish sauce.
The very delicate crêpe is folded over and holds shrimp and squid and more. A fish sauce comes along to pour over the crêpe. Definitely needed for moisture and for flavor.
Do you like quail eggs?
Salmon with black pepper vinaigrette, Vietnamese mint oil, and olives, and a baby quail egg on top that you spill out and break. Some puffed rice for texture. Love this dish. Another quail egg on the tuna tartare: The tuna tartare is awfully good, but you’d better like pepper, because it is très spicy. The shrimp roll on the side is only so-so.
The black cod is breaded, which I wasn’t expecting. A little overcooked and kind of dense. The chocolate sauce makes the dish.
And for dessert?
Sesame flan. Fantastic. Think halvah pudding.
The bottom line:
Not ready for prime time, but Macku Chan knows what he’s doing and proves it in any number of dishes.
Vu Sua opened 3/22/13 in the former Erwin space. 2925 N. Halsted St., 773-360-8816.Dining & Drinking