To understand the subtle yet slightly mad genius of S.K.Y., consider its lobster dumplings. They taste like the love child of two completely incompatible cooking traditions. The springy filling, chock-a-block with gently sweet tail and claw meat, brings to mind shrimp har gau from a dim sum cart. By contrast, the glossy butter sauce—green with chervil, chive, and mint—redirects you to the froufrou lobster ravioli so popular in bistros 25 years ago. That the two streams come together beautifully is a miracle wrought by the dumpling’s skin, which is sheer, taut, and stretchy and gives way with a tender burst between your teeth. “We tried 30 different skins before we found the right one,” says chef-owner Stephen Gillanders.
Many of the dishes at this improbably highflying Pilsen restaurant similarly reflect Gillanders’s Asian heritage—he’s part Filipino—as well as that of his Korean-born wife, Seon Kyung Yuk, whose initials give S.K.Y. its name. To wit: He tops a stone bowl of bibimbap with a slice of foie gras so gorgeously seared you almost regret mushing it up. But mush away: The melting fat melds with flavorsome sesame oil on contact with the ultrahot vessel to make a rice crust, a delicacy unto itself.
Other dishes hew more strictly to tradition: salmon scalloped with shards of phyllo; a fillet of seabass with a second skin of lacy pain de mie that shatters at the sight of a fork; short ribs tucked in tidy mounds of herbed spaeztle.
Gillanders, who cooked for some of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurants, brings a high level of fine dining acumen to a menu where no entrée tops $28, combining finesse and invention in equal measure. His are precision-tuned, new-to-the-world recipes that come not from a playbook but from a restless, endlessly curious mind.
Don’t miss:Besides the lobster dumplings ($16)? Try the hamachi sashimi ($15), dotted with ponzu and puffed rice.