Half the fun of discovering a new restaurant is sharing it with people you know will enjoy it. As Rachael Ray’s resident restaurant guru, here’s an inside look at what I report back to Rach about some of my favorite restaurant finds and food experiences!
Sent: Monday, May 6, 2013 1:32pm
Subject: Ramen in Wicker Park… and a Brewpub
Dear RR -
I know that you and I both love a good, hot bowl of soup on a cold day or night, but me… ramen is my jam! I’m not a snob about it, but I sure do love a flavorful broth with great noodles! Oiistar is a new place in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, not far from my apartment. Chef Se Jin “Sunny” Yim, the owner/chef and a Le Cordon Bleu Chicago grad, has put some serious time and effort into his ramen, even going so far as to travel to Japan to work with a ramen master. He actually cooks his pork broth for 18 hours, and also transforms the water that he cooks his noodles in to resemble that of Japan. You might notice some French and Italian inspiration simmered in there, too… I’ve been a couple times and plan to go back for more, but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve had so far:
- Oii Salad – while it admittedly didn’t blow me out of the water, I love starting with a good green salad at a Japanese place. This one incorporates dill and parmigiano, which was a pleasant surprise.
- Duck Buns – Bingo! Served with Golden Raisin Jalapeno Chutney, these are definitely one of my favorite items on the menu.
- Pork Belly Buns – straightforward, served with cucumber and Oiistar’s signature sauce; very good, but don’t miss the duck!
- Grilled Spicy Pork Ribs – served with garlic and onion chips and lemon crème fraiche, these are pretty darn spicy…and pretty darn good!
- French Kimchi Soup – served with Andouille sausage, pork belly and provolone cheese melted over the top, this soup is definitely different than anything I’ve seen; I loved the idea of swapping out the caramelized onions for kimchi.
- Pozelmen Ramen – one of Chef Sunny’s four signature ramen dishes, this one has thin sliced pork loin in it and some ground chipotle pepper, lending some smoke and spice; definitely my favorite out of the two I’ve tried .
- Oiimen Ramen – this version features thin sliced pork loin as well, along with egg, spicy oil and some ‘shrooms; it’s what they would call the “basic” ramen of the bunch, but expect a peppery kick. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
- Crème Brulee – this is served in a little espresso cup and has espresso flavored “caviar” and some almonds on top; it’s the perfect size for having just a little dessert
I must add that there’s a “Veggiemen” ramen on the menu. Please do yourself a favor and, if you don’t order it, ask for a sample of the broth. In a word, it’s wild. In Japan, they often put apple or pineapple to give a slight sweetness to the vegetable broths. Let me know if you can tell what Sunny puts in his…
On a total different note, when I was living in New York, it wasn’t too hard to find a solid brewpub. Now that I’m in Chicago, a lot of people I know here dig on Haymarket in the West Loop. I can appreciate a good, straightforward brewpub, so I decided it was time to pay a visit and rallied Katy and my friend Ryan to come with me. We ordered a few items for the table and picked around. Here’s the rundown:
- BBQ, Bacon and Cheddar Chicken Sandwich – this is actually a burger on the menu, but I peeked over to what one of the employees was eating and she pulled a little switcheroo…and so did we! It’s served with house-cured bacon, Memphis BBQ sauce, and Widmer’s cheddar. Order this.
- Grilled Broccolini – simple, but a little something different when you just want something green.
- Flatbread of the Day – today’s was a garlic béchamel sauce with some greens and cheese melted over the top.
- Sweet Potato Tots – …because we could.
- Pretzel & Mustard – a basic, good-quality soft pretzel served with spicy cheese sauce and spicy mustard, both made in-house.
And, oh yes, don’t miss their brews. We tried the Girl and the Goatee, a collaboration with neighbor Stephanie Izard from Girl & the Goat and her fiancé, Gary, but you’ll find at least ten house-brewed varieties on tap.
And that’s what’s on my plate!
1385 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
Haymarket Pub & Brewery
737 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60661
Andrew “Kappy” Kaplan loves food. A professionally trained chef, by day he runs Yum-o!, Rachael Ray’s charity focused on kids and cooking, and keeps special projects running smoothly for her. By night he hops course to course, place to place, all across the country. He’s Rach’s own personal dining guide! You can also follow Kappy on Twitter to see what’s On Kappy’s Plate in real-time!