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I had just started photographing this slideshow of the food at Parachute, the new Korean-American casual spot from Top Chef alumna Beverly Kim and her husband Johnny Clark, when the door opened—and another restaurant duo walked in bearing fried chicken. It was Joshua Kulp and Christine Cikowski (a pair in business only) of Honey Butter Fried Chicken, which is located just a block or two down Elston, welcoming them to the neighborhood.
It was an auspicious moment for the kind of place that Kim and Clark opened just two days earlier. They come out of fine dining—she was at Aria in the Fairmont Hotel for a number of years before Top Chef, he's worked in London and South Korea—but as Clark says, their goal was to open the kind of neighborhood place that they would have liked to go to on their day off: easygoing, modestly priced, full of hearty Asian flavors, but made with the higher skill and care of their fine-dining backgrounds.
They've tried opening a restaurant before—they took over Shin Thompson's Bonsoiree with a very high-end Korean tasting menu format a couple of years ago, an experiment that only lasted a few months. But you don't have to name drop other casual Asian concepts from other couples within a mile or two (like, say, the Portuguese-Macanese one or the Japanese bar one from the Trotter chef with the architect wife) to say that this one feels a lot more like something the neighborhood will embrace as the hangout they mean it to be.
A good example of their approach is the hot pot, a massive bowl of firehouse-red seafood soup loaded with prawns and clams, modeled on the classic Korean soup maeuntang. It tastes like gochujang (chili paste) and fish sauce, but the broth—which is no volcanic chili blast but has a flavorful and subtle seafood base—reminds me of cioppino, the similarly loaded-up Italian seafood soup. I mention that to Clark and he says, "Oh, well, that's because we made it like a classic cioppino. We took blue crab shells and boiled them for a long time to make a rich broth that's a little more viscous."
One of the most interesting things is the first and simplest item on the menu: "Bread." They plan on baking different examples of Asian breads over time, and started with bing, a Chinese bread which they've larded with bacon, added scallion and chunks of baked potato, and served with sour cream butter. It's irresistibly scarfable. At the other end of the spectrum, I thought a sirloin steak looked too posh for the room: slices of dry-aged sirloin (which is marbled pretty enough to be the miyazaki steak they serve at places like Grace) on miso-roquefort surrounded by oyster-sauce-flavored tapioca pearls (a nod to the French Laundry's oysters and pearls?) and topped with charred gai lan. But it's an umami blowout, incredibly lush and tasty, and at $25 it's a steal for one of the best steak dishes in town.
See these and other dishes in our slideshow below. Parachute is at 3500 N. Elston; 773-654-1460.