Hours: Lunch, dinner: seven days
Open late: every night till midnight
Chicago's first Kyrgyzstani restaurant.
"Don't expect the food in Kyrgyzstan to be the highlight of your trip," reads the back of the menu at Jibek Jolu. The humility is endearing, but I think these folks are selling their product short. The food from countries along the former Silk Road is pretty special, reflecting a synthesis of cuisines from eastern Europe, China, Persia, Turkey, and beyond. You can find representative dishes at a handful of Russian restaurants around town, but as far as I know this is the only place within the city limits strictly devoted to central Asian food. When they opened, owners Marat Bilimbekov and Atai Irsaliev reckoned there were only about 50 of their countrymen around town and guessed their cause would be missionary. But since then Bilimbekov says about 300 Kyrgzstanis have stopped in to partake of the home-style food of chef Anora Khudayberdeva, who stuffs the house-made beef dumplings such as manty and pelmeni, as well as lamb- and potato-stuffed hand pies known as samsy. Central Asian specialiaties are the main draw: cuminy Korean carrot salad, lamby shorpa, house-baked lepeshka bread, and lagman, a soupy, garlicky bowl of painstakingly hand-pulled noodles topped with lamb, daikon, banana peppers, and tomatoes. Reflecting a nomadic tradition, there's lots of lamb, and lots of beef, yet in general the menu as a whole reflects a stronger eastern European influence than you might imagine. But if Russian vareniki, kotlety, and deep bowls of bright red borscht are too tame to your taste, everything can be amped up with a mix of white vinegar and garlicky chile paste called lazy.