Chicago really has an amazing food scene. Aside from many world-renowned chefs, it actually has its fair share of Top Chef-testants and winners even who have found their home there. So you can imagine that in order for me to stray away from the downtown area around the Magnificent Mile to Avondale, it had to be for something pretty good. In fact, the first time I went to Avondale was to go to Hot Doug’s which has since closed. I had heard some good things about a restaurant from Beverly Kim (former cheftestant from Top Chef Season 9 in Texas) and her husband, Johnny Clark, called Parachute so I figured it would be worth a trek. Parachute was #5 on Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant list in 2015, the same list which was topped by AL’s Place in San Francisco, which I look forward to visiting next month. It also was Eater Chicago’s Best New Restaurant in 2014 and a James Beard finalist for Best New Restaurant as well. You might ask, “Sure, those are the opinions of food critics, but what do the “people” say?” Well Yelp gave it 4 stars. I mention all these accolades because it sets up some high expectations as Hubster and I were perusing the menu and deciding what to order. All the dishes are meant to be shared and the menu definitely has hints of Korean cuisine but being described as a Korean-American restaurant, it is no surprise that some of the dishes were distinctly non-Korean and even pan-Asian with ingredients such as fish sauce, furikake and yuzu.
This was definitely the most interesting take on bread that I’ve ever tasted. It was as if they took a baked potato and stuffed it inside some crispy sesame bread and then topped it with bacon and scallions. It was served with a sour cream butter which I didn’t think added much flavor and pretty much was unnecessary. The bread was absolutely excellent on its own. It was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and as filling as it was with the chunks of potato, it actually wasn’t that heavy. A wonderfully delicious start to the meal.
This was by far the most beautiful looking dish of the meal. The eggplant formed the bottom layer which was then topped with a layer of miso sauce. Then came a mix of fines herbes, sprouts and hazelnuts on top. In spite of its lovely presentation, this dish was disappointingly lackluster in terms of flavor. Eggplant prepared this way will usually be softer but that usually allows for more flavor to seep into the vegetables. Unfortunately, the miso flavor was too subtle that the dish overall just tasted mushy and flat.
The Mung Bean Pancake was embedded with a few chunks of pork belly then topped with slices pineapple and a fried hen egg. There were two different sauces served with the pancake, orange kim chi and black garlic, which together helped make for a very pretty presentation. Unfortunately, the combination of flavors in this dish were odd and didn’t really come together. There wasn’t the characteristic spiciness from the kim chi sauce and instead, I just tasted some sourness which was offset a little by the pineapple but not in a very complementary way. The pork belly was tasty and the pancake was crispy but overall, it was a little on the dry side.
In addition to udon noodles, this dish had a few chunks of dungeness crab, guanciale, fava beans and I believe it was sabayon sauce that brought it all together. I was expecting so much more from this dish. Although I had a few bites of crab meat and guanciale, I didn’t really taste any of it mainly because the heaviness of the sabayon just overpowered the dish. It wasn’t just the richness, but there was a slight lemony taste which didn’t really sit well on my taste buds.
The short ribs ended up being the 2nd best dish in my opinion. The beef was soft and tender and it was prepared with some ddukbokki rice balls, fiddlehead ferns, quail eggs and some pickled ramps. Hubster and I were comparing it to his short ribs which I thought actually had more flavor, but this dish was as much about the accoutrements which really helped to round out the overall flavor profile of the dish.
Overall, I was pretty disappointed by the meal. Hubster and I were definitely full even though we had less than their recommended 2 snacks and 4 mains order, but we weren’t at all satisfied. The high points were definitely at the beginning and the end, but the dishes in between were lacking. It was unfortunate because the food sounded good based on the menu and looked good once it came to the table, but ultimately it didn’t hold up to what maybe was some very high expectations.
3500 North Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
PAFO Ratings for Parachute:
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 3 stars