Belly Full of Goodness
My husband says that Chef Bill Kim can open a restaurant in the oddest of locations and the masses will come. This was certainly true with Urban Belly (in a strip mall?) and Belly Shack (underneath the Blue Line ‘L’ tracks). With bellyQ, the newest addition to the Belly family, it is no different. Located on the far west end of the Randolph, in the former One Sixty Blue space, bellyQ draws diners on any given night. So, what makes bellyQ different from the rest of the Belly restaurants?
A Modern Take on Asian Barbeque
Chef Bill Kim and his wife Yvonne partnered with Michael Jordan and Cornerstone Restaurant Group, to redefine Asian barbeque and introduce it in an inviting environment. This is not your typical Korean barbeque, where the waitresses scream at you in various dialects of Korean. You know which one I am referring to! Instead, you are greeted by friendly waitstaff and can enjoy delicious barbeque. I do not know about you, but I rather not have my clothes reek of smoke for days.
Just like with his other two restaurants, Chef Kim’s philosophy - using the best seasonal and locally farmed ingredients - remains the same, while you continue to experience bold contrasts of flavors. The menu allows you to explore different paths for your dining experience each time. Start off with a Belly Bite such as Thai Style Fried Chicken, which has a perfect duo of sweet and spicy. Continue your journey with a savory Asian pancake made in a wood burning oven with Chef’s kimchi and double smoked Nueske’s bacon. If your belly can handle more goodness, try one of the tea smoked proteins such as pork steak with crispy shallot and sun-dried tomatoes, sandwiched in a delightful Chinese steam bun. As the weather gets colder, you will definitely want to warm up with one of the tofu hot pots. For the sweet tooth in you, finish your meal with Chef’s signature soft serve. If you are familiar with his soft serve from Belly Shack, you will enjoyed this elevated version!
All in the Details
If you have ever dined in the space when it was One Sixty Blue, you probably will not recognize any trace of it. The only element retained is probably the wood burning oven. The transformation is courtesy of Chef’s sister-in-law, Yasmina Cadiz of Downtown Design League. Cadiz wanted to create an extension of Chef’s home: “calm, luxuriously understated, natural, and modern”. The elements are simple and clean, which provide the perfect backdrop for Chef’s food.
A key design component of the interior are the translucent moving panels portraying galloping horses, which signifies the philosophy and aesthetic of bellyQ - “TRADITION. AMPLIFIED”. You can find this theme carried through in the custom designed staff leather aprons, billfold inspired check presenters, and furniture.
Find Your Inner Voice
Chef Kim and his wife Yvonne’s love for karaoke became the driving inspiration for the Karaoke Den. Yes, you heard it correctly! The Karaoke Den features a karaoke player and monitor, custom designed lounge chairs, side tables, and a large tufted ottoman. After dinner, let loose (perhaps after some of the culinary-inspired craft cocktails), and belt out some tunes. After giving it a try, I have to say it is a truly enjoyable experience. I also was able to experience the launch of the Chef Karaoke Throwdown, a monthly series featuring fellow chefs belting it out for a chance at winning the Karaoke Belt. It was wonderful to watch Chef Kim and others really relax and enjoy themselves.
Extend Your Dining Experience
Want to make your dining experience more interactive? Opt for table grilling by reserving one of the Japanese built-in infrared grill-top tables. For a larger group, reserve the Chef’s table for grilling and a prime spot by the kitchen, to see all the action.
If you still cannot get enough of bellyQ, check out BQ2GO, which is a take-out component featuring some of the Chef’s specialities. The menu changes based on ingredients available and is a healthy alternative to take-out. So, are you ready to get your ‘que on?
Photo credit: bellyQ