Chicago: The Second Rising of the Han Dynasty
"Fusion which seems confusing and breaks all conventions is sometimes the perfect formula for seriously good eats."
Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood is known for many things: It is the birthplace of mayors (or maybe that should be reworded as the cradle of progressive American liberal dictators), including Mayor Richard Daley and his father. It is the home to the our last Major League Baseball Championship–winning team, the Chicago White Sox (though due to their second-class status behind the Cubs, the only way anyone on that team is getting a beer is with their own five bucks—or if they're drinking in Bridgeport). It is also home to many blue-liners and firemen and is one of the last few living enclaves of sausage-fingered blue collar laborers.
However, Bridgeport, despite having a few gems like Ed's Potsticker house, is not what you'd call a fertile crescent when it comes to good Chicago restaurants. Han 202, named after the establishment of China's legendary Han Dynasty, might change that. While you can read more about the total experience here on Newcity Resto, I wanted to focus on one particular dish which sums up Han 202's idiosyncratic nature: the beef and lemongrass salad.
The salad like the restaurant is an idiosyncratic fusion of Korean BBQ, i.e. smoky charred sweet glazed beef, Thai flavors - citrus zing from the lemongrass, with an American accent - a crunchy tartness from the julienned apple underneath. Just for kicks, chef Guan Chen throws a half cut strawberry (which melds with the lemongrass and cuts through the richness of the beef quite nicely) on top.
In addition to being one of favorite dishes tasted this year, it is the perfect example that there are no rules in cooking, that fusion which seems confusing and breaks all conventions is sometimes the perfect formula for seriously good eats.
605 West 31st Street, Chicago IL 60616 (b/n Wallace Street and Lake Park Ave; map)