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A Critic Applauds the ‘Soulful’ Fusion at a Filipino-Cuban Hotspot


Plus Bingo Tea excites with cheese tea and Malaysian fare

Bayan Ko’s fusion of Filipino and Cuban cuisine makes it one of Chicago’s best new restaurants according to Maggie Hennessy. The food is a “culinary representation of the real-life partnership between husband-and-wife team Lawrence Letrero and Raquel Quadreny,” and the flavors “play together beautifully and occasionally collide on a single plate.” Lumpia shatters to reveal “moist, aromatic ground pork and matchstick-thin veggies” while “exemplary” adobo chicken wings are coated in a vinegary-soy glaze. Ropa vieja, a traditional Cuban dish, yields black beans, plantains, and “succulent shreds” of fatty brisket. And for dessert, halo-halo is a “rich, salty-sweet delight that’s impossible to describe within the limits of the English language.” In the end, Hennessy writes that Bayan Ko “represents soulful second-generation cooking at its finest.” [Time Out]

Bingo Tea Malaysian Café brings cheese tea and Southeast Asian flavors to Argyle Street. Mike Sula explores the menu and finds a number of intriguing options. Roti canai, a paratha and curry combo, “turns out to be an ideal partner for one of the tall, creamy teas,” while Malay rojak is a sweet-savory fruit salad covered in soy-chili sesame dressing. There are noodle dishes aplenty but the pan mee stands out the most for its depth: Flat noodles mingle with fish balls, ground pork, shrimp, and dried anchovy and served with a chicken-anchovy broth. On the beverage front, fruit teas, milk teas, and honey drinks are all fully customizable and can be topped with the restaurant’s signature “sea salt milk foam.” [Reader]

Otto Phan has “brought great sushi to Chicago” with his omakase restaurant Kyoten. Jeff Ruby raves about the experience and says it’s the first time in ages a chef delivers “exactly what he promised.” The large-grain rice is seasoned with aged red vinegar and handles lean tuna’s “delicate oils better than what we’re used to.” Other luxuries include amadai dabbed with caviar and mascarpone; marinated red snapper fashioned into a rose; and smoked skipjack tuna with daikon-ponzu sauce. The tamago is also exceptional, “silky and moist, less an omelet than a sponge cake.” Ruby thinks if Michelin inspectors can overlook the lackluster atmosphere and high price tag, there should be stars in Kyoten’s future. [Chicago]

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