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A second casual BYO spot from Bill Kim (Urban Belly), offering an Asian-Latin quick-serve menu.

Our Review

Bill Kim cooks like a graffiti artist. At this polyethnic "Chino-Latino" street-food synthesis, he applies a palette of food traditions and flavors in jagged, animated spray-can swipes, creating dishes that are never subtle, frequently discordant, and often exhausting. Sometimes the pleasures are sustainable: I've previously snarked at his $4 saucers of kimchi at Urban Belly, but the two varieties I've sampled at Belly Shack have made me a convert—brilliantly fresh and creative, each with a distinctive top note such as fennel or mint. His "hot & sour" soup (the menu's quotes) is in effect a posole, brimming with chewy bits of chicken, hominy, and crunchy tortilla, with a funky hint of fish sauce to throw you off the trail. Like bulgogi? Kim offers the aggressively salty-sweet Korean BBQ Kogi, delivered with thick wedges of pitalike bread. But in most cases he orchestrates a four-way war among salty, sweet, sour, and spicy flavors, and none of them is ever the victor. Oil-poached shrimp on cold somen in an oversweetened citrusy dressing are piled atop crunchy tortilla chips like a mushy, tentacular ceviche. A lemongrass chicken sandwich with toasted peanut and coconut blurs the boundaries between satay and banh mi with a tart, fishy sauce, Vietnamese nuoc cham, laying waste to every other sensation preceding it. It seems like the only time flavors aren't rioting is when Kim makes offerings to vegetarian and gluten-free eaters, and then he goes too far the other way: the Boricua, his tribute to the Chicago-born jibarito, is two crispy planks of plantain sandwiching a vegan trifecta of asceticism—Chinese black beans, brown rice, and a thick slab of tofu.

Mike Sula

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Price: $$
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