Ethan Lim's seven-course Cambodian ode to mom and dad is live | Food & Drink Feature | Chicago Reader

Ethan Lim's seven-course Cambodian ode to mom and dad is live 

Family Meal @hermosachicago is the chef's next step toward a culinary Khmerica.

click to enlarge Prawn and Pomelo - MAI HUYNH AND GINA ZHANG
  • Prawn and Pomelo
  • Mai Huynh and Gina Zhang

It hasn’t even been a year since I first wrote about Ethan Lim and Hermosa, his extraordinary sandwich shop in the Hermosa neighborhood, but it feels like a consarn lifetime, doesn’t it? Back then, encouraged by the popularity of his Cambodian-inspired fried chicken sandwich and the pork belly prahok ktiss, Lim dangled the possibility of mounting a Khmer-food pop-up in his snug spot.

Well, I told you what happened to that in May (which also feels like a damn lifetime ago). That’s when Lim—like so many food professionals I’ve written about in the months after the president of the United States lied and let 196,277 people die—was forced to pivot to a delivery-only "Cambodian to Go" menu. The good news is that interest in nom bachok and Cambodian steak frites was so encouraging he decided to launch Family Meal @hermosachicago, a seven-course, socially distanced tasting inside the sandwich shop, Thursdays through Saturdays.

The menu is a combination of family style and coursed-out dishes: tek kroeung (a whitefish and smoked oyster dip), prawn and pomelo salad, coconut creamed corn, grilled kroeung (a play on a vegetable stir-fry with the foundational Khmer herbal spice paste), steak frites, the rice noodle dish mee kula, and fried bananas for dessert.

Guests will get individual tongs to serve themselves, while, you and your pod will keep your masks on when you’re not putting anything in your mouths, right?

That’s not a rule. I’m asking you do it for Ethan. He’ll be wearing his.

Lim’s daytime carryout/delivery sandwich menu abides, as does "Cambodian to Go," with expanded offerings such as his mom’s kaw dan, the peppery soy-braised pork belly and egg dish that he contributed to Reader Recipes: Chicago Cooks and Drinks at Home. Still on sale!

Lim will be offering each night’s table on Tock eventually, but for now you can book it by texting or calling 312-588-6283. The Family Meal seats up to four and costs $275, though his first guests at the soft opening two weeks ago—his parents—were comped. “This is truly an ode to them,” he told me, recalling a dinner at a fancy restaurant in Portland last year where his folks felt out of place.

"My mom said something that really gutted me. That was she never dreamt to be dining in an environment [like] that. My parents are laborers. Mom’s kitchen Spanish is better than her English. Her writing ability is limited to only her signature, and her reading skills are left to dad. Despite that, both my parents can carry a conversation in four languages and at least three dialects of Chinese. Their lack of education have them feeling as if they are relegated to a specific social setting. Their natural wit, instincts, ability to connect and communicate with people, and successes prove otherwise. The hard work they put in allowed us to grow and improve on the work they started.”  v

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