Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ruxbin - Chicago, IL

When I heard about a new restaurant opening near my place, my curiosity was peaked.  When I found out that the chef and owners were Korean-American, I knew I had to get my butt over there.

If you read his bio, you can't help but be immediately impressed.  He's been Le Cordon Bleu trained and has worked in the kitchen of Thomas Keller's Per Se.  His dishes are a blend of French, Asian and American bistro fair.  I was expecting a lot Korean inspired dishes, but the K-town empanadas is the only item on the menu that seems to suggest his Korean background.  

Here's the outside of the Ruxbin kitchen on the corner of Ashland Ave and Pearson Street.

Inside, it's cozy and warm.  We came on a weeknight around 7:30 pm and it was packed.  We waited an hour and a half to get seated.  They don't take any reservations and the hostess told us it's really hard to predict how busy they will be.  She did mention that it's definitely easier to get seated with a smaller party, but there was four of us that night.  

Here's a view of the restaurant from the upstair's alcove area we were sitting down at.  The ceiling is plastered with ripped out pages of cookbooks, how cool is that?    

Another great thing about Chicago restaurants is that a lot of them are BYOB.  Jung brought some Goose Island beer and some wine for us.  While we were waiting, they brought over some buckets of ice for us to chill our beers and wine.  There was another large party there as well so we shared the seats with them.  Meanwhile we could see the plates of being food being served and we couldn't help but drool in hunger.   

They also let us peruse the menu and even let us put in our order for some appetizers in advance.  Thank goodness because we were soo hungry from the wait.   

This was their summer menu.  I just noticed that they have their autumn menu up now.  They have some of the same items and some new ones that look really good.  Here's the main entrees and desserts from their summer menu.  

An hour and thirty minutes later, we were seated.  The whole place exudes rustic charm.  Everything seems like it's been gently removed from its previous residence and pieced together in this restaurant.  For a new restaurant, it definitely has that worn in feel.  It turns out our seats were in their hay day part of a church pew.  

For our appetizers, we ordered an order of the Avocado Toast.  It's bruschetta style with heirloom baby tomatoes, pickled onions, anchovies, grilled asparagus, feta and of course, the guest of honor, avocados.  I loved the textures and flavors of this dish.  Everything tasted vibrant and was perfectly seasoned.  I tried making an avocado anchovy toast awhile back, which was delicious, but I'm definitely adding tomatoes, asparagus and feta to mine next time.   

We couldn't pass up their K-Town Empanadas.  Kimchi and Oaxaca cheese were enveloped in a crispy, deep-fried masa shell and served with chimichurri crème fraîche on top.  My observation is that Chef Kim really likes Togarashi, the Japanese chili pepper, because he sprinkled it on so many of his dishes.   

Here's a close up of my last few bites of the empanada.  I thought I'd love it, and although inventive, it wasn't very satisfying.  It needed more filling or kimchi.  I tasted a lot of air in this thing.  haha.  

As our third appetizer pick, we chose the Crispy Eggplant with Roasted Beets, Cucumber and Honey-Cardamon Yogurt.  This has all the elements I love, eggplant, roasted beets and yogurt, yet together, it was kind of bland.  I was hoping for a jolt of flavor somewhere but I could not find it anywhere.  Also I have to admit, the eggplant was not very crispy.  Maybe that would have helped but I'm not so sure I loved the flavors of this all that much.  

We also got the Garlic White Wine Mussels with fine herbs and Togarashi french fries.  Another dish that I thought would be a no-brainer hit.

This came with a garlic aioli that was great and would have been otherwise superb were the fries hot.  It seriously looked like and tasted like it had been sitting out for awhile.  A big disappointment.  

We got four entrees to share.  The first one picked was the hanger steak with chimichurri, kale, cauliflower purée and fennel seed gastrique.  Yum, yum, yum.  I am always worried about hanger steak being tough but this was tender and I'm a huge fan of kale and cauliflower so what's there not to like.  I have to say I couldn't really taste the fennel seed gastrique but perhaps because I was too busy scarfing this down.  

I think my favorite dish of the night was his Pan Seared Trout.  It came with bulgur wheat tabbouleh, asparagus, dates and basil.  The trout was perfectly crispy on the outside and moist in the inside.  The basil puree on top added a nice fresh burst of flavor.  The combination of bulgur wheat tabbouleh and sweet dates was really good too.  

We couldn't decide between the Mojo Chicken or the Miso Marinated Tofu, but our waiter said the chicken was really good.  So we went with it.  It was seasoned half chicken with shaved Onions and Cilantro, Black Beans, Chopped Almonds Golden Raisins and Basmati

For dessert, we shared a lychee panna cotta with toasted coconut and lime zest.  Didn't knock my socks off but it was tasty.

I left that night a bit disappointed because it was so hyped up and it's gotten nothing but fantastic reviews.  Unfortunately, we had some clear misses that night.  But in retrospect, I have to say that the trout, hangar steak and mojo chicken were spot on and I'd gladly come back to eat that again.  Perhaps there are some minor kinks to still get out, but they are still relatively new to the scene and I'm sure it will only get better with time under Chef Kim's tutelage.  Their chicken and waffles, specifically their cumin cheddar waffles, might be reason enough for me to try their autumn menu. I am not one to pass up on chicken and waffles.  :)

851 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60642


  1. I have no clue. I tried googling meaning of Ruxbin and I get our dear friend, Mr. Teddy Ruxbin. haha.

  2. i was thinking maybe it's some korean word pronounced in an engish way haha