Great Lamb and Brandy Dumplings at Urban Belly in Chicago

20081002-nagrant-dumplings.jpgUrban Belly, a new noodle shop from former Charlie Trotter disciple and haute chef Bill Kim, opened a few weeks ago. Some folks saw it as Chicago's answer to David Chang and Momofuku noodle bar. While I thought the pork belly ramen with its star anise overtones was really good, I was disappointed in the crab udon, which I had to season myself. More than anything else, I was disappointed at the price point—I didn't feel that $13 for a bowl of noodles and broth was fair, especially when I could get similar things from Vietnamese and Japanese spots around town for $6 to $7.

That being said, I haven't been able to get Kim's dumplings out of my mind, possibly some of the better Asian dumplings around. Freshly steamed, they're light and wrinkly and filled with all manner of goodies, from tender shards of duck perfumed with pho spices to cilantro flecked pork. My favorite are the slightly gamy rich lamb laced with brandy dumplings tossed with toasted fennel and nestled on a bed of edamame. Even at $7 for four, I'm of the mind that you can charge whatever you want if you offer a unique food item, and you just won't find these anywhere else.

Urban Belly

3053 North California Avenue, Chicago IL 60618 (b/n W Barry Avenue and W Nelson Street; map) (773) 583-0500