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  • The Anonymous Hungry Hippopotamus

The Windy City Part 4: (Michelin) Star Gazing

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

As I said in a previous post, "Chicago is a foodie's paradise." You can find award-winning restaurants around every corner. In fact, Chicago is currently home to 22 restaurants that have at least one Michelin star. I was blessed to dine at three of them during my visit. Two are featured in this post (along with a Bib Gourmand restaurant) and one is yet to come.

"Kasama" means "with" or "together" in Tagalog. It refers both to sharing and communing with others over food, as well as the husband and wife team of Tim Flores and Genie Kwon, who opened Kasama in 2020. As many feelings and experiences of together-ness as this restaurant engenders, it stands alone in this one fact: Kasama is the world's first and only Michelin-starred, Filipino restaurant.

And it seems that people all over the world want a taste. When I arrived close to opening, and thinking I was early, there was already a line both, up ...

... and down, the street for several blocks. I joined in and started to prepare for the long wait ahead.

Over 90 minutes later, I finally made it to the front door. This is the longest I have ever stood in line to get into a restaurant. The wait was long, the weather was hot and I was quite hungry, but the time passed quickly because I met two lovely people in line ahead of me, with whom I chatted as we all eagerly anticipated our upcoming meal.

When we got to the counter, we decided to sit together and share our meal.

Oh, Hot Yam!

Ube Latte With Coconut Sap

Lumpia Shanghai

Fried Pork Spring Roll and Sweet Chili

Chicken Adobo

Grilled Chicken Thigh and Garlic Rice

This was different than any chicken adobo I had previously. The flavors of a traditional adobo were present, but Kasama subtracted the liquid, decreased the vinegar and added caramelization and that unique flavor you can only get on a grill.

Filipino Breakfast

Fried Egg, Garlic Rice, Longanisa Sausage and Tocino

I have always loved longanisa (Filipino sausage), but this was my first time trying tocino which is a sweetened and cured pork belly. Both were wonderful.

Black Truffle Croissant, Strawberry Crème Fraîche Cheesecake, Ube Huckleberry Basque Cake

Kasama isn't just a restaurant. It is a bakery as well and their desserts are so, very good. The black truffle croissant was, flavor-wise, the best croissant I have ever eaten. The croissant is filled with a mixture of black truffles and Delice de Bourgogne cheese and then topped with honey and truffle oil. It is sweet and savory perfection. The cheesecake was light, airy and flavorful and the ube huckleberry tart was moist, with perfectly crisped edges.

And if you think that was a sweet ending to a delicious meal, I have something to add even more sweetness. Of the two lovely people that I met in line, and had the pleasure of sharing this meal with, one was a local. She insisted on paying for my entire meal as a welcome gift to the city of Chicago. The kindness of strangers moves me deeply every time. Thank you to both of you for making my meal at Kasama extra special.

North Pond

North Pond is located in beautiful, Lincoln Park, which I shared about in my last post. The restaurant has earned numerous awards including a Michelin star. The menu at North Pond celebrates the seasons by honoring ingredients at the time they peak. The food is hearty, rustic and comforting.

And the view is spectacular. This picturesque spot can be found at the edge of the North Pond Nature Sanctuary, overlooking Chicago's skyline.

The restaurant itself is housed in a 1912 building laden with beautiful windows, fireplaces and French doors. It was built in the Arts and Crafts style which emphasizes the inherent qualities of the building materials themselves. With Chaucer and Thoreau quotes on the walls, and bricks and wood all around, the setting makes you feel like you have been transported to the countryside, with a view of a big city skyline.

Amuse Bouche: Green Eggs and Ham

Capers, Peas, Jamon Iberico and Herb Hollandaise

I found the presentation of this dish so creative and inviting.

Potato Roll with Corn and Truffle Butter

I've had truffle butter many times and I love it. The addition of corn added just a touch of lovely sweetness.

Tomato, Crab

Busan Crab, Assorted Rooftop Tomatoes, Green Tomato "Chip," Ginger Dressing, Basil Seeds

The "rooftop" tomatoes were literally grown on the roof of the restaurant.

Tuna Tartare

Blue Fin, Aji Amarillo, Chicharron, Three Sisters Black Beans, Shiro Plum Reduction, Golden Raspberries, Leche de Tigre

The restaurant provides extra sauce that you can pour over the tartar to create a proportion that is to your exact liking.

Agnolotti, Squash Blossom

Toasted Masa, Daylily-Ricotta Filling, Maple-Sunflower Cream, Grover's Prawns, Sunflower Seed Brittle

Combining all the components made for a perfectly balanced bite. This was my favorite dish.

Lamb, Dates

Spice Rubbed Lamb Loin, Pistachio Amlou Pastilla, Orange Blossom Gel, Hakurei Turnip, Lamb Jus, Charred Dates

Intermezzo: Korean Melon Stuffed with Honey Creme

The honey used in the dish was sourced from the restaurant's rooftop hives.

Peach, Basil

Pandan Castrella Cake, Thai Basil and Frillman's Peach Swirl Ice Cream, Tapioca Pearls, Almond Crunch, Pandan "Dust"

Passion Fruit Gelee with Crispy Rice Pearls


Avec is a Mediterranean restaurant and a long-time Chicago favorite. For 20 years, everyone from Anthony Bourdain to FX's The Bear and the Obamas to Dua Lipa have sung its praises. Though is has not earned a Michelin star, it does have a Bib Gourmand distinction.

Despite its popularity and high profile guest list, the space is laid-back and understated. There is no flashy signage and the entrance is indicated by nothing more than a little pig right next to the door handle.

Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates with Bacon and Piquillo Pepper-Tomato Sauce

These bacon-wrapped, chorizo-stuffed dates are an Avec signature.

Yogurt-Marinated Chicken with House-made Pita and Falafel-Seasoned Potato Chips

Dylan Patel, who is of Indian origin, is the chef at Avec. His earliest experiences were watching and helping his uncle cook traditional Indian food. Therefore, I was not surprised to find that the pita bread read much more like naan than traditional pita, and it was absolutely delicious. The chicken also had subtle Indian influences such as the yogurt marinade which is also used to make tandoori chicken.

Nutter Butter Square

Chocolate Ganache, Peanut Butter and Corn Flake Crust

This dessert was very tasty and the perfect ending to the meal.

My next two posts will feature the amazing art that I viewed in Chicago and an iconic restaurant that has consistently been ranked among the world's 50 best restaurants.

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