‘Top Chef’ finalist Beverly Kim and husband John Clark elevate Korean-American cuisine at Parachute.
When former C-House sous chef John Clark moved to Chicago in 2008, he began searching for someone who shared in his love of Korean cooking. Almost immediately, he came across a local magazine spread featuring “Top Chef” whiz Beverly Kim (Aria, Charlie Trotter’s, Takashi). “I sent her my résumé hoping to connect and possibly get a job,” he recalls. The two ended up working together at the short-lived French fusion spot Bonsoirée — and soon after, they made their partnership official as husband and wife. Now, the couple is keeping things all in the family with their newly opened Korean-American spot, Parachute. “I think we make better food because we enjoy ourselves,” says Kim of working with her spouse.
The menu — broken out into snacks, small plates, noodle dishes, meat-focused entrees and hot pots — is similarly family focused, inspired by Kim’s memories of growing up around her mother’s rich Korean meals. “My mom is one of our regulars,” she jokes. Parachute’s crispy sesame leaves with bourbon and barrel soy were a snack Kim’s mom made for study sessions ($5); the dolsot bi bim bop features marinated short rib, which was a specialty reserved for family celebrations ($17); and the pat bing su dessert with cucumber ice, condensed milk ice cream, red bean and kiwi is similar to a childhood treat she remembers eating during visits to the Korean market ($7). “I used familiar techniques, but we also added our own touches to create a new experience for guests already familiar with a more traditional style,” Kim says.
Here’s what else to expect at Parachute:
The staples: The menu will adapt to reflect seasonality, but there are a few must-have dishes that will stay the course. Try the house specialty bing bread, stuffed with baked potato condiments and served with sour cream butter ($4 half/$7 whole), or the pork belly and mung bean pancake, topped with kimchi, black garlic, pineapple and egg ($10). “We sell 20 a night in a 40-seat restaurant,” says Clark.
The vibe: Cozy and communal. All of Parachute’s dishes are prepared family-style, so that everyone at the table “can try a lot of different flavors,” says Kim. That emphasis on community is also expressed in seating arrangements, from closely sectioned bench seating to a long marble-top bar that peers into the chef’s den and overlooks shelves filled with personal cookbooks, labeled spice racks and a working record player.
Breaking traditions: Kim and Clark keep things interesting by breaking away from many Korean traditions. Their ingredient list is particularly radical — they use watermelon radish zuke for the house pickles trio ($8) and lamb sofrito and cumin for the spicy hand-torn noodle dish ($14).
Drink up: Turn over Parachute’s food menu and you’ll find a drink program with a focus on concentrated mom-and-pop wine and spirit makers. Each drink is carefully selected to match the salty, sour or spicy flavor profiles of the cuisine, including three housemade cocktails ($10 each) and a non-alcoholic elderflower lemonade ($4).
3500 N. Elston Ave., (773) 654-1460; Parachuterestaurant.com