The menu at Chicago’s Mott St. is primarily Asian-inspired, but the two dishes that stand out to me most are the ones that remind me of Italian comfort classics. Mott St.’s celebrated mentaiko udon dish — an admittedly Japanese-style dish that gets a huge contribution from Korea’s number one ingredient: kimchi — screams carbonara pasta to me. The dish is creamy, buttery, smokey from the bonito flakes, and unlike any noodle dish I’ve had before.
Mott St. uses a local kimchi (the restaurant goes through so much that it has to outsource) for the mentaiko udon, and kimchi plays a big role in Mott St.’s signature stuffed cabbage dish, though all I’m thinking about is a plate of lasagna. The kimchi acts as the pasta, and the sticky rise on top achieves a crispy cheese quality, all drenched in kimchi butter. It’s an ingenious presentation that blends solid Korean flavors that make Mott St. one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago.