A bowl of hot ramen on a steamy Chicago summer day? Yes! We weren’t sure what to expect when we went for lunch at Oiistar, but at first bite, we knew we were going to love this place.
Chef Sunny Kim is Korean, but the food reflects Kim’s experience with Asian, French and Italian cuisines. A duck breast bun ($4.50) included tender duck, wasabi, golden raisin jalapeño chutney and greens atop a soft, slightly sweet bun—appealing to the eye as well as the palate, as were all the dishes we tried. The combination of textures and flavors was outstanding. We also ordered the Oiimen ($13.50), one of three signature ramen dishes offered at lunchtime. Our choice featured pork belly, egg, scallion, tree-ear mushroom, spicy oil and garlic. The broth (which our server said had simmered for 18 hours) had a wonderful pork flavor, and the slightly chewy ramen was every bit as good as you’d expect from noodles made in-house. The kimchee chow ($9.50) was a warm and flavorful mix of BBQ beef, rice, spinach, kimchee, roasted nori, sesame, cotija cheese and egg. For dessert, we couldn't decide which we liked better between the delicate crème brulee with espresso caviar ($5) and a warm bao donut ($3) with cinnamon sugar and crème anglaise for dipping.
We enjoyed sitting at one of five outside tables, though the interior is a sleek, modern space that looked appealing as well. A note—the indoor seats don’t have backs, which might be uncomfortable for some customers. Also, though the restaurant was quiet during our weekday lunch, some diners have complained about the noise level in the evenings.