Kasama – A restaurant with 2 distinct personalities – NBC Chicago
One of the best restaurants in town proudly offers the flavors of the Philippines, according to NBC 5’s Food Guy Steve Dolinsky.
And as he navigates his way through Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Dolinsky explains that this local gem is the product of a dedicated team of husband and wife
It is a restaurant with two distinct personalities. Casual by day, tasting menu over $200 by night. But it’s the first restaurant of its kind to put Filipino cuisine on a pedestal, much like what Rick Bayless did for Mexican in the ’80s, or Arun’s in Albany Park for Thai cuisine a decade later.
Genie Kwon and Tim Flores worked together in fine dining before founding Kasama in the Ukrainian village, which begins every day as a neighborhood cafe, but with world-class pastries.
“So when you walk in during the day, you get a very different vibe when you walk in for dinner,” Kwon said.
His ham and cheese danish – an Instagram favorite – is topped with raclette cheese fondue and shavings of Serrano ham. Calamansi pie makes appearances in several drinks, such as the Reggie Flores, which also contains hibiscus. Then there’s ube – the beloved purple yam.
“Basque ube and blueberry cake that we make during the day. We also incorporate it into our lattes.
Filipino breakfasts with rice and two-finger sandwiches — with or without hash browns — contain steamed eggs as well as homemade sausages.
“These two contain our house sausage, the longaniza. Similar to Spanish chorizo except a bit sweeter,” Flores said.
When the sun goes down, the restaurant transforms into a $215 tasting menu with 13 dishes. Flores grew up in Cicero on a regular diet of home cooking, but his work experience got him to this point.
“And that’s why it’s so important to me to post this and introduce people to Filipino food who have never eaten it before. Having had a foodie experience for most of my career, wanting to elevate the cuisine Filipino and show that you can pair Filipino cuisine with wine,” he said.
An example: adobo.
“Adobo is basically the unofficial national dish of the Philippines,” Flores said.
In Flores’ hands, it’s a black maitake mushroom adobo with mussel mousse. The same goes for Sinigang, a typical sour soup.
“So instead of making a soup, we make a white butter sauce with tamarind; we throw in smoked trout roe and then it’s poured over poached salmon,” he said.
A piece of Wagyu A5 beef is grilled over charcoal, sliced and plated with caramelized onions in calamansi beef broth. Like all courses, it’s just a few bites, which always leaves you wanting more.
Kwon takes care of all three desserts, including a delicate French croissant covered in shaved black truffles, but also a more Filipino ending in the form of Halo Halo.
“It’s traditionally made with crushed ice and sweetened condensed milk,” she said. “It translates in the Philippines to ‘toss the mix’ and it’s just this really cool mish-mash of textures and flavors. I borrowed the flan de leche recipe from Tim’s mom; our version has pandan ice cream, there is Asian pear granita, fresh and freeze-dried fruit and it is topped with a little grilled rice.”
Flores says he wants nothing more than to raise appreciation for his culture’s cuisine.
“Brings a new idea and a new perception of Filipino cuisine. We focus on every little detail,” he said.
If you’re interested in dinner, you’ll need to make reservations at least six weeks in advance, but remember that no reservations are needed for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday.
Here’s where you can go:
1001 N. Winchester Avenue