BY Meghan Streit
Andersonville's Cosina was replaced a few weeks ago by taKOs KOreanos, which, as the name implies, serves a fusion of Mexican and Korean cuisine. The resulting dishes taste as interesting as they sound. Think tacos filled with Korean-seasoned beef and guacamole spiked with tangy kimchi.
The Foster Ave. restaurant is a casual spot, but the design doesn't feel like an afterthought. taKOs KOreanos is BYOB ( at least for now ), so you can have a fun and unique meal for less than $20 per person. Bring cash because plastic isn't accepted.
The Mexican and Korean flavors are combined in clever ways, succeeding roundly in some instances and ending up more bizarre than brilliant in others. The pork belly mini egg rolls are a tempting-sounding starterand they taste good, too. My complaint is that the filling is so scant that the flavors of the pork belly and the kimchi are barely discernible through the crispy fried shell. If the egg rolls were a bit plumper with filling, they'd be a clear winner.
The "Korea" fries were my favorite appetizer. Thin, golden French fries are covered in slightly sweet braised short ribs, and then topped with grilled onions, scallions, cheddar cheese and sour cream. It's a like a cross between nachos and poutine, and every gooey bit is delicious.
The menu features a nice selection of tacos and bahn mi. The tacos all make an effort to infuse the traditional Mexican snack with Korean flavor, while cilantro, jalapeno and sides of chips and guac lend some Mexican flair to the traditional Asian sandwiches. I really enjoyed the shrimp tacos. The plump shrimp are fried to a crunchy golden exterior and drizzled with honey chili sauce. I found the chicken tacos less satisfying. The chicken was nicely seasoned, but the texture was too dry, worsened by the fact that the taco features little other than a flour tortilla and chicken. Some cheese and veggies may have gone a long way in adding some moisture to the taco. Whichever taco you order, you'll want to dress it with the chipotle mayo delivered to your table in a squeezable bottle for precise application. In fact, the mayo is so good that just about every menu item can benefit from a little squirt.
In addition to the nice selection of tacos and bahn mi, there are also a few rice plates on the menu. For my money, I'd stick with the more straightforward offerings. The rice plates come with your choice of meat ( Korean beef, spicy chicken, spicy pork or braised pork belly ). The meat is piled onto a plateful of slightly sticky rice, tossed with some greens, and then baked into an omelet. The notion of eggs for dinner always turns me off, and the bulgogi rice plate did nothing to reverse that opinion. The combination of white rice and scrambled eggs resulted in an overall blandness that the nicely seasoned beef could not overcome. While I can see how a dish like this would satisfy as comfort food eaten in the cozy confines of your mother's kitchen, it simply didn't translate for me as an entrée at a restaurant.
taKOs KOreanos is at 1706 W. Foster Ave.; call 773-654-1220.
Do you need some more Sugar & Spice in your life? Follow me on Twitter: @SugarAndSpiceMSfor inside scoop and commentary on Chicago's dining scene.