Located at 851 North Ashland Avenue in Chicago, Ruxbin Restaurant offers a warm mix of contemporary cuisine with worldly flavors. They bring elements of Asian, French and multi-cultural flavors.
Personally, I would describe it as ‘semi-haute cuisine’. It’s fancy, but it’s not too fancy. It’s difficult to put a specific style on it, but they know what they’re doing. Ruxbin avoids pretentiousness and arrives at presentation.
I went on a Saturday night; the atmosphere is friendly and cozy. I suggest getting going early; we had to wait about twenty minutes; seating is limited. Also, they do not take reservations.
The décor reminds me of a cross between a 19th-century photo lab and an antique shop. Most of the fixtures are re-purposed items such as iron-workings and heating elements. Ruxbin shows old wood alongside modern street art. A line of seatbelts serves as a backrest for the wall seating. It is clever and post modern with a tinge of rebellion. Solid orange, burnt ochre and gold hues provide a warm environment.
The hostess was pleasantly concerned with seating; the waiter introduced himself and filled our glasses with water. They were friendly but not overpowering.
For starters, we ordered the Tonkatsu ($11): panko-crusted pork tenders, with pickled melon, cilantro, walnuts and sake sesame sauce. The chef really cooked the pork nicely; the entire dish had a delicate crispness to it. It was light-hearted, with the fruity and sweet ginger. The chef put a good effort into getting the flavor palate limited, not overly hearty, making me ready for the main course.
I ordered the 9 Spice Quinoa ($16). This was hands-down the best-flavored Quinoa dish that I have ever eaten. The chef flavored it sublimely. I could taste hints of sautéed mushroom, cumin, butter, and an amazing smoky texture. It tasted like I was eating fantastic barbeque – only it was quinoa.
They served it on a square dish, with an orange masala sauce and grilled veggies. The masala gave it a slightly Indian aspect; the grilled veggies Americanized it.
Next we tried the Roasted Pork ($23) with black Beans, apple-rosemary and cranberry. This dish was dark and hearty. They cooked the Pork well; it was definitely a professional presentation with melt-in-your-mouth appeal.
I wasn’t such a fan of the apple-rosemary and cranberry. I think I wanted a little bit more fiery flavor in the beans. I think someone who enjoys good pork entrees would appreciate this dish. As boring as this may sound, I was reminded of steak and I was missing the potatoes.
If I could be critical of one aspect of Ruxbin, it would be the lack of challenge. I would enjoy a dish that I might have to wrestle with a little to understand. However, in place of challenge, Ruxbin provides a comfortable feeling. The food has heart.
Because of the high price of Chicago liquor licenses, Ruxbin is BYOB. I suggest bringing your own wine and beer if you care to drink. There are a few small liquor stores in the area within walking-distance.
Overall, I would definitely visit Ruxbin again; the food is amazing, the service is friendly, and there’s a chance to dine at this little restaurant before its popularity goes through the roof.