BellyQ reveals details on its beverage program
bellyQ, Bill Kim's third "Belly" restaurant, is almost here (rumor is they start mock service next week), so TOC took a few minutes to talk to Peter Vestinos, the bartender-turned-consultant (and Chicagoan-turned-Californian) who's behind the barbecue spot's drinks program. "Right from the beginning, chef [Kim] has always told me: Think in fives," Vestinos said. What does it mean to "think in fives" for a beverage program? It means things will be pretty simple, and very streamlined. Some noteworthy details:
- There will be five cocktails. These drinks will be distinguished by a few characteristics: They will lean ever-so-slightly sweet (to help take the edge off the spicy food), they won't be overly complicated ("If something's complex on the plate, you really want to make it simpler in the glass," Vestinos says), they'll be lower in alcohol (stronger drinks would just taste "hot" pitted against spicy food, Vestinos reasons) and they will feature Asian ingredients like aloe, vinegar, yuzu, sake, sesame leaf, basil seed, chai tea, coconut milk, vietnamese cinnamon, shochu...stuff like that. (An example, pictured above, is the #8 [the cocktails are all named with numbers, like a Chinese takeout menu], which is something of an Asian mojito: sake, yuzu, sesame leaf, cane sugar, mango and basil seeds.)
- There will be five beers on tap, five in cans and five large-format. The beers on draft will be local to Chicagoland (Three Floyds, 5 Rabbit, Solemn Oath, etc), the beers in cans will be domestic and the large format beers will be Asian and/or "Asian influenced."
- There will only be five wines—and they shall remain nameless. Four of those wines will be on tap, will be priced $8/glass, $24/half-liter, $45/liter, and will be identified like so:
Tap #1 – White – Lean and Clean
Tap #2 – White – Round and Lush
Tap #3 – Red – Light and Easy
Tap # 4 – Red – Bold and Rich
The wines will rotate often, but you'll never know it, because they'll never be named. (The fifth wine will be a sparkling, available as a split for $12.)
- In addition to these lists of five, there will be a sake list and a full bar.
After hearing about all this, I was compelled to ask Vestinos: Isn't this kind of risky? The wine list alone has the potential to infuriate a certain breed of diner. (I can see the Yelp reviews already.) Vestino laughed and said, "I think a lot of this is risky. The risk is that we don't have a lot of choices. People like a lot of choices. But we focused our selection. We focused it with the intention of: What we have goes with the food, goes with the concept. It's a product that we believe in."
Sounds fair to me. We'll see how the rest of the public responds when bellyQ opens in a couple weeks.