Growing up in the hippie confines of Eugene, Ore., Aria chef Noah Bekofsky was weaned on a macrobiotic diet consisting of brown rice with miso soup and watercress. He didn’t even start eating meat until he was 14.
It’s precisely because of this background that Bekofsky realizes comfort isn’t always defined by chicken noodle soup. At Aria, soul-satisfying food translates as shrimp and chicken pad thai with zingy citrus notes and Korean bi bim bop with jasmine-perfumed rice, fiery red pepper paste and silky poached eggs.
For Bekofsky, infusing new flavor into old comfort meant passing the power to his patrons to construct their own pints of ice cream this summer. If you’ve ever wanted to roll like Elvis and chow down on some peanut butter and fried pickle ice cream, just call (312) 565-6665; Bekofsky will have a hunk of freezing love ready for you within 48 hours.
Q. What do you wish you could change/pickle about the Chicago restaurant/food scene?
A. I wish the Green City Market could be year- round. Not only is it a great way to support your local farmers, but it is a great place for chefs to meet and chat in the mornings. We bounce ideas off each other and get a chance to see what others are buying and putting on the menu.
Q. What would your last meal be?
A. It would be a bowl of brown rice with miso soup and watercress. I grew up eating it, and when I feel down or need a pick-me-up, I always go for miso and watercress.
Q. What Chicago chef would you be most willing to share a kitchen with?
A. Rick Bayless. He’s done so much for the local community. Rick is very in tune with the farmers, sourcing and background of ingredients and is a wealth of knowledge.
Q. What’s the can’t-miss meal at Aria?
A. The organic beet salad and strawberry rhubarb tart. The spring beets are so sweet and delicate, and the salad is outstanding. Now is the time for all those rhubarb fans to come in and have a little slice of heaven.
Q. What should we know about Aria that we probably don’t?
A. Our sorbets are all from fresh-squeezed juices and made in small batches in house. I guarantee that a sorbet-lover will be in heaven with the sampling we offer.
Aria; 200 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago (312) 444-9494