Mike and Chao Announce Plans for Brand New Restaurant Concept in Chicago

We’ve been all over Chicago, all over the Country, and now, all over the WORLD pursuing the activity we love most. EATING. What more do you want from us!?! It’s time to bring it all back home. We’re pleased to announce the next step in the world of Mike and Chao: a restaurant. That’s right. A RESTAURANT. You can read about it on Eater.com, Chicago Magazine’s Dish, Grubstreet, and The Feast to learn a little more. If you are the kind of person who needs a visual to accompany all of those tiny words against the white background… well, then we’ve got you covered. Check this out:

Announcing Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar, a neighborhood restaurant that unites Japanese culinary tradition and creativity with a distinctly American persona. Embracing American warmth and character with classic cultural touch points such as graffiti and rock-and-roll while juxtaposing them with the high art and ritual of Japanese cuisine, reveals a restaurant that is warm, stylish and a unique culinary adventure. Think: a place where Japanese-style grilled meat, vegetables and fish (kushiyaki) meet sushi, snacks and sake. A true riff on what is expected or traditional – East or West.

Want to know more? This is where we’ll be until May 2011 when we open at 230 West Erie Street – Franklin and Erie for those of you who haven’t figured out the grid system yet. Keep visiting our blog!

Just a Hint:

Our Twitter followers will get exclusive previews and our most dedicated followers will receive invites to opening events. Long story short, we’d go ahead and follow @mikeandchaochow on Twitter. It’ll be worth it.

A Few Days in Bangkok

Dinner-with-Chaos-FamilyBy the time we got to Bangkok, we were mere shadows of the vibrant, energetic travelers we once were. We headed straight for Chao’s house to meet his family, who took us out for a nice dinner at a local restaurant. We ate, talked about our travels, then headed home for one of the most well-received nights of sleep you can imagine.

On our first full day in Bangkok, we headed downtown to meet up with some friends from South Africa, in town for two nights. For our first official activity in Bangkok, we took a boat tour on what just might have been THE most polluted river on the planet. We cruised by the city’s famous houseboats and floating market (below).


We disembarked to tour (or hike, really) some of the local temples (below) and to see the Grand Palace, a complex of regal buildings that have served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand since the eighteenth century.


We walked around for a bit in Siam Square, a popular area thriving with shopping, cinemas, and plenty of food. We tried a little pad thai, made fresh on the street, and some disco shrimp.

Phuket, Days 17-18


After a few days of relaxation, we were ready to kick it in to gear. Things like “chilling” and “lounging” come so easily when you’re spending a few days on a beach in Thailand, but we were ready to see what else the neighborhood had to offer.

Our first stop: Kamala Beach. We spent a little time chilling (you have to ease into actual activities), then decided on a little jet skiing and parasailing. Lunch on the beach, a bit more lounging, and we called it a night. After all, we had even more planned for the next day.

Our next day was dedicated to some genuine, adventure-filled exploring of Phuket Island. The day began with one of Thailand’s famous past-times, go-karting, followed by a little shooting (clay discs only, thank you). Our final stop: ATVs in the jungle. We ran into some massive elephants, got our jungle on for a bit, then finished up our day of physical challenges for an evening of culinary challenges…


What’s a day with Mike and Chao without a little cooking and a lot of eating? That’s why we decided it was time for the Iron Chef Thailand Cook-Off. In one corner, we have Chao, a seasoned chef and one half of the renowned dining/traveling team known as Mike and Chao. In the other corner, Maew, a relative newcomer on our blog who took center stage New Year’s Day with her surprising culinary accumen and detailed presentation. The key ingredients of the day: corn and pork.


As the race got underway, the name of the game was decisiveness. Maew got off to a hot start, moving with diligence and a clear plan in mind. Chao took a minute to strategize, but responded to the concerned looks of guests with a stern, “I got this.”

Once both chefs were in the kitchen and moving, there was no getting in there. The one thing about sharing a kitchen in a competition like this–no room for surprises. On several occasions they couldn’t resist from sneaking a peek. The only other soul allowed in the kitchen was Peter, mixing up some specialty mixed cocktails and keeping an eye on the ongoing challenge.


That’s when thing started to escalate, beginning with Chao’s singular utterance: “Goddamn it…” His butter sauce had separated, a pretty basic mistake for a chef of his caliber. He tried like hell to get it back together, but recovering from a misstep like that is no easy feat. Meanwhile, Ms. Maew was all smiles, chugging away on her dish with speed and precision. Chao watched, shaking his head and declaring that it was all over.


Mike and the rest of the crew watched as Chao teetered on throwing in the towel, but pushed him to keep on trucking. Still unhappy with his sauce, he decided to press on–just without the pork part of the challenge. You can blame that on his secret taste of Maew’s pork dish–“It’s just too good.”



When it came down to it, Chao’s shrimp with corn and butter sauce couldn’t stand up to Maew’s garlic shrimp with corn. The flavor on Maew’s shrimp was perfectly balanced with the corn, leaving Chao’s dish tasting just a little bit salty (and then there was the butter sauce, which had been sadly irredeemable).


Phuket, Day 16

BeforeandAfterEveryone slept in pretty late New Year’s Day, but we were up in time to get our big plans for the day in motion. It’s probably no surprise that our plans for Jan. 1 revolved around food. Once we were all up and at ’em, Chao made a trip to the local seafood market to get some supplies for:

The First (and Probably Only) Mike and Chao Chow Thailand New Year’s Day Extravaganza-Palooza Dinner and Party

Someone suggested we go with a more concise title, but we wanted the party to have a bit more weight to it. Our last dinner experiment was pretty awesome, so we wanted to see if we could recreate it–in a different country.

We should take a step back: we couldn’t have imagined how incredible it would be to wake up on New Year’s Day to perfect weather and this outside your window.


Fresh lobster with eggs

Pork belly with garlic, black pepper & cilantro

Fried rice

Pad siew stir fry noodles
with chicken & soy


Papaya salad

Steamed fish in a special, homemade broth

Grilled squid


So, back to business. We had several friends coming over, one of which happened to be a self-proclaimed chef and would be helping Chao out with the meal. You know the phrase, “Too many cooks in the kitchen”? We were about to test that out, literally.

The cooking begins: Chao hit the grill first to get the lobsters/crabs going, but returned to the kitchen to see that our friend the chef (Maew’s her name) had taken charge of the kitchen like nothing we’d ever seen:

Everything was going so smoothly–the aroma from the pork belly wafting as the steamed fish started to cook, while she finished up the papaya salad (which looked and smelled amazing).

Chao’s initial reaction was to start asking questions, but a few moments in this completely under control kitchen, filled with such beautiful, savory and sweet scents and he relaxed. He leaned in to taste one of the dishes, wondering if everything would taste as amazing as it smelled, and was once again rendered speechless.


Pork Belly in Special Thai Marinade

You can imagine how incredibly entertaining this all was for Mike and the rest of the guests to watch. Every now and then, Chao stepping in to make a suggestion or change something, only to be immediately countered by Maew, firmly establishing herself as the not-to-be-questioned head chef of the evening. And Chao? Well, Chao took a backseat.


Was that difficult for Chao? Perhaps. It certainly helped that she was more than gifted in the kitchen, and that everything came out looking/smelling/tasting perfect. We all set the table, grabbed some dishes, and sat down for our first major meal of 2011, a year we hope will be filled with many more evenings of delicious food and good company, just like this one.


A few more highlights from our dinner: If this whole blog thing doesn’t work out, we definitely think we have the beginnings of a killer children’s book: “Chao the Chef”? “See Chao Eat”? We did a little storyboarding for you (below). To all you publishers, you can hit us up on Twitter if you’re interested (@mikeandchaochow).

Chao-and-The-Lobster-StoryAnother star of the evening: Peter. The sign of a true friend and bartender is always coming prepared (also the sign of a good Boy Scout, right?). Well, Peter always travels with his supplies, so he had a fresh mojito bar set up in the kitchen in no time. The fresh mint and the cool refreshing taste were just what our dinner needed–washing down our tasty meal and relieving any inter-chef tensions. Overall, our first party in Thailand was a success, largely thanks to our up-and-coming local friend who showed us how to do it up right, Phuket-style.