Simply It has to be one of the most vague restaurant names in Chicago's recent memory. What is it
simply? After one visit, you'll see that Simply It stands for fresh, innovative Vietnamese food served up in a tranquil setting. And, you won't just know it because the owner (Tuan Ngyuen of Pasteur) spells out his food philosophy on the back of the menu.
With most dishes under $12, the menu and BYOB status caters to the budget-minded. The wide array of dishes, from vegetable-packed salads and hearty soups to stir-fry noodles and fried rice, are numbered in what appears to be an arbitrary order. Still, the seemingly inexperienced but polite wait staff relies on them.
To start, pick #42, Pumpkin Soup with chunks of pumpkin, loads of shrimp and savory pork. At $5.95 it's big enough to share. Crisp, fried rice paper wrapped tightly around cabbage and fresh herbs makes for some of the best egg rolls around. For larger groups, opt for the bargain-price ($6.25) Bon Vivant's Platter, an assortment of spring and egg rolls.
The entrees are heavy on seafood and chicken, but the portabella beef with asparagus is one of the best picks. Strips of stir-fried beef come with sliced spears of asparagus and thick portabella mushrooms that taste like they've been marinating in a salty, tangy sauce all day. The tasty curry chicken, with eggplant, green bell pepper, onions and yams, has a light consistency unlike traditional oil-heavy curries. Just when you can't eat another bite, the waiter brings out a complimentary dish of lychee fruit in syrup for dessert.
Though Simply It offers carry-out and delivery for a $2 fee, its Zen-like atmosphere makes it an ideal spot for hanging with friends. Groups of Lincoln Park locals spanning all ages carry on conversations at the white-linen-covered tables. Orange and ivory stretched nylon lanterns reflect off green and orange walls, and the exposed brick accents, stone floors and wood ceiling add a rustic feel to the space. Simply put, Simply It satisfies.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Dana Kavan