After walking into Perilla’s loud, brick-walled space and seeing a bunch of tables with grills, ordering BBQ might seem like a logical choice. But just like how Botox was designed to cure double vision, and Viagra was originally intended as a blood pressure medication, we’ve since found better uses for this West Loop restaurant. We actually prefer coming to this fun neighborhood spot for everything else on the menu instead.
The reason we don’t focus on the BBQ here is simple - it’s not particularly good, and it’s just not a very fun experience. Your server hovers over the grill (which never gets hot enough), overcooking under-seasoned meat, while politely explaining in a lot of detail exactly what’s happening. The process feels stuffy and tedious, like being trapped in a boring conversation at a party while all the other tables seem to be having a really great time.
But now that we’ve addressed the gas-grill elephant in an otherwise very fun room, we can focus on the rest of the food on the menu, which is really good. Like the tender fire chicken, covered in melty chihuahua cheese and spicy enough to warrant the name. And if you come here and don’t order the incredibly light and crispy kimchi pancake, you need to take some time and re-evaluate your life’s decisions.
The rotating seasonal vegetable plates are also must-orders - our favorites are the blistered shishitos with hazelnuts, or broccoli topped with fried garlic chips. And pairing the steamed egg (a bowl filled with a cartoonishly-tall pile of fluffy eggs) with the spicy meat dishes has made us discover an entirely new appreciation for eggs.
You won’t wake up in the middle of the night thinking about some of the food, like the perfectly serviceable dumplings, or glass noodles mixed with bland pieces of bulgogi, but they’re fine. The most important thing is that you don’t get distracted by the grills when you come here - no matter how shiny they are - and order some of the other delicious small plates instead. They’ll probably find a better use for them at some point, anyway.
With the exception of the galbi, the marinated meat at Perilla is bland and it’s consistently overcooked. Plus, the seven-to-eight banchan dishes that accompany it aren’t particularly interesting. The kimchi is good, and so are the pickled radishes. Everything else (like cucumbers and the tofu) is boring, and the turmeric beets are a true nightmare.
An absolute must order. The chicken is tender, and spicy enough to earn the name but not so much Dick Wolf will be making a Chicago Fire Chicken spinoff anytime soon. Its topped with enough chihuahua cheese to balance down the heat, but not enough to be overwhelming.
Another thing that needs to be on the table. There are three different pancakes here (scallion, kimchi, and seafood) and our favorite is the kimchi. But all are light and crispy, and pair well with the soy vinaigrette they’re served with.
Perilla knows how to make chicken. The sweet and spicy fried chicken wings here are very good, and the housmade ranch makes a fantastic dipping sauce.
The pieces of pork shoulder are moist and coated in a rich spicy sauce. It comes on top of rice, but we like eating this with the steamed egg.
We’re not often overwhelmed by eggs, but when this appeared on the table, it gave us pause. It’s a giant bowl of light and fluffy steamed eggs, with dashi, green onion, and sesame. It makes a great side to the spicy meat dishes (like the pork or chicken) and we also like it on its own with some gochujang.
Are these dumplings worth driving across town for? Not really, but if you’re here go ahead and get an order.
At some point, we felt like we couldn’t go to any restaurant without seeing shishito peppers on the menu. It’s hard to make them stand out, but Perilla does. They’re perfectly charred, and the sweet sauce is a nice counterpoint to the pepper. Plus, hazelnuts add some good texture, and the fried anchovies give it some salt.
There are just too many beets in this. It overwhelms the rice and the bland bulgogi and turns everything purple when it gets mixed together.
The bland bulgogi strikes again. The soy flavor overwhelms the combination of beef, noodles, and vegetables, and you don’t need to order it.