Restaurants & Bars 17

Hopleaf

David Hammond | May 19, 2002 09:40 AM

Last night, Rene organized a gathering of local chow-enthusiasts (and a few folks we met along the way) to sample the beers at Hopleaf Bar(5148 N. Clark) and the cuisine of several nearby Southeast Asian restaurants, specifically a new Cambodian place called Teevy Café (4418 N. Broadway), but also several others.

Hopleaf is a magnificent bar. The selection of Belgian beers is absolutely awe-inspiring. I sampled several, and each one was different and full of character. Standouts included one on tap called Duchess of Bourgogne, which was described as “sour” but had an almost champagne-like bubbliness and sweetness and another draft selection called Kwok (sounds Asian, but isn’t) that was a full-bodied, blonde ale served in a strange beaker in a wooden stand (one of the peculiarities of Belgian beer is that each has its own traditional glass – this bar must have a massive stemware collection).

We ordered out for a goodly quantity of grub, and several items struck me as uniquely delicious. One dish was a catfish with bacon in a sweet soy-based sauce, which may not sound like an intuitively complementary collocation of tastes but was really very good, the mini-slabs o’ pork had a richness that worked with the fish, which was firm and fresh. We also had a papaya salad with beef jerky, which also sounds like a strange combo of flavors but was very tasty: the sweetness of the papaya played off the smokiness of the beef, and the protein-digestive enzymes in the fruit seemed to enhance the experience of eating the meat. There were also about ten other dishes we sampled, but these two were for me the most unusual.

We ended up dining and drinking for about five hours – but in that time, I had only three beers; each one was so satisfying that I found that without even thinking about it, I was drinking only one beer every hour or so – it just seemed natural to nurse them.

Thanks Rene – an outstanding gastronomic experience.

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