Lao Sze Chuan [Photo: Facebook]
The Uptown location of Lao Sze Chuan does things just as well as the original Chinatown spot. Julia Kramer embraces the spiciness with mapo tofu, "silky, light" cubes of bean curd in a "tingling, Szechuan pepper-broth" that "engulfs you." Tony's Chicken with Three Chili is sweet and salty and "craveable in the same heroin-like way fast food is" while Lamb with Pure Cumin Powder is the "most tender, meltingly good cumin lamb you've ever encountered." But perhaps the most blistering dish is the Peking Style Rice Noodle Soup that's a "deeply pleasurable" bowl of fat noodles and ground pork in a chili broth that will "set your brain on fire." Sounds like a scorcher.
Meanwhile David Tamarkin checks out another one of Tony Hu's restaurants, Lao Ma La. Skewers of chicken are "delicious and tender" and the Special Broiled Fish, buried in a broth of dried chilies and "tongue-numbing" peppercorns, is "flaky and perfect." Hand-torn pancakes are a "mess of dough" but "deeply satisfying," while skewers of bacon dusted with chili powder are "sweet and fatty and spicy" and pack "the kind of punch we had been looking for." And gelatinous "pork hands" may not be an American's favorite dish but Tamarkin is thankful for its "tender bite of meat under the fat, slicked with salt and garlic." [TOC]
Sam Worley thinks the food at La Sirena Clandestina is "not particularly exciting" and could use a little more flavor. The hanger steak is "cooked well enough inside, and of such high quality" but the crust is "overcharred and underseasoned, and the chimichurri it's served beneath tastes mostly of parsley," and the fried snapper "effects a striking presentation" but isn't "wholly different than something you'd find at, say, the Fish Keg." "Juicy and tender" chicken thighs are accompanied by "another dish cooked to middling: they come with passable rapini, peanuts and chiles, and the fleetingest hint of garlic." For sides, the frites are "holy" and sautéed collard greens are "warm and satisfying," while a "delicate, ethereal" coconut cheesecake with a drop of guava juice is a "study in restraint" that works. [Reader]
Over in Schaumburg, Yu's Mandarin is serving up "high-quality dishes" of authentic Asian cuisine. A dry-rubbed cumin chicken is a "consummately addictive appetizer with subtly sweet notes" and the salt and pepper shrimp are "meaty crustaceans" with a "deep and muted" flavor. The "winter-perfect" beef casserole can "sate merely with a look" and is "hot, juicy and delicious" with leeks and kimchee, topped with large beef slices in a thick, fiery-orange broth. "Small textural touches" like long, slender cucumber slivers provide a "pleasurable crunch and make all the difference" in the "most interesting dish" Izidora Angel tries — black bean noodles with pork and shrimp. [Daily Herald]