Friday, August 31, 2012

Chicago's only Yunnanese restaurant and more in this week's Food & Drink

Posted By on 08.31.12 at 07:31 AM

Lao Yunnan, formerly Spring World

The Chinatown empire of Tony Hu (Lao Sze Chuan, Lao Beijing, Lao Shanghai, Lao Hunan) continues to grow, with Lao Mala now open in the former Lure Izakaya space and a River North venture in the works. In this week's Food & Drink Mike Sula reviews Lao Yunnan, Hu's rapid takeover of Spring World, which has received less attention than its fellows. This is a pity: Spring World was Chicago's only Yunnanese restaurant, and Hu's menu retains many favorites, with a dedicated Yunnanese section amid the dauntingly long list of more than 800 panregional items. You can still eat such dishes as nuggets of boneless fried chicken tossed with nubbins of chewy rice cake, smoky lamb riblets fuming with cuminy vapors, and fatty fists of pig feet dubbed "Lao Yunnan special pork hand." There are lots of fish preparations, hot pots, and cold plates of soft, spicy eggplant or chewy slices of pig tongue. And the most iconic of Yunnanese specialties remains: Cross-Bridge rice noodles, a pork-and-chicken-broth soup customizable with beef or pork tripe and blood cakes.

In Cocktail Challenge, Patrick Henaghan of Michael Jordan's Steak House went so far as to conduct a tasting of six different types of chicken bouillon, the ingredient he was given. The result, I Must Have Flown the Coop, tempers the "fake chicken flavor" with the help of single-malt scotch, porter, and Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate bitters. "I'd order it, I'd drink it," says Henaghan. "But I don't know that I'd necessarily order a second one." Next up is Mike Freeman of the Palm, working with peanut butter, the smooth kind.

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