Stepping inside Chef Shangri-La's dining room is like entering a distant tropical trading post. Thatched awnings, woven ceilings, and palm fronds flank Polynesian masks and Easter Island statues while scents of Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine waft with Polynesian aromas from mango- and pineapple-covered meats, barbecue char siu, and spicy sichuan stir-fries. Rock walls and fountains line a tucked-away koi pond, and a separate tiki bar urges guests to while away the hours sipping tropical drinks outfitted with tiny umbrellas that belong to tiny British nannies. As guests sup on meals of japanese noodle soup and tropical pua'a pork, the stage area regales diners with live Hawaiian bands every third Saturday of the month and annual music fests and luaus with DJs, dancers, and Polynesian collectables.
Chicago's Best Cocktail Glasses
The Dr. Fong cocktail recipe is a closely guarded secret at this nearly 40-year-old tiki institution. Learn more about the beautiful glassware that houses this stiff, citrusy concoction.
Since 1980, Golden Wok Restaurant's chefs have used zero-trans-fat vegetable oils while preparing spice-filled Cantonese and Mandarin cuisine. At dinner, the restaurant's tables fill with dishes of sizzling barbecue pork egg foo young, chow mein and lo mein, and Cantonese–style lobster tails.
When she opened Take Me Out, Karen Lim was attempting to fill her parents' shoes while they were still wearing them. The elder Lims are the owners of Great Sea, a Chinese restaurant known for its delectable Asian-style wings. But it turns out Karen’s version, which she calls "hotties", may be even better. Chicago magazine named them the best Asian-style wings in the city in 2009, and other press outlets, including the Chicago Reader and Chicago Sun-Times, have raved about them as well. Though an ABC News feature kept Lim's methods under wraps, it did list a handful of ingredients—chilies, honey, soy, and garlic—that contribute to the spicy sauce, a "secret weapon" that takes eight hours to brew. Guests can smother their wings in this tangy concoction or in its mild and medium variants, which provide less kick than the original version, yet more than lukewarm yogurt. Before being served, the meat is "Frenched," or pushed to one side of the bone for ease of eating (the wings are often compared to lollipops in appearance). Sides of crab rangoon, pot stickers, and daikon help mounds of rice offset the fire of each bite, and patrons can also bring libations from home.
Centerstage Chicago reviewer Kate Schwartz noted that, after the move to Restaurant Row from its former Gold Coast location, Dragonfly Mandarin "has staked its claim among some of Chicago's culinary elite." It has done so with the help of Executive Chef Michael Lin, who crafts authentic Chinese and Asian dishes with high-end ingredients such as flank steak and king prawns. From the unctuously decadent—pork-belly ramen soup with poached eggs—to the crisp and refreshing—cucumber-mint salad with ponzu sauce—the entrees step up to impress his patrons' taste buds, as evidenced by the Best of Citysearch award for Chinese food in 2007 and an OpenTable Diners' Choice award for Asian food. The decor is as sleek and sophisticated as the upscale cuisine. On the first floor, elegantly fanned umbrellas protect the walls from fumbled chopsticks. Long, ornate lanterns illuminate the balcony at the top of the stairway to the second floor, where club lights and a dance floor facilitate good times in the late-night lounge. Behind the wooden bar, Kabuki-like masks wear dramatic expressions, peering at guests in plush, red banquettes as they drink in tunes emanating from the DJ booth.
Located in Chinatown Square, Tasty City draws inspiration from Hong Kong cafés and street vendors to dish up a blend of Asian and Western cuisines. The eatery’s Chinese name translates to “a thousand tastes,” a title chefs aim to achieve with an extensive menu that harnesses fresh ingredients and a taste-bud personality test. A kitchen window allows diners to observe chefs as they whip up Japanese-style ramen noodles, smoothies made with 13 different fresh fruits, and dozens of baked, fried, and rolled rice entrees. In the dining room, a fleet of TVs neighbor large murals depicting trees and flowers, recessed blue lighting glows next to lights tucked into wavy orange ceiling pieces, and WiFi floats through the air.
Chen's taps diverse Chinese, Japanese, and Thai traditions to forge a slate of Eastern dishes and creative cocktails that have gleaned numerous accolades from Zagat. Executive chef and owner Bing Zhou plates elegant portions of lemon chicken, peking duck, and seafood gently seasoned with Chinese spices as maki rolls nestle raw morsels of salmon, lobster, and yellowtail in innovative combinations. Bartenders sling more than 25 martini styles beneath the soft lighting of recessed sconces as bamboo floors support terra-cotta statues of historic warriors. In the lounge, overstuffed chairs sidle up to a crackling fireplace to share stories of their ottoman ancestors beneath cream and persimmon hues.