Merging the concept of small plates with the regionalized ingredients and cuisine of Chinese culture, celebrated chef Tony Hu's Lao You Ju creates a family-style dining experience with an expansive menu of Pan-Asian dishes. Lightly fried Jin-Sha shrimp lounge atop a tasty trail of corn and peppers spread artfully across white china ($10), pleasing the eye while betraying shellfish whereabouts to taste-bud trackers. A spiced red broth submerges the boiled beef tenderloin Chengdu-style in steamy flavor ($9), and a piping metal pan sings a fiery song under the cumin lamb on hot sizzling plate ($9). Chew over plant matters with the chinese eggplant Peking-style, flavored with rumors of onion and broccoli ($8). Chef Hu also coddles singular appetites with house specials such as the spicy pan-fried salmon Szechuan-style, a large plate of sweet and fragrant fillets ($25).
Open daily until 10 p.m., Thai 55’s servers spoon out authentic Thai flavors from a lengthy menu within a laid-back setting. Ten curry platters corral cravings with custom levels of spiciness and of sassy back talk, and seafood plates blend catfish, mussels, and shrimp with tongue-tickling herbs. On certain nights, the chefs plop tapioca pearls into such smoothie flavors as mango and kiwi. The majority of Thai 55's entrees can quell herbivorous hankerings with vegetables or tofu in place of meat.
Housed in an unassuming storefront, Snail Thai Cuisine takes its name from "Golden Snail”—a Thai fable that teaches the lesson that looks can be deceiving. And for this Hyde Park eatery, that lesson couldn't ring any more true. The doors swing open to reveal walls hung with vibrant artwork as well as exotic scents emanating from the kitchen. There, cooks whip up flavoful dishes such as spicy green curry and cashew chicken alongside five types of noodles. Meals can be enhanced with thai iced coffee and ended with refreshing spoonfuls of red bean ice cream.
The Big Easy serves up a vigorous lineup of Cajun and Creole offerings with a smattering of Southern-barbecue favorites. Those searching the lengthy menu for the restaurant's signature dish can stop at the Bourbon Street stuffed jambalaya, a piquant mix of roasted chicken, shrimp, and andouille sausage packed into a crunchy chicken breast and showered with vidalia sauce ($13.95). Strap on a James Carville-shaped bib for a plate of hickory- barbecue thick-cut ribs, served with a side of coleslaw, collard greens, and challah toast ($14.95). Seafood savorers can dig into the shrimp creole, which rests on a bed of Cajun rice ($13.95). To drink, The Big Easy offers an ambrosial collection of red and white wines ($5.95–$7.95 for a glass), and barley buffs can imbibe Goose Island Honker's Ale or one of several brews on draft ($4.95). This deal is also good towards the restaurant's four-course weekend brunch ($13.95), where diners sip orange/strawberry-blended juice, munch on whole-wheat muffins, and fill up on zesty gumbo, jumbo french toast, and more.
Though the chefs at Thai Urban Kitchen draw from the flavors of Thailand and Japan's street food, they aren't afraid to add in more upscale ingredients. To wit, they use gourmet cuts of meat and vegetarian alternatives to make unique twists of classical cuisine. In infusing a little something extra to their signature pad thai, they add cuts of duck, calamari, beef, and shrimp with just a touch of red apple for sweetness. On their sushi menu, chefs design creative rolls such as the Salmon Lover, which combines raw salmon, masago, and avocado with spicy mayo, all topped with pink nori and seared salmon. And to end the meal on a sweet note without having to whittle the check out of chocolate, the chefs also scoop Asian-inspired flavors of ice cream as well as 18 gelatos.
Juxtaposing with the colorful sushi rolls and eye-catching plating is the dining room's sleek decor. A monochromatic design scheme adds a touch of modernity that is not impervious to comfort thanks to high-backed leather seats. Silver metalwork and treated glass hang above the expansive bar, where bartenders pour sake by the glass or offer their favorite selections in drink flights.