His entrées may be named after animals, but chef Tai keeps his Chinese cuisine absolutely free of meat. He uses imitation meats to craft standout dishes such as pumpkin chicken, kung pao squid, and shredded pork. As if to emphasize his passion for natural foods, Tai cooks only with pure vegetable oil and refrains from flavoring his dishes with MSG or dark magic. These restrictions sometimes force him to get creative, but the results are delicious whether he’s using soybean protein to make chicken or transforming white yams into baby shrimp and squid.
Spring Garden's unassuming exterior and no-frills decor don't hinder it from being a neighborhood staple. That's because the restaurant prefers to let its food do all the wowing. In the kitchen, chefs whip up more than 100 different dishes that are sure to satisfy almost any craving—whether it's for something spicy, something sweet, or something vegetarian. They simmer tender scallops in garlic sauce, and they tuck slices of beef into bowls of red curry. Sweet-and-sour sauce slathers pork, and noodle get pan-fried, stir-fried, or sautéed with hot chili peppers for an extra kick.
Chopstix Cafe & Grill at Urbana serves Chinese cuisine, only with a healthy twist. Instead of stir-frying ingredients or shooting them with chili-flavored lasers, chefs there specialize in grill-style cooking that results in tastier, better-for-you dishes. The cafe's list of quality ingredients doesn't hurt, either, and includes pork tenderloin, extra-large shrimp, and white-meat chicken that can be found in such popular dishes as the chicken with broccoli. As a full-service restaurant, Chopstix also pours adult beverages, including beer, wine, and Polynesian-style drinks.
When laid out item by item, Lucky Inn's lunch and dinner menus could possibly span the entire length of the Great Wall of China. The lengthy lists keep the eatery’s chefs busy crafting favorites such as general tso’s chicken, beef with broccoli, and shrimp in garlic sauce, as well as noodle dishes of the lo mein, chow mein, and chow fun varieties. Meat-free fare arrives in the form of orange-flavored tofu and sautéed snow peas, harvested by ski instructors during slow days.
Jesse Wong was born in Taiping, Malaysia. In 1984, he left for Washington DC, where he discovered a passion for the culinary arts and began his training to become a chef. Over the next 14 years, he worked his way up through the industry—from a dishwasher to an executive chef. He has since lent his name and know-how to Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro, where he evokes Asia's diverse cultures and customs through atmosphere and food. At the full bar or inside a bistro-style dining room, visitors can sample his Atlantic salmon, pan-fried and sautéed noodles, Burmese-style pork, and chicken simmered in green curry or teriyaki sauce. On most nights, this dining space also features live entertainment such as piano music or—on the weekends—performances from solo jazz vocalists, trios, and quartets.
As the most populous city in the world, Shanghai has been shaped by travelers and settlers from all over. This is particularly evident in the city's food, which has been influenced by the culinary styles from both the northern and southern regions of China, as well as dishes from throughout the entire continent of Asia. This cultural integration holds true at Shanghai Café, where the chefs use recipes the Hu family has spent the past half-century perfecting. These recipes follow various Shanghai cooking principles—for instance, the original flavors of meats and fish are allowed to shine through rather than being drowned out by heavy marinades or sauces that are too sweet or salty.
Though the recipes are traditional, they respect modern, healthful eating habits by incorporating natural broths and stocks and limiting the use of oil. Some of the restaurant's signature dishes include boiled dumplings, steamed pork buns, and dim sum—a Shanghai staple. In the spirit of Shanghai's pan-Asian tendencies, the menus also include Thai dishes, such as pad kee mao (drunken noodles), nigiri, sashimi, and maki.