Restaurants & Bars 4

CHINN music

JoelF | Feb 5, 2004 11:20 AM

Sorry, no music involved, just a penchant for puns. Then again, this wasn't a knockout either.

After a several-year gap, I returned to Bob Chinn's in Wheeling, with a business associate (A) and my wife (S).

Summary: It's still a food-factory. Nothing is exemplary, but everything is very good. Service is friendly and quick, atmosphere is rather lacking.

On a Wednesday night, there was no line at all, we walked right in after we all arrived, and they sat the three of us at a table for six -- plenty of room, although you could barely tell it from the crowded parking lot.

For starters, S ordered the Etouffee soup, A and I ordered the salad bar. The soup was tasty, but perhaps a little shy on shrimp (although they seemed to all show up at the bottom). The appearance was a little glossy -- may have been cornstarch-thickened vs roux. The salad bar is above-average, including asparagus, avocado, jicama, snow peas, as well as the usual standards. About 8 tasty dressings available, with sprinklies limited to croutons and chow mein noodles, plus parmesan and hot peppers. Points added for a pepper mill available at the salad bar.

Entrees were Shrimp Tempura (S), King Crab (A) and NZ Green lip mussels on pasta (Me). All included slaw and choice of boiled or fried spuds, rice or green beans (except the pasta).

The shrimp did not appear to have tempura-style batter, but were large, tasty, plentiful and a nice crunchy batter. Tempura, cocktail and tartar sauces provided.

I didn't taste the crab, but A appeared very happy with them. They were cut pretty short, about 5-7" chunks, and looked to be of good texture.

The mussels were delicious, although the garlic-sauced pasta was watery and rather mushy. It could use a few herbal notes: basil's particularly good with mussels, and a few chile flakes wouldn't hurt either. Mussels were in the shell, large and meaty. Strangely, they were of a lower temp than the pasta. Some artifact of the plating process.

I was the only one to order desert. Although I swore they used to have a fantastic key lime cheesecake, they denied ever having it, but key lime pie is a good choice. The whipped cream is very fresh tasting, thick and balances the tart pie, which was appropriately soft and cream-colored (the waitress in "Natural Born Killers" deserved to die, for that green stuff she served).

Overall, highly enjoyed. Prices are reasonable, service is top-notch, and food is very good, although not perfect. Avoid the crowded weekends (although maybe they'll go through enough pasta to keep it fresh), and you can have a good time.

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