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Trip to western burbs, with visit to Lau Sze Chuan in Westmont

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Trip to western burbs, with visit to Lau Sze Chuan in Westmont

Bruce | Jul 8, 2002 10:56 PM

I am finally getting around to my duty in reporting this.

I was visiting Chicago about 10 days ago for a period of several days, and because of various personal obligations did NOT get to visit my favorite haunts for chow--Chinatown, north side--and instead spent a great deal of time in the western suburbs. I happened upon, by accident, an incarnation of Lau Sze Chuan in Westmont, on Ogden about a mile west of Kingery (on north side of Ogden, bright red & yellow building snuggling up to Ogden but in small strip mall). Recalling my previous good fortune to be visiting Chicago at the same time that the first Chowdown was taking place--hello again to Erik, Seth, Rob & spouse, leek, zim & spouse, Cliff & all other hounds--I was forced to make an excusion or two to Lau Sze Chuan (west). I think that there was some mention some time ago that a branch might be opening out west, but I do not recall seeing actual postings on it.

The waiter assured me that the offerings at the western branch were the same as in Chinatown; and indeed, there were over 200 offerings by my casual observation of menu, some probably inimical to the western palate (intestines?). Also, most of the patrons there were Asian. First night there I had hot & sour soup (a tiresome standard or habit of mine) which was quite excellent--well seasoned and obvious care taken in preparation of this relatively simple dish. Next: "Whole fish with tofu in house special spicy sauce" or something like that. Fish was not huge, but this did not matter. It came (head on of course) on a giant platter smothered and surrounded by a dangerous looking and oily dark scarlet sauce, and around the fish were big chunks of white tofu. There were also giant pieces of scallion or leek green in the sauce, and tender fermented black beans strewn across this fish. The sauce was heady with chile, garlic, ginger. I had thought that the fish (which had apparently been steamed) might be sea bass (because of the shape), but I detected a more succulent and sweet feel and taste that suggested fresh-water. This was confirmed when I returned a couple of days later; seated in another area of the restaurant, I was able to observe a staff person angling with a net for fish of this size in a tank. The waiter confirmed that this kind of fish (tilapia) had been my meal on the prior evening. Fresh! Again, the whole thing (for $16) had been accorded great care in preparation and presentation, and the seasonings were extremely fresh.

I should mention that during both my visits, I received a small gratis assortment cold appetizer: cold rabbit (in spicy oil/marinade of the sort eaten at the chowdown); diced cabbage in a spicy oil; and beansprouts with matchsticked carrots in Asian vinagrette. Again, care and freshness of ingredients were quite evident.

Later visit, I had salt & pepper seafood (shrimp, scallops, and cuttlefish (they call it squid on the menu), fried up in a crispy batter and sprinkled with salt, scallion (I think), chopped fresh red pepper, possibly some other things. Also had hot appetizer: stir-fried dried tofu with peanuts (raw until stir fried) and seasoned with spicy vinagrette and unplaceable spices. Again, all excellent and fresh.

One caution: my later visit there took place on Saturday night, and between 7 and 8 o'clock, the place was no more than half-filled--a sharp contrast to the manic frenzy of the Chinatown setting. And, this place is much more opulent, in terms of adornment, compared to Chinatown. (Obviously meant to draw crowds from those who reside nearby.) But, I do not see how it can stay open unless it gets more business. (Has been open now for 6 months according to waiter.) Stop in, order up; seems like you can't go wrong.

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