Two chowhound chinatown favorites also maintain branches in west suburban Westmont, not too far from the Oak Brook shoparama. Tonight, we went to both and ate in one.
(Note, I have a lot to say, and for even more, see the attached link for a review by Bruce. He gives some good additional info on Lao Sze Chuan as well).
Ms. VI is especially partial to straight ahead classic cantonese/hong kong style food, and Triple Crown does it about as well as anyone these days. It was her first choice.
The Westmont Triple Crown looks nothing like the Chinatown version. Chinatown Triple Crown is stock, down to the red carpeting, big tables and minimal decoration (although the meat counter near the back is a slight variation). Westmont is uptown glitz, very Vegas to me. The problem, the menu reflected the schmancy surroundings.
We probed for a "real" menu or a secret menu but were turned down. The proffered menu did have some neat sounding dishes including dried and fresh squid and chinese ham with vinegar sauce. Yet, what really shocked us was the prices: $9.95 for a half of a salt-baked chicken; $11.95 for SIX steamed oysters. It just did not seem worth it. We moved down Ogden.
Before we got the kids out of the car, I went to recointer the LSC menu. The same. We were in business.
I've quibbled in the past with the LSC service, which can sometimes be a bit brusque as they deal with the high demand for their small space. Westmont had plenty of tables and NO demand. The entire time we were there, we were the only customers eating inside (a few take-out orders did occupy the kitchen as well). Still, the feeling was like being in Iron Chef, where they cooked a unique and special dinner just for us.
They seated us with some apprenhension, warmed as we asked them to help us order and beamed as they visited us repeatedly during dinner to see how we were doing. We loved the stuff, but I could see why maybe LSC is not jamming them in in Westmont.
A big problem at LSC is what to order. The menu is absolutely daunting, filled with multiple variations of a theme--how exactly would you like your pork elbow; loaded with exotica, beef and maw anyone (I know surprisingly great); and unknown dishes, what is pagoda chicken or extremely spicy diced fish chonquing style? Then, when the stuff comes out, I can see a lot of people rather freaking out.
Our most normal looking dish, the potherb, was awash in harmless but scary looking dried red peppers. Our sole with sour pickle and baby octopus home style both looked, well I cannot exactly say what it looked like on chowhound, but what do reddish-brown and gooey look like to you? Regardless, it all tasted about as good as possible.
The fish underneath its heavy sauce of chili and crunchy-pickly things, still tasted of fish. The baby octopus was a bit on the chewy side, but still a foil to its sauce--looked the same tasted way different. We also ordered a dry beef appetizer. My daughter Hannah, perhaps preparing for her next outing with Aushuk, ate this dish between sips of water. Wow. Another scary dish to begin with, covered in dried chilis and also looking rather like jerky, it actually surprised by being freshly cooked. The heat from the chili coating was no surprise.
And the potherb. Given our high service and all, I thought for sure, I'd get a tour of the kitchen to see the potherb. So, I asked. Well, one thing, they said, the vegetable had already been prepped for the day, so I would not be able to scope out a whole version. They did offer this revelation. Depending on the time of year, what is listed on the menu as potherb can be one of two things. Some times it is baby mustard green as Richard supposed, other times, like now, it is a vegetable not translated into english, tsuuu, which is how he said it. Is this tsai as transliterated before?
By the way, this was very good potherb, but a little earthier, a bit more "homestyle" than the Chicago version. In other words, a bit greasier, but believe me, it was greasy in a good way, like a good southern green.
I cannot vouch if the Westmont LSC is this good all the time, but this good is how it was tonight. The food is about the same, with much more service. Do go!
Lao Sze Chuan West
500 E. Ogden Ave.