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Chicago Area Dessert Dinner

Good dinner at Lao Sze Chuan; dessert at Aji Ichiban

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Good dinner at Lao Sze Chuan; dessert at Aji Ichiban

JimInLoganSquare | May 8, 2004 10:56 PM

Mrs. JiLS and I dined at Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown this evening, and had a very good time. We got there early (I had eaten nothing all day but a croissant around 9:00, so by 5:00 I was ready to gnaw off my own hand, or any other waved too near me). Anyway, we were seated in the almost (but not quite) empty dining room shortly after 5:00 and watched the news with the staff while we ate (yes, they turned up the volume on the TV and while at first that was off-putting, after a minute we started listening in and it was fun and intimate, like eating in our own kitchen). Anyway, as to the food. We split the "Never Forget" chicken (or whatever they call it, I can't quite recall), a cold appetizer consisting of very flavorful bite-size chunks of dark meat chicken in a medium-hot red pepper oil. Very simple and very tasty. We also split an order of Peking dumplings, which were notable for the flavorful spicing of the meat (I think I tasted chives and maybe some cardoman in there). Nice, though I'll never figure out how to pick up a steamed dumpling with chopsticks (that is, other than by stabbing it, which worked for me tonight). So the dumplings were also quite good. Entrees included salt and pepper squid, which was addictively delicious. I tend not to like fried squid because the breading overwhelms the delicate flavor of the meat; here, the squid was fried up like a tempura, with a tiny coating and lots of salt (duh!) and microscopically diced chives and red pepper. I scarfed the whole platter (Mrs. LiLS might have purloined one piece; not sure how that happened, maybe I was looking at the TV). The centerpiece of the dinner was the "Happy Lamb," a hot pot lamb stew. Plenty of green leafies and tofu to stir into the bubbling mini-wok, which held a bracingly stout broth and a good portion of thinly sliced lamb. You have to like lamb to even want to start with this one, but we do, and we did. And it was really great. We skipped drinks (ice water and complimentary hot tea were plenty) and walked out rubbing our bellies like two smiling Buddhas for $34.50. The place was packed to the rafters at 6:00, by the way, so maybe you would want to think about the very early dining option, too (at least on a Saturday). After dinner we ambled over to the Aji Ichiban candy/snack store and went nuts. What a great store. The milk coffee balls are good enough they could put Starbucks out of business.

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