Ed's Potsticker House, the multi-menu'd shop in Bridgeport has always intrigued eaters. First, it offers the only true Northern or Beijing style Chinese food in Chicago. Second, it is filled with a multitude of dishes rendered only in Chinese, and we all know how we live for secret menu's. About a month or so ago, a grand dinner was proposed for Ed's, with the mission to attack the entire wall menu. Unfortunately, it never happened. A rather impromptu dinner, however, did occur there last night.*
Throwing together a bunch of hungry hounds never leads to easy ordering, and when you throw on the aforementioned multiple menu's and un-translated dishes, it makes it not so easy to throw together a dinner for ten. Our hosts were entirely gracious and dealt surely both with several people throwing out suggestions at the same time and our need to try things otherwise not translated. While not everything we ended up with is on the English menu's, I do not believe others would have a hard time duplicating anything we got. Here's the run down:
Sliced cold beef with soy bean sauce - This cold poached shin meat is a common meal starter in all forms of Chinese food. Ed's was outstanding on all counts. No vague tints of purple or green which sometimes mar these kind of dishes, nor was the beef congealed or tough. The soy been sauce added a solid if indistinguishable element.
Jelly fish - Standard cold, sesame infused preparation. Ed's can really convert people to certain dishes. You'll eat this jelly fish and won't have to say, "people eat this thing." Ed's does the jellyfish community proud.
Fatty pork - Another cold meat, this one dressed with a slightly spicy and slightly sour red dressing. It was good but I thought not as good as the beef.
"Smoked Fish" - I think we all agreed that this was the best version of this, "smoked" from a hot wok dish, that we ever had. It was a small fish, I think a bass or crappie, scored, soaked with a sweetish sauce and loaded with flavor.
Beef and maw - Gummy things in another red oily sauce, but much better than it sounds.
Ham sandwich - Well maybe that is what Thomas Keller would call this dish. Crisp, flaky, barely greasy scallion pancakes opened up kind of like pita bread and filled with a Chinese cold cut. Hoison sauce instead of mayo. Went so quick we needed to order seconds.
Signature house pot stickers - Authentically greasy as I have called them before, but these were especially well done last night. Just the right amount of grease and a perfect combination of crisp and firm.
Water dumplings - Innocuous but also went very quick.
Steamed, possibly soup, dumplings - I think some of us will forever have New York soup dumpling envy. If these were not those, thinner wrapper, less juice, they were still good enough that we also needed a second order.
Lamb with cumin - In a way, this is becoming the kung pao chicken of chowhound Chinese dinners. And I can say that while Ed's version was better than Mandarin Kitchen, it was not in the top ten of dishes served last night.
Jiffy pop fish - Fish, I believe tilapia, steamed in an aluminum foil bubble. Doused with "house sauce," a sweet sauce. Pretty much everyone's least favorite dish, the fish was too mushy to say the least, although Evil Ronnie made nice work of the tail fin.
Candied eggplant - From first to last in five minutes. All thoughts of the fish ended with the arrival of these large batons of eggplant. First deep fried and then stir fried in another sweetish sauce, but the sweetness really accented the natural sweetness of the eggplant. I regaled the table with how this was similiar to how the locals sprinkle their fried eggplant sticks with sugar at Galatoires.
Soup - Like many Chinese dinners, soup came no where near the start of the dinner. This soup contained some green veg, tofu and really excellent meatballs. Not the least bit gummy like Vietnamese meatballs nor totally gross like some Chinese meatballs came be, sorry. These were meaty and looser in texture.
Sea cucumber and tendon - Maybe, maybe it was the great crowd, the great dishes that hald come fourth and the free flowing liquor, but this dish was suprisingly, very good. And according to Zim, was not even the best sea cucumber he's ever had. Tasty without being odd, texture without slime, like the jelly fish, you can see why this dish became a celebrity. Let's use, going forward, the translation I'd see in Hong Kong, beche de mer.
Scallion pancakes (without the ham). Just as fresh and flaky as before, still not the least bit heavy. Fine bread. Northern style Chinese food is actually known for their bread products and maybe next time we can dip into a few more breads.
Crispy round noodles with traditional odd bits of seafood (curled scored squid, small shrimps, fake crab, tiny scallops) - Noodles are a traditional way to end a large banquet and this so-so dish rather wrapped up our taste buds.
Slivered potatoes with ma la (Sichuan) peppers - Until seeing potatoes on the menu at Lao Sze Shuan, none of us were that familiar with potatoes as an ingredient in Chinese cooking. At LSC, the dish was bland and oily. This dish was much less bland from the buzz of the ma la. The potatoes were slightly under-cooked, but as the Ultimo noted, it worked well in the dish. Still by this point in the meal, we hardly made a dent in the dish.
"Sweet egg in pastry" - I believe that is what it was called on the menu. I insisted on dessert, especially with the chance for something fried. It was worth it. Think twice cooked custard donut sticks. This we easily finished.
All of this, but the way was a tad more than $20 per person, using the Gwiv fancy palm pilot and tip. Outstanding!
*To hear about these impromptu dinners as they are being formed, e-mail Wiv (Gwiv@Gwiv.com) to get on his mailing list.