Last night a few of us went out for some beer and some food. It was nearly 10pm before we got around to thinking about where to eat so the hour, together with the fact that we were carless, limited our choices. We hopped on the train to Chinatown thinking we might try Kim Yen (228 W Cermak) but it was empty and didnt look too promising.
We ended up at Triple Crown, a place Ive enjoyed before. I have always thought Triple Crown is a very solid restaurant and one of the better spots for seafood but the menu is not all that exciting. I was surprised to see their special Late Night Menu which is quite different from the regular one. Im not sure when it goes into effect but the restaurant is open until 1am, maybe later on weekends. This other menu is much more interesting. It has 99 items, most priced at $4.95 or $5.95. Portions arent huge but its still a very good deal.
Some event had apparently just let out so the restaurant was packed (we were the only non-Chinese there). Service left something to be desired but the waiters were clearly trying their best, literally running between kitchen and tables. Our dishes appeared one at a time with plenty of time in between.
We began with a plate of pea shoots with garlic. Very tasty and a good deal at $5.50. Then beef short ribs, in thin slices and fried with a little onion plus red and green peppers. Very nice. Next some clams in black bean sauce, a pretty good rendition. Hong Kong style smelts were interesting. The deep fried fish were topped with a handful of dry-fried garlic/pork/salt/spice (?) mixture. They sure seem to know how to cook smelts in Hong Kong! Things continued at a high level with spicy salt squid and cuttlefish. There are a number of casserole dishes on the menu and we chose the oyster and pork version. Another winner. The oysters were huge but good and the fatty pork chunks went along well (we all agreed seafood and fatty bacon are an inspired combination). It also contained perfectly cooked baby bok choy and a very good brown sauce. We finished with cold pork hock with chili oil. This was also very good, with a large variety of textures and good flavor (much better to taste than to look at). The bill was under $40 for plenty of food for 5, a remarkably good deal.
Theres lots of other interesting stuff on this menu that Im looking forward to trying. About half the menu is seafood and about 6 or 8 seem to be vegetarian. There are some standard-sounding choices like fried tofu, five spice beef, baked shrimp with garlic, and steamed oysters. Then there are other things like fried cream, intestines four different ways, egg & clam with preserved carrot, quail, red gelatin with chives (what the heck is that?), and pan fried frog legs (we had meant to order these but forgot).
The casserole section alone is extremely interesting: dried scallop & braised vegetable, clam & cilantro, duck & taro, beef & radish, dried shrimp & vermicelli, chicken with salt fish & eggplant, fish maw & duck tongue, sea cucumber, blue crab curry, and others. No casserole is over $7.
This is clearly one of the best late night Chinatown options that Im aware of.
Triple Crown Seafood Restaurant
211 W 22nd Place
Chicago IL 60616