The Wife and I were walking through the Chinatown mall last Saturday night, scoping out dinner possibilities. Spring World and Lao Sze Chuan were both full, so we decided to go somewhere we hadnt been before. We checked out Sweet House (which I was interested to try, based on Adams review and the possibility of eating boiled frog and cordyceps), but The Wife thought the place was too bright (and, truth be told, was clearly not thrilled by the prospect of frog dinner). Walking by Mountain View Chef on what was a kind of chilly night, we were intrigued by steaming pots of bowling liquid we went in.
Heres how the hot pots work at Mountain View Chef. You circle what you want from a list of about 50 items including dried squid, wanton, mussel, fish, fish head, fish meatball, lamb, beef, kidney, pork meatball, beef meatball, beef tripe, pork rind, chicken, dumpling, intestine, imitation crab meat, bean thread, watercress, spinach, yellow bean sprout, taro root, head lettuce, tofu, eggs, bamboo shoots, vermicelli, mushroom, and fried tofu.
Then you tell the server which two soups you want: hot & spicy, satay, original, or Canton style.
The server brings a gas range and a big pot, divided into two sections. The two soups are cooking on each of the two sides. In our case, the hot and spicy had chilies floating on top and was, indeed, hot; the original was mild, with cilantro and preserved eggs.
After the soups are set out, the server brings a large quantity of all the items you selected. Its an all-you-can-eat scenario, so you can pretty much gorge, if thats your pleasure.
We chose a bunch of stuff, and were surprised that we got a goodly quantity of salmon, mackerel, scallops, shrimp, fresh oysters and mussels. The salmon and mackerel were very fresh and good; the mussels were frozen, which is not a huge shock. Of the non-fish items, the standouts for me were the taro root, dumplings and thin sliced lamb. The pork rind was just kind of squishy and tasteless, as were the mushrooms.
All this grub was 10.95. It was good, and fresh though because its basically do-it-yourself, its rather plain. However, accompanying all this food were three sauces: savory, soy-based and hot.
Dessert was sweet red bean soup, which was a lightweight way to close off two gluttonous hours of chowing.
We had fun eating.
Mountain View Chef is a good value, and the food is good it would also be a fun time for kids or groups of people who want to try a lot of different things. Its participatory eating, kind of like fondue, so everybody gets to lend a hand in the preparation of dinner.
The staff is helpful, and apparently quite fluent in their native language (though not in English, which is why Ive been perhaps overly explicit in my description of how this place works VI and QC mentioned today that they were unsure how to order because there are no clear operating instructions on the menu and no clear direction from wait staff).
Overall, if youre in the mood (hungry, and not afraid to work a little for dinner), Mountain View Chef is probably the best deal on the mall.
Mountain View Chef
2168 South Archer
Chicago, IL 60616