My New Year's resolution: contribute to a fresh, up-to-date collection of images, descriptions, and reviews of every single menu item from all existing menus and a "side list" Tony promised to give me. I saw him on Wednesday and mentioned the idea, and he loved it and said he'd play along (with descriptions and ingredient lists) when I come in. This is not particularly original, since there is so much existing documentation and beautiful photographs here on LSC (and this may have been done with other restaurants, no?), but I think it will be a fun challenge to try to at least eat as many of the items as possible in one year, and collect everyone's best images and specific item reviews in one place.
Since 40+ of us are about to dive in tomorrow, I figure this would be a good time to start. The way I see this, we could collect:
- the actual menu line item (misprints and all, like "sauteed ell" and "babych.la.la.batai")
- which menu (or wall posting, or Tony's musings) it is located
- the menu number and/or section
- an objective description, as in "lightly sauteed bok choy and straw mushrooms in a mild, brown oyster sauce
," or "marinated boneless chicken thigh, coated in cornstarch, double deep-fried, sauteed in a sweet sauce with black pepper, dried chili, and chopped fresh chili, and dusted with rich, inspiring crack
- as many subjective reviews as we can get
For the time being, we can just post at random in this or a similar thread (depending on where mods feel this should/could go), and then I'll try to organize either in the top post or a separate site. Game? Post away. Think this is a terrible idea or needs to be in a different forum? Let me know. I'll keep you posted of my individual progress either way. Happy New Year!
Lao Sze Chuan
2172 S. Archer Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616
S n a c k s
This is a separate menu section on the online menu, but is scattered into appetizers and Very Special Chinese on the print menu. Items here are mostly $2-5 and appropriate for one or two people. According to Tony and personal observation, they are frequently ordered by Chinese clientele for quick takeout or smaller lunches, or used to accompany main dishes.
Several items, including most of the dumplings and wontons, feature a similar sauce base of hot chili paste, peanut and sesame oils, with sugar, Szechuan peppercorn, and vinegar tempering to differing degrees.
801 Steamed Bread Szechuan Style
See below, only steamed instead of fried (why you would get these steamed, I've no idea).
802 Deep Fried Chinese Bread
Very unusual and supremely delicious fried sweet-and-sour bread dough with lots of egg, flaky and crunchy on the outside and stringy and chewy on the inside. The change in color here reflects doneness more than a different filling. Served with Szechuan Cinnabon (TM) sauce. I swear that's what it is - liquid, butter-rich, delicious frosting. Interior closeup:
803 Spicy Tender Tofu
This is a good-sized (about a pint) order of very soft tofu in a spicy, acidic, oily broth. It is softer than Ma Po Tofu, and without the pork and bean paste. It does have numbing Szechuan pepper. Great on rice, lacks texture on its own. Spicier than the Chengdu Dumplings or Szechuan Wontons, and more vinegary, making for a thinner sauce. Liberally topped with chopped scallions.
804 Szechuan Cold Noodles Salad
A familiar dish: buckwheat spaghetti dressed in sesame oil and citrus, tossed with scallions, soy, and sliced fresh hot peppers. Not quite as good as Katy's purely on account of the noodles, but a generous portion and still very tasty.
8044 Green Bean Jelly Szechuan Style
805 Don Don Noodle
Nowhere as soupy as those at Katy's, these are usually served unmixed, with a knot of spaghetti-like pasta resting on top of the same broth as many other items in this category, but heavily modified with sugar, ginger, and a hint of ground peanut. Super-finely minced pork and wilted greens are strewn on top. This grows on me the more I have it; deceptively simple.
806 Chengdu Dumpling
Served in groups of 6-8 (typically more generous platings at the restaurant than with takeout), these thick-skinned dumplings seem to have a more finely ground, more garlicky, and spicier filling than the standard pot stickers. They are served (drowned) in a sticky, oily, very spicy broth that is usually more sour than the Szechuan Wontons and less sweet than the Don Don. The sauce makes a wonderful condiment for subsequent dishes, so this little order goes a long way. On one occasion, these were the hottest item I've ever been served at LSC; on every other, average or below average in spice. They can come out slightly undercooked at times, and are AMAZING if left in the fridge for a day or two, keeping and developing complexity splendidly.
807 Peking Dumpling
808 Szechuan Wonton
(with comparison in shape and color to Chengdu dumpling and Spicy Tender Tofu, shown individually and in personal dishes after takeout)
With a thinner and looser skin than the Chengdu dumplings, these wontons (also 6-8 per order) are in a sweeter broth, and usually less piquant. There is far less filling per wonton, and usually more liquid per dish. They've been perfectly cooked every time I've had them, and I recommend them to those not wanting to risk the varying doneness and heat of the Chengdu dumplings, though they lack the textural interest.
809 Wonton Mandarin Style
Just seeing if anyone was paying attention. This is a Westie very sad he didn't get any delicious Chinese food on Valentine's Day.
810 Steamed Dumpling with Pork
Really tasty dim sum-style bao, with good chewy shell and an air pocket inside around a pork meatball. This is served with both chili oil and a sweet soy, sesame, and ginger dumpling sauce.
811 House Special Rice Noodle Soup
812 Noodle Soup with Sour Pickle and Pork