A bit of background on my trip first. My son chose Chicago to celebrate his 14th birthday. I was excited about his decision as Chicago proudly boasts a multitude of gastronomical adventures for all foodies, and it certainly is gorgeous in the summer. Knowing too well how anal retentive I am about organization, I quickly initiated my research to find the best of what Chi-Town had to offer for a quick weekend getaway.
I should have initially included a South East Asian Restaurant in my itinerary, considering my family’s craving for it. However, since there was a ‘China Town’ in Chicago; I hastily researched Dim Sum joints.
Our love affair with Dim Sum began on our multiple trips to Malaysia/Shanghai/Singapore to visit family and friends. Since then, we have been on a perpetual quest for finding dim sum that is similar to what we initially fell in love with in taste and variety.
Most restaurants offer dim sum primarily on the weekend with a limited menu on the weekdays. Fortunately, for us, I discovered Phoenix which offers daily dim-sum. We took the subway over to Chinatown; it was the simplest way across and it turned out to be only a block and a half from the subway station.
We arrived around 11 AM trying to beat the lunch rush hour. Two huge banquet sized dining rooms, white crispy clean table cloths awaited us, certainly not your typical city Chinatown restaurant.
The menu had an extensive selection ranging from the standard fare to the unusual offerings (jelly fish, suckling pig, and shark fin) to please even the bravest eater. We were mainly there for the dim sum, but for the sake of a wholesome experience, I ordered from the dinner menu too.
Congee, barbeque Pork Buns, Hot Chicken Feet, Braised Squid, Black Pepper Short Ribs, Crispy Orange Chicken, and steamed Pork Dumplings were our selections. Did we order enough? It was only breakfast/brunch time.
While waiting for our meal to arrive, I couldn’t help wonder how the tally was calculated on the dim sum, since the standard paper and pencil to pen down our selections was missing. The staff had a numerical coded method which was listed on the photograph menu for dim sum. Pretty clever, I must say.
Though the language was certainly a barrier, the service was fast and efficient. Thankfully, for us, our previous experiences rendered us an expert to our palate, so pointing to pictures sufficed.
I am partial to congee simply because it invokes fond childhood memories of my school trips to Musoorie (hill station in India we visited during summer). For breakfast I relished eating English porridge with brown sugar and a hint of salt. I realize this has no similarity to the Chinese congee, yet it invokes similar sentiments. Congee, if made well is hearty, bursting with flavors, and with the addition of condiments such as soy/chili/ginger as per taste brings the dish a nosh above your bland porridge. An acquired taste I believe, but I did over time manage to get my family hooked on it too.
The chicken feet were cooked perfectly. Did I taste a hint of hot wings sauce?
The squid though flavored nicely were too rubbery in texture, perhaps over cooked?
The short ribs were melting in your mouth with a beautiful peppery sauce.
The barbeque Pork Buns and Dumplings were as expected, flavorful and fresh.
The crispy orange chicken took me by surprise. It was ultra crispy with a generous helping of chili, superbly done. One of the best, I have ever had for sure.
All in all, one of the better dim sum places; I have visited across my travels in the U.S. We left comatose with full bellies. On the way out, I noticed the stairs were decorated with accolades from various food enthusiasts and critics. Well, I can vouch that they rightfully deserve them.
If you fancy Chinese food, especially dim sum. I highly recommend a quick hop over to Phoenix to satisfy the exotic in you.