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Lao Szechuan on Check Please

Lao Szechuan on Check Please
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  • Lao Szechuan on Check Please

    Post #1 - January 21st, 2006, 2:58 am
    Post #1 - January 21st, 2006, 2:58 am Post #1 - January 21st, 2006, 2:58 am
    Unfortunately all the tasters liked it, so probably for the next few weeks, impossible to eat there. Great for Tony, but not so for the rest of us.
    They did talk about pig intestine and showed shrimp with heads, so maybe some folks will still be scared away.
    MJN "AKA" Michael Nagrant
    http://www.michaelnagrant.com
  • Post #2 - January 21st, 2006, 7:46 am
    Post #2 - January 21st, 2006, 7:46 am Post #2 - January 21st, 2006, 7:46 am
    MJN wrote:Unfortunately all the tasters liked it, so probably for the next few weeks, impossible to eat there. Great for Tony, but not so for the rest of us.
    They did talk about pig intestine and showed shrimp with heads, so maybe some folks will still be scared away.


    Not only did they like it, they loved it!

    Besides freaking out about the intestines they spent most of their "food talk" discussing some LSC classics like crab rangoon, pot stickers, egg drop soup, and sweet & sour chicken! :roll:

    More about LSC
  • Post #3 - January 21st, 2006, 10:51 am
    Post #3 - January 21st, 2006, 10:51 am Post #3 - January 21st, 2006, 10:51 am
    eatchicago wrote:Besides freaking out about the intestines they spent most of their "food talk" discussing some LSC classics like crab rangoon, pot stickers, egg drop soup, and sweet & sour chicken! :roll:


    Double Yum!
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - January 22nd, 2006, 12:51 am
    Post #4 - January 22nd, 2006, 12:51 am Post #4 - January 22nd, 2006, 12:51 am
    eatchicago wrote:Besides freaking out about the intestines they spent most of their "food talk" discussing some LSC classics like crab rangoon, pot stickers, egg drop soup, and sweet & sour chicken! :roll:


    My impression was that the guy who recommended Lao Sze Chuan really digs it, while the other two were maybe in a little over their heads. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just that Lao Sze Chuan is a bit of a shock to most American diners.

    I wish the best for Tony. I tried the new Downers Grove location for lunch the other day, and it seemed that 90% of the other diners just wanted egg drop soup and egg foo yung. I had to ask for the Szechuan menu. Hopefully WTTW viewers will see the episode and given authentic szechuan cuisine a try.
  • Post #5 - January 22nd, 2006, 9:04 am
    Post #5 - January 22nd, 2006, 9:04 am Post #5 - January 22nd, 2006, 9:04 am
    MJN wrote:Unfortunately all the tasters liked it, so probably for the next few weeks, impossible to eat there.

    MJN,

    Went to LSC around 8:30 last night, Check Please Effect in full swing, longest I've waited to get into a restaurant, or anyplace for that matter, in many a year. Pretty much everyone we spoke to was there because of Check Please, and, even with the wait, people exiting the restaurant seemed happy with their choice. Actually, it was kind of fun, people were very friendly, the person we stood next to in line even came over to our table to say good-by and nice talking to you when she and her husband were leaving.

    I should point out that we had made plans to meet at LSC well in advance of Check Please, but decided to stick it out, as opposed to walking a few doors down to Shui Wah or Spring World, just for the hell of it. :) Whatever one's opinion of Check Please (I enjoy watching the show) it certainly motivates people to go to a restaurant.

    Food and service wise, LSC did not suffer in the least, they handled the crowd easily, no lag time on orders. LSC did not, by any means, tame the dishes down for Check Please either, in fact, the complimentary Szechuan cabbage was even spicier than usual and the terrific Ma Po Tofu was as oil and chili laden as ever. Our waitress did not try to talk us out of any of our more non check please type dishes such as sliced beef and maw Szechuan style, which may be my single most favorite dishes at LSC, Szechuan spicy rabbit w/bone, pork hock home style or chili smelt.

    Well deserved recognition for LSC.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #6 - January 22nd, 2006, 2:21 pm
    Post #6 - January 22nd, 2006, 2:21 pm Post #6 - January 22nd, 2006, 2:21 pm
    Speaking of other locations, I see on their website a place in Palatine on NW Highway.

    Anyone have any experience with it? It would be very convenient to my work.
  • Post #7 - January 22nd, 2006, 7:53 pm
    Post #7 - January 22nd, 2006, 7:53 pm Post #7 - January 22nd, 2006, 7:53 pm
    wesuilmo wrote:Speaking of other locations, I see on their website a place in Palatine on NW Highway.

    Anyone have any experience with it? It would be very convenient to my work.

    We used to go to the Palatine restaurant and found the food on par with the Ogden location. However, the last several times the food was really quite disappointing. A Chinese friend independently came to the same conclusion. Even the complimentary cabbage lacked flavor. Something's wrong in the kitchen. We won't be going back to Palatine. We did eat at the new Ogden location Friday at lunch and had to ask for the "real" menu. The place was quite full and Tony himself was there, telling everyone about the Check Please episode that would be airing.
  • Post #8 - January 24th, 2006, 4:26 am
    Post #8 - January 24th, 2006, 4:26 am Post #8 - January 24th, 2006, 4:26 am
    Marija wrote:We used to go to the Palatine restaurant and found the food on par with the Ogden location. However, the last several times the food was really quite disappointing. A Chinese friend independently came to the same conclusion. Even the complimentary cabbage lacked flavor. Something's wrong in the kitchen. We won't be going back to Palatine.

    How recently was this? I've been a regular and found the food was always very good, sometimes even better than Chinatown. However, I haven't been there in a couple of months.
  • Post #9 - January 24th, 2006, 7:15 am
    Post #9 - January 24th, 2006, 7:15 am Post #9 - January 24th, 2006, 7:15 am
    How recently was this? I've been a regular and found the food was always very good, sometimes even better than Chinatown. However, I haven't been there in a couple of months.


    It's been in the last couple of months.
  • Post #10 - January 24th, 2006, 11:59 am
    Post #10 - January 24th, 2006, 11:59 am Post #10 - January 24th, 2006, 11:59 am
    Hmm,

    Just to chime in with another point of view-

    I make it to "Szechuan House" (aka Lao Sze Chuan) in Palatine for lunch once a week, just about every week for the last couple years. The quality of the service definitely goes up and down, but I've never noticed the food quality to change that much. The Mao Po Tofu dish I had last week was as good as ever.

    I've only been there for lunch, dinner could be a different story.

    MJ
  • Post #11 - January 24th, 2006, 12:16 pm
    Post #11 - January 24th, 2006, 12:16 pm Post #11 - January 24th, 2006, 12:16 pm
    BTW, Szechuan Express aka Lao Sze Chuan on Taylor Street appears to have closed.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #12 - January 24th, 2006, 1:43 pm
    Post #12 - January 24th, 2006, 1:43 pm Post #12 - January 24th, 2006, 1:43 pm
    stevez wrote:BTW, Szechuan Express aka Lao Sze Chuan on Taylor Street appears to have closed.


    I'm not particularly shocked or saddened. It really never approached any of the other locations in terms of quantity. I'd think a takeout-joint LSC would include all the american-chinese favorites a takeout place should have, along with maybe the top 20 most popular and easiest to prepare dishes from the LSC playbook, executed totally faithfully.

    LSC Express was doing it right except for the last bit. The execution sucked.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #13 - January 24th, 2006, 3:46 pm
    Post #13 - January 24th, 2006, 3:46 pm Post #13 - January 24th, 2006, 3:46 pm
    The Check Please episode was just plain weird to my mind - how can you order egg drop soup in a szechuan restaurant. Did you notice, not one of the reviewers mentioned the spicy cabbage??
  • Post #14 - January 24th, 2006, 4:58 pm
    Post #14 - January 24th, 2006, 4:58 pm Post #14 - January 24th, 2006, 4:58 pm
    Athena wrote:The Check Please episode was just plain weird to my mind - how can you order egg drop soup in a szechuan restaurant. Did you notice, not one of the reviewers mentioned the spicy cabbage??


    It was weird at first impression, but ultimately I think maybe not that odd, if you consider how the show was arranged viz the reviewers. Specifically, I think the guy who suggested LSC was much more informed than the other two reviewers; e.g., I recall him indicating he had lived in China for several years. As usual, most of the pictures and discussion were dominated by the other two reviewers, who as you state were not taking full advantage of the menu at LSC. There is a reason for this - namely, the reviewer who picked the restaurant is supposedly nominating his or her "favorite restaurant," so it would just be uninteresting to listen to that individual go on and on about how much he or she loves the place (that is, unless they provided good menus suggestions, etc.). That being said, the two "LSC newbies" seemed pleased with what they got, and I'll have to assume anybody who showed up in the post-Check Please! Saturday night throngs and ordered similarly was also satisfied with LSC's capabilities with these Ameri-Chineses products -- and maybe their curiosity got piqued by the deeper menu items, too. If so, it's a "win-win" for LSC and all its new customers!
    Last edited by JimInLoganSquare on January 24th, 2006, 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    JiLS
  • Post #15 - January 24th, 2006, 5:04 pm
    Post #15 - January 24th, 2006, 5:04 pm Post #15 - January 24th, 2006, 5:04 pm
    Athena wrote:The Check Please episode was just plain weird to my mind - how can you order egg drop soup in a szechuan restaurant. Did you notice, not one of the reviewers mentioned the spicy cabbage??


    ahhh...the Check Please episode...

    I was goofing on the the items ordered by the participants when the s/o reminded me that not everyone's going to be interested in the diversity of Chinese cuisines. He offered that LSC does list those items on the menu so they ought to be held to the same standard as the vaunted Sichuan dishes.

    Last time I ate at the Chinatown location a friend ordered the sesame chicken. I was thinking, boy, that's probably not a good idea, but she'd just been, literally, burned by the imo yummy cabbage, and really wasn't the same after...so...

    The sesame chicken was fine; not gloppy, fairly tensile, the broccoli crisp.

    It's too bad the participants didn't take the opportunity to explore the menu in depth. Apparently, they enjoyed themselves, albeit inna PJ Chang-style, anyway.
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #16 - January 24th, 2006, 5:18 pm
    Post #16 - January 24th, 2006, 5:18 pm Post #16 - January 24th, 2006, 5:18 pm
    Christopher Gordon wrote:It's too bad the participants didn't take the opportunity to explore the menu in depth. Apparently, they enjoyed themselves, albeit inna PJ Chang-style, anyway.

    And in fairness, the woman tried to extend herself to one of the dishes she spotted at a neighboring table, but the staff there dissuaded her. (I think she said pork intestine?) The fault is not all the patrons' in this case.
  • Post #17 - January 24th, 2006, 5:26 pm
    Post #17 - January 24th, 2006, 5:26 pm Post #17 - January 24th, 2006, 5:26 pm
    Bob S. wrote:
    Christopher Gordon wrote:It's too bad the participants didn't take the opportunity to explore the menu in depth. Apparently, they enjoyed themselves, albeit inna PJ Chang-style, anyway.

    And in fairness, the woman tried to extend herself to one of the dishes she spotted at a neighboring table, but the staff there dissuaded her. (I think she said pork intestine?) The fault is not all the patrons' in this case.


    Exactly...I think it was her "authority on Chinatown" friend who tried to order the dish. I'm not sure if they were actively dissuaded or he was vetoed by his dining companions when they heard the words, "pig intestines." I suppose you really have to be in the mood.
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #18 - January 25th, 2006, 11:53 am
    Post #18 - January 25th, 2006, 11:53 am Post #18 - January 25th, 2006, 11:53 am
    the westmont location moved on 1/1/06 to downers grove. they merged with an existing restaurant and kept their chefs. not a good move. our first dinner there was terrible! this is a place we have extolled to the sky for a couple years and have brought many friends there. we all agreed it was the best.our first meal at the new place was sadly lacking. clearly,different chefs were in the kitchen. the hot & sour soup was o.k. but a lot of vinegar that a lot of people would not like. the pot stickers, which were always the greatest were only passable.moo shu shrimp were terrible. the shrimp were not fresh and appeared to be breaded?salt & pepper shrimp lacked the flavor we have grown to expect and they were not crisp as usual. this was a take out and we almost wept after the meal. how could so much go bad in such a short time. we will give it another try but if it does not measure up ,it is off the dining circuit. too many other excellent choices. we would mourn it's passing. i realize we can drive to the city to go to the mother ship,but it was great having the westmont location so convenient. any one else run into this?
  • Post #19 - January 25th, 2006, 3:36 pm
    Post #19 - January 25th, 2006, 3:36 pm Post #19 - January 25th, 2006, 3:36 pm
    jfadds wrote:the westmont location moved on 1/1/06 to downers grove. they merged with an existing restaurant and kept their chefs. not a good move. our first dinner there was terrible! this is a place we have extolled to the sky for a couple years and have brought many friends there. we all agreed it was the best.our first meal at the new place was sadly lacking. clearly,different chefs were in the kitchen. the hot & sour soup was o.k. but a lot of vinegar that a lot of people would not like. the pot stickers, which were always the greatest were only passable.moo shu shrimp were terrible. the shrimp were not fresh and appeared to be breaded?salt & pepper shrimp lacked the flavor we have grown to expect and they were not crisp as usual. this was a take out and we almost wept after the meal. how could so much go bad in such a short time. we will give it another try but if it does not measure up ,it is off the dining circuit. too many other excellent choices. we would mourn it's passing. i realize we can drive to the city to go to the mother ship,but it was great having the westmont location so convenient. any one else run into this?



    I've been to the new location twice for lunchsince the move and have not noticed a change. Did you order in the restaurant or call it in? I have noticed that you have to specify which menu you want your order to come from. One odd item I have noticed is that they now offer fried rice with the luch specials.

    Flip
    "Beer is proof God loves us, and wants us to be Happy"
    -Ben Franklin-
  • Post #20 - January 25th, 2006, 7:59 pm
    Post #20 - January 25th, 2006, 7:59 pm Post #20 - January 25th, 2006, 7:59 pm
    Christopher Gordon wrote:
    Bob S. wrote:
    Christopher Gordon wrote:It's too bad the participants didn't take the opportunity to explore the menu in depth. Apparently, they enjoyed themselves, albeit inna PJ Chang-style, anyway.

    And in fairness, the woman tried to extend herself to one of the dishes she spotted at a neighboring table, but the staff there dissuaded her. (I think she said pork intestine?) The fault is not all the patrons' in this case.


    Exactly...I think it was her "authority on Chinatown" friend who tried to order the dish. I'm not sure if they were actively dissuaded or he was vetoed by his dining companions when they heard the words, "pig intestines." I suppose you really have to be in the mood.

    OK you guys are too funny how you rip on people ordering basic menu items.
    If you go to a restaurant for the first time and "experiment" with something you've never had, how do you know if it's good? If I was on that show I would totally order something I know very well so that I could properly say whether it was good or not.

    It reminds me of people who love a certain band, but when they get popular refuse to like them anymore.

    All hail sesame chicken lovers!!!!!
    The clown is down!
  • Post #21 - January 25th, 2006, 8:34 pm
    Post #21 - January 25th, 2006, 8:34 pm Post #21 - January 25th, 2006, 8:34 pm
    well...you missed the intent of my posts entirely

    try reading them w/o misapprehending a sarcastic intent
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #22 - January 25th, 2006, 10:44 pm
    Post #22 - January 25th, 2006, 10:44 pm Post #22 - January 25th, 2006, 10:44 pm
    Indeed -- I was pointing out that the woman on Check Please! wanted to order a fairly exotic dish and was dissuaded by the restaurant staff. I mean, that's just dumb, isn't it? Why not bring out a little sample on a plate and let the patron decide?

    And hey, I've got nothing against sesame chicken. I think I might even have had it in the last few months, though I'd rather cook than eat out so I don't eat out often. But if anyone just got sesame chicken, ever, then yeah, I'd probably wonder why they were so, er, chicken.
  • Post #23 - February 1st, 2006, 1:00 am
    Post #23 - February 1st, 2006, 1:00 am Post #23 - February 1st, 2006, 1:00 am
    G Wiv wrote:Food and service wise, LSC did not suffer in the least, they handled the crowd easily, no lag time on orders. LSC did not, by any means, tame the dishes down for Check Please either, in fact, the complimentary Szechuan cabbage was even spicier than usual and the terrific Ma Po Tofu was as oil and chili laden as ever. Our waitress did not try to talk us out of any of our more non check please type dishes such as sliced beef and maw Szechuan style, which may be my single most favorite dishes at LSC, Szechuan spicy rabbit w/bone, pork hock home style or chili smelt.

    Well deserved recognition for LSC.


    Sliced beef and maw szechuan style (foo chi fey pien) is my favorite dish at LSC too. I tend to order it nearly every time I'm here. But first, in keeping with the strict posting focus guidelines, a few notes on the Check Please Effect at LSC:

    Fairly busy on a Monday evening, though probably not unusual for LSC. However, the proportion of non-Chinese was higher than I've come across. New menus! Large hardbound, full colour menus with pictures of many dishes. Increased prices - some items by only a dollar, some by two, some by three and more*. I don't know if this is indeed a Check Please effect. Given that prices hadn't changed in a while, possibly Tony was simply waiting for an auspicious time, like the Chinese New Year with everything ready- and before you could say, "Gong xi fa choi!" sprung them on us. Could the check please timing be coincidental (I doubt it)? Anyhow, the menu is, get this, expanded!**. Alright, so some items like American broccoli chicken 5599 may not be credited back to mythical characters in the back alleys of ancient Chengdu, but surely items like LaLaLa Spicy Chicken Pot 5555 (2 spicy symbols) *** and new items in the 'Very Chinese Special' section, such as House Special Dry Chili Duck Tongue 8813 (2 spicy symbols) are but a Bronx cheer to tongues wagging about the compromising Check Please Effect.
    When I saw LSC featured on Check Please**** I thought that this was one place that could handle the added influx of people and would (should!) resist dilution of the authenticity of the food. I see then that I was very happily correct.

    So let's keep the CPE jibber jabber in check, please. Back to the food and our dinner. Where was I? Ah, foo chi fey pien – my favorite dish at LSC and last night it was fantastic. I prefer the Chinese name for the dish, first because it sounds much better and second because I don't want people to be put off by the word 'maw.' As A2Fay remarked at dinner, if we hadn't just gone ahead and ordered it the first time around, we would have missed a truly spectacular dish. Now I'm not sure exactly which part of the steer this 'maw' is from, but certainly it ain't shank. The slices are a mixture of tender meat and cartilegenous pieces, also tender, all thinly coated in chili oil, with the sweet coolness and heat of Sichuan peppercorn, and the spark of cilantro and nuttiness from the ground peanuts sprinkled atop. A truly delightful dish!

    We were started off with the spicy cabbage – fresh and crisp. The crunchy sweetness of the cabbage accentuated by the hot chili oil. And hot chili oil it was, in glorious oblivion to unsuspecting how-can-it-be-chinese-if they-don't-have-crab-rangoon headscratchers. Incidentally, our empty plate of cabbage was replaced with a full one midway through our meal (without our asking).

    Some pics (most clickable for larger images)
    gratis spicy cabbage and foo chi fey pien
    Image

    Foo chi fey pien (A01) (not enough said, but I'll refrain from more)
    Image

    Another of my oft-ordered dishes. Sweet green beans, with salty fermented black beans and small pieces of smoked tofu.
    String beans spicy black bean sauce (208)
    Image even larger pic

    We also ordered nian gao (that's what I asked for – and it was pointed out to me on the menu – fried rice cake 708) with shrimp for the New Year approximately, as well as mei chai hu rou, (chai pronounced more like 'tchsai' - a dish I saw at a table as I was leaving LSC the previous time.

    Mei chai hu rou or sweet pickle with steamed pork (A11) was another superb dish. The pickled greens have only a hint of sweetness really, perhaps the 'sweet' in the name is to signify that it isn't the sour pickled greens. The sweet pickles then with a hint of tea-ish flavour along with the trace of smokiness and note of five spice from the bacon that dissolves in your mouth had the deep earthiness that come from long slow cooking (steaming in this case). A spoonful of this over some rice in my bowl and it's so good to be back in Chicago.

    This was truly a super meal!****

    mei chai hu ruo and nien gao
    Image

    mei chai hu ruo (Steamed Pork with Sweet Pickle; A11)
    Image

    mei chai hu ruo in depth view :)
    Image

    Click for external slideshow

    The LSC menu new prices, some new items (there are more on the paper menu)

    * For example, A11 is 8.95 on the new menu, (7.95 on the menu online) and 5.95 on the (four year) old menu I keep with me. So though the increase is a mere three(?) bucks, it is a significant (>50%!) one.

    **Some 28 new items going by the 4 digits code. Earlier menus had items coded with only 3 digits.

    ***There was a great picture of this on the new menu. Note that the term 'La' denotes red pepper heat – so that lalala would be triple spicy. mentioned earlier by Zim

    ****The 'new' hardbound menu has on its first page a schedule or air times of the LSC episode on Check Please as well as Dolinsky's report on the New Year that highlights Tony and LSC

    *****The nian gao was somewhat ordinary – but only by LSC standards and compared to the other dishes. The dinner overall, even with the new prices, was a tremendous value.

  • Post #24 - February 1st, 2006, 8:56 am
    Post #24 - February 1st, 2006, 8:56 am Post #24 - February 1st, 2006, 8:56 am
    sazerac wrote:New menus! Large hardbound, full colour menus with pictures of many dishes. Increased prices - some items by only a dollar, some by two, some by three and more*. I don't know if this is indeed a Check Please effect. Given that prices hadn't changed in a while, possibly Tony was simply waiting for an auspicious time, like the Chinese New Year with everything ready- and before you could say, "Gong xi fa choi!" sprung them on us. Could the check please timing be coincidental (I doubt it)?

    ****The 'new' hardbound menu has on its first page a schedule or air times of the LSC episode on Check Please as well as Dolinsky's report on the New Year that highlights Tony and LSC



    I was at LSC for New Year's Eve (Dec. 31st, that is) and it was the first time I had seen the beautiful new menus. I didn't notice the price changes, as we had hot pot for the first time and I guess I never noticed the price of hot pots before. I think it was something like $16.00 per person on a weekend night, and I thought it was well worth it. I also didn't notice the Check Please and other info. at the front, probably because I was too busy checking out what the other tables were eating and comparing hot pot technique. Finally, I'm sure this has been mentioned here before, but it bears noting that LSC now serves beer, wine and (hot) sake.

    Kristen

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