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Double Li - Szechuan cuisine across from LTH [closed]

Double Li - Szechuan cuisine across from LTH [closed]
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  • Post #61 - November 5th, 2007, 6:14 pm
    Post #61 - November 5th, 2007, 6:14 pm Post #61 - November 5th, 2007, 6:14 pm
    m'th'su wrote:
    Jay K wrote:Interesting discussion re: the origins of Li's presentation of Black Pepper Beef, as I'd always been under the impression it was a classic Cantonese dish from Hong Kong


    With butter?


    I wonder if that's an English influence? From when they occupied HK post-Opium wars. I'm just wondering if Li's dish is the same I'd eaten as a child.
  • Post #62 - November 5th, 2007, 7:18 pm
    Post #62 - November 5th, 2007, 7:18 pm Post #62 - November 5th, 2007, 7:18 pm
    Jay K wrote:I'm just wondering if Li's dish is the same I'd eaten as a child.

    Only one way to find out for sure . . . :wink:

    =R=
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  • Post #63 - November 5th, 2007, 8:44 pm
    Post #63 - November 5th, 2007, 8:44 pm Post #63 - November 5th, 2007, 8:44 pm
    Jay K wrote:Interesting discussion re: the origins of Li's presentation of Black Pepper Beef, as I'd always been under the impression it was a classic Cantonese dish from Hong Kong, at the very least that my family has dined on it since their days in Hong Kong and in Cantonese restaurants in the states under the name of Hak Jiu Gnou Lou - I apologize for my bad Cantonese ping yum


    The dish at double li is entirely different from the classic cantonese black pepper beef I have encountered. That dish is a stir fry with a pungent and intense black pepper taste. The dish at Double Li has prominent notes of garlic, is sweeter and seems to be deep fried at the finish, giving it an overall character more like a mandarin "orange beef". Not cantonese in any way.
    Lacking fins or tail
    The Gefilte fish
    swims with great difficulty.

    Jewish haiku.
  • Post #64 - November 16th, 2007, 7:26 pm
    Post #64 - November 16th, 2007, 7:26 pm Post #64 - November 16th, 2007, 7:26 pm
    Over at the Reader food blog, Mike Sula posted a video of Mr. Li making his terrific black-pepper garlic beef.

    If you haven't tried this dish, you're missing out on one of the better dishes in Chinatown.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #65 - November 17th, 2007, 8:39 am
    Post #65 - November 17th, 2007, 8:39 am Post #65 - November 17th, 2007, 8:39 am
    eatchicago wrote:Over at the Reader food blog, Mike Sula posted a video of Mr. Li making his terrific black-pepper garlic beef.

    Michael,

    Thanks for the heads up on the video, nice to see how one of my favorite dishes is made.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #66 - November 17th, 2007, 11:09 am
    Post #66 - November 17th, 2007, 11:09 am Post #66 - November 17th, 2007, 11:09 am
    There's a book by Jim Macawley called "Chinese for eaters" -- gives you translations of most major characters. Jim's unfortunately dead a few years now, but the book is still available on eBay and Amazon. It let's you translate things yourself, and he would always just scribble an order (could write Chinese, but didn't like to speak it) and away we'd go!


    Cathy2 wrote:Hi,

    You could take a different approach to the menu: get a copy and ask someone to translate it. You can then point confidently to the Chinese and get it.

    You could take the real explorer aspect to: order the unknown dish, document and take pictures.

    Anyway, it would be fun and an interesting contribution.

    Regards,
  • Post #67 - November 17th, 2007, 5:32 pm
    Post #67 - November 17th, 2007, 5:32 pm Post #67 - November 17th, 2007, 5:32 pm
    MycoMan wrote:There's a book by Jim Macawley called "Chinese for eaters" -- gives you translations of most major characters. Jim's unfortunately dead a few years now, but the book is still available on eBay and Amazon. It let's you translate things yourself, and he would always just scribble an order (could write Chinese, but didn't like to speak it) and away we'd go!


    Cathy2 wrote:Hi,

    You could take a different approach to the menu: get a copy and ask someone to translate it. You can then point confidently to the Chinese and get it.

    You could take the real explorer aspect to: order the unknown dish, document and take pictures.

    Anyway, it would be fun and an interesting contribution.

    Regards,


    For those who wish to search, the exact reference to the above mentioned book is James D. McCawley, "The Eater's Guide to Chinese Characters." It's come up on this forum occasionally, and there's more about it here:

    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/h ... 0/1599.ctl
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #68 - November 19th, 2007, 4:20 pm
    Post #68 - November 19th, 2007, 4:20 pm Post #68 - November 19th, 2007, 4:20 pm
    A friend of mine and I went to Double Li this past weekend and we can only agree with what everyone else has said on this board. I don't eat in Chinatown as often as I should, so I was a little nervous -- what if I get the one waitress who isn't as well-versed in English, what if I don't have the courage to ask about the pocket tofu, etc.

    But all of these concerns were wasted as soon as we got inside. And getting inside seemed to be the trickiest part (it was a little hard to find the front door, as you have to enter through a vestibule to get to the restaurant's door). If anyone is wary of eating in Chinatown without a chinese-speaking companion, this is certainly a great place to go.

    We had the potstickers and crab rangoon -- both were very well done and as someone else said, the potstickers seemed especially meaty. For entrees, we split the black peppercorn beef and pocket tofu. I've never had as much fun ordering food as when I ordered the Chinese-only menu item and earned a knowing nod from our server (Ben Li, I think).

    I'm looking forward to going back, and with more friends. We will go for the hotpot next time -- a large group was sharing one and it looked like great fun. I am obliged to thank everyone else who already posted about this restaurant and made recommendations -- it made my trip much more enjoyable, and I doubt I would have thought to go in were it not for this forum. Thanks!
  • Post #69 - November 19th, 2007, 9:54 pm
    Post #69 - November 19th, 2007, 9:54 pm Post #69 - November 19th, 2007, 9:54 pm
    I ate there tonight and it was fantastic. I believe that in time it is only going to get better. I was with my sister who had the Black Pepper Beef, she wasn't crazy about it, but I absolutely loved it. Apparently she could taste the oyster sauce and she doesn't care for fish in any non-Long John Silvers form. Oh well, more for me. I ordered the Twice Cooked Pork Belly, also amazing. Double Li is my new favorite restaurant in Chinatown, make that Chicago. I really need to find some people to go try the hot pot with me, that looked so good that I wanted to put my whole face into it, scalds be damned!
  • Post #70 - November 19th, 2007, 10:08 pm
    Post #70 - November 19th, 2007, 10:08 pm Post #70 - November 19th, 2007, 10:08 pm
    I went there this evening with my GF. We had the same initial hesitation on the front door, but quickly found our way in. Most of the tables were occupied by Chinese customers (always a good sign) save for one caucasian couple (that must have been you, Germy). We waited for the staff to clear a table - I must say that they are very efficient, with white plastic "tablecloths" layered several deep. So it was like a tarp cleanup...nice!

    We ordered the potstickers, the black pepper beef, peapod greens (our waitress called them leaves), and the "double porked" belly. Everything was as delicious as other people promised, the beef being our favorite. Very garlicy, peppery, and tender as heck. Even the broccoli florets served with it were well-done, on the al dente side. We also saw a table of four sharing a hot pot meal, and we were also envious...

    Service was very cordial and friendly, even with the language barrier. We will be back!
    - Mark

    Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon? Ham? Pork chops?
    Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.
    Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
  • Post #71 - November 19th, 2007, 10:25 pm
    Post #71 - November 19th, 2007, 10:25 pm Post #71 - November 19th, 2007, 10:25 pm
    So... what time did you guys go?

    Sounds like my family and I might have been the table they were cleaning up for you, Wino, but surely we overlapped with Germy...

    Image

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    I particularly liked the beef garlic thing, which is incredibly rich and flavorful, almost over the top; and the pork belly dish. Youngest son loved, loved, loved the "other" tofu (not bear paw). Though I didn't think the chicken crack compared to Lao Sze Chuan's; it was just chicken weed, at best chicken codeine cough syrup by comparison.
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  • Post #72 - November 19th, 2007, 10:46 pm
    Post #72 - November 19th, 2007, 10:46 pm Post #72 - November 19th, 2007, 10:46 pm
    We arrived about 7:30 and sat at a deuce two in from the front door. So what exactly is "chicken crack?" The dry chile chicken?
    - Mark

    Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon? Ham? Pork chops?
    Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.
    Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
  • Post #73 - November 19th, 2007, 10:56 pm
    Post #73 - November 19th, 2007, 10:56 pm Post #73 - November 19th, 2007, 10:56 pm
    Who knows, we may have passed on the street.

    Yes, "chicken crack" has been a nickname on occasionfor Lao Sze Chuan's version of the chile chicken.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #74 - November 19th, 2007, 11:17 pm
    Post #74 - November 19th, 2007, 11:17 pm Post #74 - November 19th, 2007, 11:17 pm
    wino66 wrote:We arrived about 7:30 and sat at a deuce two in from the front door. So what exactly is "chicken crack?" The dry chile chicken?


    Typically, I hear folks referring to Tony's 3-Chile Chicken as "chicken crack". While I like both this and the Dry Chile Chicken, I think the former is easier to eat being sweeter and nearly 100% chicken (as opposed to 75% chicken and 25% dried chile). Then again my fav is the "Shrimp Crack" Dry Chile Prawns at LSC.

    Tony's 3-Chile Chicken at LSC
    Image
  • Post #75 - November 19th, 2007, 11:23 pm
    Post #75 - November 19th, 2007, 11:23 pm Post #75 - November 19th, 2007, 11:23 pm
    Oh, sorry, I didn't realize those were different dishes. Yes, it's the sweetness that helps make this chicken crack, that is, compulsively scarfable. Maybe it's short for chicken cracker jacks...
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  • Post #76 - November 19th, 2007, 11:45 pm
    Post #76 - November 19th, 2007, 11:45 pm Post #76 - November 19th, 2007, 11:45 pm
    Mike, What is the fourth pic from the top with the tree ear fungus? Is that "the other" doufu? (AKA Pocket doufu?)
  • Post #77 - November 19th, 2007, 11:48 pm
    Post #77 - November 19th, 2007, 11:48 pm Post #77 - November 19th, 2007, 11:48 pm
    Yes, I couldn't remember what he called it (other than "the other").
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  • Post #78 - November 20th, 2007, 12:02 am
    Post #78 - November 20th, 2007, 12:02 am Post #78 - November 20th, 2007, 12:02 am
    Mike G wrote: Youngest son loved, loved, loved the "other" tofu (not bear paw).
    Unbelievable, the kid loves soy bean curd with tree ear fungus. Liam is awesome.
  • Post #79 - November 20th, 2007, 1:11 am
    Post #79 - November 20th, 2007, 1:11 am Post #79 - November 20th, 2007, 1:11 am
    Really wish I could post a photo essay (in red) of the superb meal I shared with my buddy on Sunday night- though the cam has been lent out since last week. Ordering was challenging, as noted, but our waitress was actually incredibly accomodating and charming, despite the language barrier. Helpful has been my studying of Fuschia Dunlop's "Land of Plenty", a fantastic primer for this wonderfully complex cuisine. Using a mixed discourse including invented sign language (visual demonstration of sichuan peppercorn, anyone?), our order was almost too successful- she mistook our debating over one dish or another as ordering everything mentioned. So, after a round of mis-ordered ordinary spring roles, we received a procession (in red) of ma la that was overwhelming by the looks of its glistening pools of deep chile oils. What we received was strange flavor chicken, Sichuan tripe, the peapod greens, red (chile) oil fish, and lamb "hotpot". With the accumulating praise, I need not attest too much more to the extra-sensory joy of exploring such a rich palette of spice. The fish was probably the highlight, the suppleness of the flesh and the literal depth of spice stratified in the emulsion of oil and broth and the amazingly saturated cabbage leaves make this a bestest dish in town. The tripe had added complexity with the addition of celery heart compared to other versions. The chicken- bearing cross sectioned meat, skin, bones, and suspended in the ubiquitous oil- was surprisingly refreshing, cold and popping with numbing peppercorn. The "hotpot" was by far the most fiery and more heavily spiced than the fish stew with added five spice and probably the addition of some mysteriuos "medicine". My only quibble may be the consistency of the oddly soft and inconsistent quality to the lamb- which I've encountered at other Chinese restaurants as well. I really prefer the sort of long-braised chunks of lamb a la "lamb stew casserole" at Spring World. The lotus shoots and other vegetal matter definitely compensated for substance in an otherwise ethereal, almost druggy experience of consuming mass quantity of spices. It was one hell of a ride. Can't wait to go back. Need to hit up Spring World again soon too. We are pretty lucky.
  • Post #80 - November 20th, 2007, 9:21 pm
    Post #80 - November 20th, 2007, 9:21 pm Post #80 - November 20th, 2007, 9:21 pm
    Tasty, tasty, tasty. The beef is a fantasy in garlic worthy of the Gilroy Festival, where they'd serve it on a stick with tubs of Hopleaf's frites aioli. I also enjoyed the shrimp dumplings, served floating in a bowl of sweetened soy and chili oil, and the salt and pepper shrimp, perched on a bed of pan-fried noodles. The boiled beef was meatier and slightly less savory than Lao Sze Chuan's, but still very good, with a generous handful of fresh cilantro as a garnish. My only disappointment from tonight was the porkless hot and sour soup. I had excellent company - a former president of an eminent local musical organization, who had just returned from three weeks in China and was missing the cuisine already. Double Li took him back where he wanted to be.
  • Post #81 - November 26th, 2007, 11:40 am
    Post #81 - November 26th, 2007, 11:40 am Post #81 - November 26th, 2007, 11:40 am
    Though I didn't think the chicken crack compared to Lao Sze Chuan's; it was just chicken weed, at best chicken codeine cough syrup by comparison.


    I went to Shui Wah last Saturday for dim sum, and I have found Squid Crack! Oh, man those little squid matchsticks with seasoned salt are to die for...we could've ordered a few more, but restrained ourselves.
    - Mark

    Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon? Ham? Pork chops?
    Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.
    Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
  • Post #82 - November 26th, 2007, 9:26 pm
    Post #82 - November 26th, 2007, 9:26 pm Post #82 - November 26th, 2007, 9:26 pm
    wino66 wrote:I went to Shui Wah last Saturday for dim sum, and I have found Squid Crack! Oh, man those little squid matchsticks with seasoned salt are to die for...we could've ordered a few more, but restrained ourselves.

    Sounds like you might also like to try the Octopus Whiskers at Sun Wah on Argyle, as shown in G Wiv's picture below:
    G Wiv wrote:Octopus Whiskers
    Image
  • Post #83 - November 26th, 2007, 9:48 pm
    Post #83 - November 26th, 2007, 9:48 pm Post #83 - November 26th, 2007, 9:48 pm
    Have to say I was underwhelmed by the garlic beef dish: to these taste buds, it had all the flavor and texture of a gristly, overly peppery chicken fried steak. Either I caught them on a bad night or I just don't get it.

    They were out of the pocket tofu, which was a bummer; I think I'll give them another shot and go with a hot pot, as it seemed to be a popular dish among other diners.

    Is Ben planning on translating the rest of the menu? It's kind of a wash right now: there's like 12 things in English, most of which are typical American Chinese...
  • Post #84 - December 10th, 2007, 4:52 pm
    Post #84 - December 10th, 2007, 4:52 pm Post #84 - December 10th, 2007, 4:52 pm
    I had to run an errand today, so I stopped to eat at Double Li afterwards. The place was pretty empty, but my server was nice, even though I got the draft she wasn't great with the English.

    It's about 2-3 hours later, and I can still feel the spice steaming in my chest. I had the dry chicken chilli. It was fine, but not as overwhelming with the spice and heat as Lao Sze Chuan's version. I really would have liked to have sampled the Chinese menu, but there was no translation, and I didn't feel like asking my waitress to translate for me. The dish was $11 before tip, and I got leftovers, so hooray for that.

    BTW, are you supposed to eat the chillis with the chicken? I've never been quite sure.

    The place was clean, even though I don't like the standard tea and the multiple layers of plastic on the tables. I'll go back, try something new.
  • Post #85 - December 17th, 2007, 12:02 pm
    Post #85 - December 17th, 2007, 12:02 pm Post #85 - December 17th, 2007, 12:02 pm
    Piling on here. My son and I were in Chinatown to buy tea this weekend. We usually go about every 6 weeks and take the opportunity to have a nice meal. (He's 9). We stopped at Double Li based on recs from this forum and WOW we were not disappointed. First, we were the only non-asians there, usually a good sign. Second, the menu had the usual suspects but I asked the waiter (who spoke passable but almost unintellible english) to have the chef prepare whatever his favorite dish is. After checking to see if I like things spicy hot (yes) he told me about the fish in broth dish. Sounds good say I. The boy orders beef with broccoli and pot stickers.

    The beef/broccoli came first and I was seriously underwhelmed. The major redeeming factor about this dish was the broccoli was clearly very fresh and had been wok'd with a gentle hand so it was still flavorful and crisp. The beef, however, was pretty flavorless and I was worried.

    Shouldn't have been. The pot stickers came next and were huge, flavorful and not greasy. Very tasty and son #2 was very happy.

    Out came my fish/broth/oil. First of all it's beautiful to look at. Fiery red oil with tons of fish, veggies, green basil leaves, tofu and a dark red tofu-like substance that I subsequently found out was "pork blood". The stew itself was heavenly. Szechuan peppercorns, spices, basil all blended together for a complex, multilayered experience. The fish (and there was a load of it) was tender - melt in your mouth tender and the veggies and tofu were wonderful. The "pork blood" tasted a bit like liver and had a texture to match its looks - kind of like tofu. The complexity and richness of the stew over the rice is something I've never experienced before in a Chinese restaurant. I'll go back again and again I'm sure.

    After eating, I had a discussion with the waiter and then someone else came out of the kitchen too and we talked about the specials on the wall by each booth. None of these are on the regular menu. There is apparently a spicy duck dish that I will try next time I'm there. It won't be long.
    Howard
  • Post #86 - January 13th, 2008, 4:34 pm
    Post #86 - January 13th, 2008, 4:34 pm Post #86 - January 13th, 2008, 4:34 pm
    Mike and I had been to Double Li before the thread started here at LTHForum, but had not tried many of the dishes introduced here. Our usual order is the water boiled fish, a simple vegetable dish and the cold beef slices with tripe in chile oil (not spicy enough).

    So I dragged him over last week to try the black pepper garlic beef and the fried shrimp with egg yolks. I wasn't too impressed actually. The beef was tender, but it was a little too sweet and pretty greasy. I had to prop the plate up on one end, so the oil could drip away. The shrimp was also a little greasy, and a little bland. I am pretty sure they used chicken egg yolks, but maybe salted duck yolks would boost the flavor a little more. We also ordered a simple peashoot and garlic dish, which provided a welcome respite from the heavy dishes.

    Double Li was not that busy when we came in. There was only one other table, and when we left, there were about 3-4 tables occupied.

    Hate to rain on the parade, but maybe it was an off night. But I am pretty underwhelmed... I think I will stick with the Szechuan food instead.
  • Post #87 - January 25th, 2008, 4:59 pm
    Post #87 - January 25th, 2008, 4:59 pm Post #87 - January 25th, 2008, 4:59 pm
    I went to Double Li for the first time last night based on the wonderful reviews on the board. I'm so glad I did. I love Sichuan food in general and have been missing the Sichuan peppercorns I used to be able to get at my favorite NY restaurant. (I've asked at LSC and had no luck.)

    Mr. Li was very kind and talked us through several options. When I said how much I like Sichuan peppercorns, he made several suggestions on the Chinese menu.

    I started with the scallion pancakes. They were freshly made and had a nice chewy texture--not flaky. (I like them either way and these were delicious.)

    I had the ma po tofu and it was hands down the best I ever had. Unlike what was mentioned an earlier post, it had pleanty of fermented black beans--maybe he's tinkering with the flavor? It was also spiced with sichuan peppercorns which (for me) was an unusual and delicious addition to the dish. My mouth is still numb in a very good way. I can see that meat eaters may prefer the traditional preparation with pork, but as a veg option, it was excellent.

    My gf and I shared the crispy garlic eggplant. It was in a delicious, somewhat pungent brown sauce. The inside of the eggplant was creamy and there was a hint of crackle when biting into the skin. We fought over the last bits. We also shared the pea pod shoots, which were tasty and light and cooked with much less oil than at most places.

    My gf had the chili chicken, which she says isn't as tasty as at LSC, but wanted to try it to compare. She says it was still good, just paled in comparison, and will try something different next time.

    I can see how this could be an intimidating restaurant because of the language barrier with both the menu and waitstaff. (We had some trouble getting water and soy sauce.) This didn't bother me in part because Mr. Li was so accomodating and also because I felt lucky to able to try such interesting food at a place that was not dumbed down in the least. I look forward to going back soon.
  • Post #88 - January 25th, 2008, 5:17 pm
    Post #88 - January 25th, 2008, 5:17 pm Post #88 - January 25th, 2008, 5:17 pm
    Welcome to LTH! Good report and evocative descriptions.
  • Post #89 - January 26th, 2008, 9:53 am
    Post #89 - January 26th, 2008, 9:53 am Post #89 - January 26th, 2008, 9:53 am
    I've been to Double Li twice. The first time, when I asked about dishes on the Chinese-only menu, the waitress just pointed to the English menu. Luckily, the black pepper beef was on the English menu, although I have to say I didn't find it superior to similar dishes I've had elsewhere. The second time, the waiter was more accommodating. Unfortunately, his knowledge of English was such as to make communication very difficult, and I didn't feel like I could press him without embarrassing him. He did recommend what he called the "non-spicy duck dish," which was one of the specials on the wall, and it was very good. At neither time did Mr. Li appear to help out. (Admittedly on my second visit the restaurant was packed.) I think I'll wait until I read that the menu has actually been translated before returning again.
  • Post #90 - January 26th, 2008, 10:25 am
    Post #90 - January 26th, 2008, 10:25 am Post #90 - January 26th, 2008, 10:25 am
    Adam Stephanides wrote:Luckily, the black pepper beef was on the English menu, although I have to say I didn't find it superior to similar dishes I've had elsewhere.


    Adam,

    Would you mind posting where you had a similar dish that was even better? I found the version at Double Li to be a revelation and the first dish I think of ordering when I go there. I'd love to visit somewhere that serves a superior version.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven

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