It doesn’t have any Michelin stars nor did it made it to S. Pellegrino’s top 50 list, but it did made it to the top 38 restaurants in the entire USA published by Eater.com and one of the global selection on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant site. Needless to say, I’m intrigued.
A hot address in Chicago, its specialization was reinterpreted Macauese cuisine – something I haven’t tasted since I left Hong Kong eons ago, so I was expecting a trip down the memory lane.
Upon arrival, both the exterior and interior looked unremarkable – hard to believe this was one of the best restaurants in the country. Large format dishes and communal tables, the vibe here was humble, homey family fare, and it showed: the room was decorated with stereotypical Asian trinkets. It felt like the living room of a hoarding Asian grandparent. Making you feel right at home? Checked.
I had to smile at the menu cover when I sat down. For those that are too young to remember, this was a photoshopped version of the cover of TinTin and the Blue Lotus – a comic that I used to read religiously back in my elementary/high school days.
Cabbage appetizers were served soon after we sat down, no questions asked. They really tried to make you feel right at home here.
Potstickers. Interestinly enough, it was served with this thin rice flour crepe that connected all the other potstickers together. It just hit that balance of a crispy exterior and flavorful meaty interior. The dipping sauce was an absolute must.
Po Kok Gai a.k.a. Portuguese Chicken, chorizo, olives, cabbage, potato, mild coconut curry, lemon. I love this. It was tender, succulent chicken paired with a creamy curry sauce. Coat the jasmine rice with that lovely sauce and I’m a happy man.
Porco Balichang Tamarind O, Braised Sweet & Sour Pork Belly, Tamarind, Pineapple, Pressed Rice. Any restaurant that has braised pork belly has got my vote. It was tender and the fat was well interlaced with the meat. The rich sauce elevated that even further, making it one of the best dishes I’ve had for the night.
Piri Piri Chicken a.k.a. Galinha a Africana, char-grilled half bird, grilled potato, spicy “African” tomato peanut sauce. The portion was significantly larger than our other dishes. It had a good balance between heat, spice and sweet. A member of our party, who is from Hong Kong, even commented it was better than the one he had in Macau.
Arroz Gordo (Fat Rice), Jasmine rice laced with sofrito, Chinese sausage, salted duck and topped with portuguese chicken thighs, char sui pork, linguica sausage, fatty prawns, clans, tea eggs, croutons, assorted pickles and sauces. It took a while for this namesake dish to arrive on our table and it showed. It was topped with so much ingredients that we had to disassemble it carefully like some kind of food Jenga. It looked impressive and each component was cooked well: every bite was savory, succulent, and tender. Traditionally served at family celebrations, it did just that while we celebrated my friend who is about to get married in a few days.
Serradura, cream cheese mousse, guava, tea biscuit crumb. Desserts tends to get boring around the end with store bought items, but not these guys. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, the smooth creamy texture contrasted well with the dust-like texture of the biscuit crumbs. Strong, impactful taste ended our menu for the night.
This wasn’t one of those tacky restaurants that serves dumb down versions of Asian dishes for the Western palate – everything I tasted here was unpretentious and homey. I could taste the essence of Portuguese Chinese fusion (well, Macauese) cuisine tonight and it was delivered really well. I am happy to have include this restaurant in my US trip.