P.F. Chang’s

Interior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This is a chip off the P.F. Chang’s block, pretty consistent in all ways. Maybe a bit higher ceiling, a staircase, a more prominent bar, but definitely P.F. Chang’s.

There are some interesting new lunch menu bowls, if you haven’t been in a while. The Bibimbap and tempura bowls were both interesting, although the beef in the Mongolian bowl was probably the best.

P.F. Chang’s
530 N Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 828-9977
https://www.yelp.com/biz/p-f-changs-chicago-8

Joy Yee South

Exterior

Interior

Vietnamese platter

Joy Yee platter

Lemon grass chicken

Chicken vermicelli bowl

*** (3 stars)

The thing I like about Joy Yee is the vast menu, which includes Chinese, Vietnamese and a few Korean items, as well as a very extensive flavored drinks and shakes list. I’ve always enjoyed the Joy Yee in Evanston, but I didn’t think this one was quite as good. There was a bit of sameness to all the dishes, even though we tried to order very different things.

The Vietnamese Appetizer platter was a bit more interesting than the Joy Yee Appetizer platter, although the summer rolls on the Joy Yee platter were the best (and lightest) thing we tried.
Spicy Lemon Grass Chicken has almost no hint of spice or lemon grass.

The decor is… well there isn’t any decor. It’s just a white box in a strip mall with some chairs and tables scattered around.

Service was functional if not inspired, and the kitchen was very quick.

Joy Yee South
7101 183rd St
Ste 108
Tinley Park, IL 60477
(708) 468-8520
https://www.yelp.com/biz/joy-yee-south-tinley-park

MingHin Cuisine

Entry

Interior

Menu

BBQ Pork Crepe

Oyster congee

Fried shrimp roll

Duck

Siu Mai

Shrimp dumpling with chive

Fried pot stickers

**** (4 stars)

This is probably the most nicely decorated and modern restaurant in Chinatown. It’s populated mostly by locals, not tourists, so you know you are going to get a very authentic experience. Fortunately there is an extensive pictorial menu, so you can get a pretty good idea of all the dishes before you order.

Be aware that this is real Chinese food and dimsum, not the variety served at the Chinese restaurant in the mall. As such, many of the items are going to be more gelatinous than you are used to, so examine the pictures carefully. Crepes, for example, are not what you think they are.

Of all the things we tried, we liked the Siu Mai (pork and shrimp dumplings) the best.

At lunch time, the dim sum is very reasonably priced. We left stuffed for under $30 for two of us.

MingHin Cuisine
2168 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 808-1999
https://www.yelp.com/biz/minghin-cuisine-chicago-3

India House Restaurant

*** (3 stars)

This is a very nicely decorated restaurant with about 150 different dishes on the menu. Unfortunately the staff isn’t very good, and the food is just average.

It’s odd browsing through the menu, because it seems to have little organization with multiple sections devoted the similar categories, and very few of the standbys like korma, saag, and so on.

We tried Papdi Chat as an appetizer, and the flavors were good, but it wasn’t enhanced by the sturdy wafers mixed into it.

Mahi Mahi Fish Tikka was good fish, but the seasoning on the fish skin wasn’t my favorite flavor.

Bhuni Gobi was extremely overcooked cauliflower; it resembled something that had been sitting on a buffet for hours.

The best dish was Channa Palak, chick peas in a garlic, onion and spinach sauce. Garlic naan bread was also okay.

The service staff seems to be mostly Russian, and wasn’t strong on communication. They were out of all the juices, and couldn’t produce a beer list.

There aren’t many Indian restaurants in River North, but even so, I wouldn’t bother to return here.

India House Restaurant
59 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 645-9500
http://www.yelp.com/biz/india-house-restaurant-chicago-2

Duck Duck Goat

IMG_2060

*** (3 stars)

I’m a huge fan of The Girl and the Goat, so I was really looking forward to Stephanie Izzard’s take on Chinese cuisine.

The place is absolutely gorgeous, with every room decorated in a uniquely elaborate way. Unfortunately the decor was pretty much the only noteworthy thing about the meal. We tried four items from the dim sum list, plus a noodle dish and an entree, and none of them were different or better than what you’d get at any high-quality Chinese restaurant.

The dim sum was all fine, the best item being the ribs.

The slap noodles were the worst thing we had, very heavy wide noodles that were quite durable despite seeming overcooked. The accompanying mixture of vegetables and sauce was better than the noodles, but we both barely tasted this dish.

The special fish dish was a whole snapper, which was very good. If having the head and tail on a fish doesn’t put you off, I recommend this.

Cocktails were excellent. There is a limited selection of wines by the glass or bottle.

Service was pleasant, and the dishes, although all ordered at once, came out in an orderly fashion.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with this experience, but at $200 including tip for two, it was probably about double what comparably good Chinese food might cost elsewhere. In short, a decent experience, but not one I’d repeat.

Duck Duck Goat
857 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 902-3825
http://www.yelp.com/biz/duck-duck-goat-chicago

P.F. Chang’s

**** (4 stars)

This P.F. Chang’s is a big improvement over the Chili’s that occupied this space for many years. The menu is a reduced version of the real P.F. Chang’s menu, and is sadly missing our favorite rib appetizer. But the superb tuna tartare starter made up for it. This was the best thing I’ve had at a P.F. Chang’s.

Service was friendly and efficient, so we were in and out in time to easily make our connection.

P.F Chang’s
Concourse A
8700 Spine Rd
Atlanta, GA 30320
(404) 481-2146
http://www.yelp.com/biz/p-f-changs-atlanta-2

Tabla

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***** (5 stars)

Years ago we liked to go to Tabla for the amazing food and spectacular desserts. Despite what was at the time a very decrepit building, the food was the draw. But then they changed lunch to a buffet and we stopped going.

I’m pleased to report that full lunch service is back, and the food is better than ever. In addition, the formerly dingy space has now been completely remodeled, and is one of Orlando’s most stylish restaurants.

The three course lunch must be one of the best deals in town. It begins with soup or salad, then your choice of many Indian and a few Thai dishes incorporating the protein of your choice, served on a very attractive platter along with rice, naan bread, and either a samosa or spring roll. Finally there is a choice of desserts.

Our favorites were the Chicken Tikka Masala and the Saag Paneer. The banana roll was a nice way to finish up. It’s a lot of food for a very reasonable price.

Service was friendly and fairly quick, so this will definitely go onto our regular lunch circuit. I’d also like to visit for dinner and further explore the menu. Tabla is back and better than ever!

Tabla
5827 Caravan Ct
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 248-9400
http://www.yelp.com/biz/tabla-orlando-4

Shanghai Terrace at The Peninsula Chicago

IMG_7739

***** (5 stars)

The combination of restful setting, superb food and faultless service make this Chicago’s best Chinese restaurant, and one of its top restaurants overall. It’s particularly delightful when it’s warm enough to eat on the terrace, a surprisingly serene environment considering it’s just a half dozen or so floors above Michigan Avenue.

We put ourselves in our waiter’s hands, and he assembled a delightful multi-course meal for us.

We began with an assortment of six pieces of dim sum, individually plated for each of us. This item is not listed on the menu (nor is any form of dim sum sampler) so it is worth asking about. Although I am not a huge dim sum fan, this was clearly the best I have ever had; each was light and flavorful, and even the crab rangoon managed to be delicate and appealing.

Next we shared a split serving of hot and sour soup, also the best I’ve had, with less vinegar and more broth flavor. Plenty of tender lobster chunks made it special.

Peking duck is available in a full or half portion, and the half is perfect for sharing as an appetizer. It’s served with the traditional cucumber, scallions, pancakes and sauces, but the duck was so perfect we ate most of it by itself. Crispy skin and no layer of fat at all made it among the best duck dishes I’ve had. Next time I might try the five spice duck to compare it.

For entrees we shared scallops in black truffle sauce, and a spicy shrimp dish. Both were good, and were different from anything else we’d had, but I felt the preceding courses were better.

Perhaps the highlight of the meal was an amazing red rice dish that I didn’t see on the menu. It was vegetarian, and included various nuts, broccoli and other tidbits, and had a rich, mouth-filling flavor that was remarkable. I would definitely ask for this again.

Finally we finished with a fruit and sorbet plate. Our waiter added a bit of coconut sorbet, which turned out to be the highlight.

A well-conceived wine list offers many selections designed to accompany the food, including a small half bottle section. Wine prices are erratic, with some barely above retail, and others sky high, so careful browsing is required, but will be rewarded.

This was a great meal, and I’m sure we will return often to this surprising oasis in the midst of the city.

Shanghai Terrace at The Peninsula Chicago
108 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 573-6695
http://www.yelp.com/biz/shanghai-terrace-at-the-peninsula-chicago-chicago

Big Bowl

**** (4 stars)

It’s easy to classify Big Bowl as another fast casual chain, but that really understates how nice this location is, with its elaborate and beautiful interior design and hands-on management and staff.

The concept is a mix of Chinese, Thai and Mongolian barbecue, so there’s likely to be something for most people. I enjoyed the very fresh tasting spring rolls, which were cut up like a sushi roll rather than served as a log; great idea.

Pad Thai was tasty, heavy on the lime and cilantro. I had the shrimp version, but the chicken version might be a bit more traditional.

There’s a reasonable list of alcoholic beverages that match the food. House-made ginger ale is a good non-alcoholic choice.

Service was fast and friendly. The manager visited and even comped me a cucumber amuse bouche as a first time visitor.

Big Bowl
60 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 951-1888
http://www.yelp.com/biz/big-bowl-chicago

Red Ginger Restaurant

**** (4 stars)

This nicely decorated strip mall restaurant serves both Chinese food and sushi. Both are competently prepared.

Lunches come with two sides, and in some cases you can choose from some out of the ordinary offerings such as lo mein.

The sushi was well made. We particularly liked the No Name roll.

Service is friendly and efficient.

Red Ginger Restaurant
6300 N Wickham Rd
Ste 127
Melbourne, FL 32940
(321) 242-1167
http://www.yelp.com/biz/red-ginger-restaurant-melbourne