Lunch in the Loop: 65 Asian Kitchen
Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.
Every now and then, I think we all have a craving for greasy, Americanized Chinese food. (Hangovers, anyone?) I know you know what I'm talking about, homies. I can sense you closet Panda Express lovers out there. Yes, you in the back, shifting around nervously. I'm talking about you. But it's okay, you're here reading my post, so I forgive you. Mostly.
Apparently, busy traders need their greasy Chinese fix too, because located in the small courtyard next to the Chicago Board of Trade is a little revolving door that leads into a really big restaurant with a ton of tables. I am going to warn you right now: The portions at 65 Asian Kitchen are enormous. As soon as you think the lady's done stuffing the styrofoam container, she closes it to see if there's any room, and if there is, she just jams even more food in. And that's when my head explodes.
I wasn't kidding about the portions, just check out the two item plate ($7.95). At 65 Asian Kitchen, the Chinese BBQ Pork (top left) is really where it's at. The pork has that trademark red color, and you can immediately smell the Chinese five-spice wafting off of it. It's unabashedly fatty, sweet, and salty. Sure, bits of the meat can be chewy while other parts are tender, but that's okay.
The Hot Chicken (top right) is pretty much your standard Chinese broccoli chicken, with the addition of dried chiles, carrots, snow peas, and mushrooms. Despite the name and the chiles, it's not spicy at all, and the sauce tastes like a blend of soy sauce and oyster sauce. The chicken is a bit dry and flavorless, but the big pieces of broccoli soak up all the sauce and have good crunch, which make up for it.
While you have your choice between white rice, multiple fried rice, and various noodles, the Singapore Curry Noodles are easily my favorite. The vermicelli-style noodles are seasoned with a mild curry powder, and come with bits of pork and vegetables. They are coated with a decent amount of oil, so don't say I didn't warn you!
One of the more popular American-style Chinese food dishes is the Orange Chicken ($5.60). This is battered fried chicken pieces in a very sweet and salty sauce thickened with corn starch. What really stands out is the surprisingly bold orange flavor. The chicken, again, is relatively flavorless, but with all the sauce, it's not a big deal.
If you're a fried rice fan, this is a fairly standard version. However, I think it might be best to steer you away from the chicken fried rice. The cubed chicken tastes like a strange sponge-like cake, almost like Asian fish cake. Go for the shrimp fried rice instead.
When I was at the restaurant ordering with my coworkers, one of them saw the sign for Chicken Nuggets ($3.90) and made it his mission to have us get an order. I caved, and we ended up getting a take-out box with the fried chicken pieces and a side of the sweet and sour sauce, which had that awesome cartoonishly red color along with pieces of canned pineapple (which for some reason I always liked). Since they came unsauced, they were still crunchy when we arrived back at the office, and they went very quickly.
To me, there's always a time and place for this kind of greasy Chinese food. It's hard not to resist that sweet, salty, umami, and oily flavor now and then, especially if you were monkeying around the night before.
65 Asian Kitchen