Knockout Noodles: The Fat Noodle at Fat Rice

Knockout Noodles

Reviews of noodle dishes.

Fat Rice Noodles ($14)

[Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

I won't be the first of the food commentariat to point out the crippling difficulties of ordering at Fat Rice, the brick-and-mortar brainchild of chefs Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo, former operators of the underground dining group X-Marx. You want every last odd and intriguing mishmash of ingredients that beckons from their menu, which draws inspiration from the Portuguese-Chinese food of Macau. It's as if they took all the signifiers that one who's predisposed to big, Asian, and Mediterranean flavors might find hotly appealing, put them in a bag, shook it up, and spilled it out in front of you.

The result is dislocating, exciting reading, where your eye blisses over passages like "smoky tofu and trumpet mushroom," "tea egg - jamón mangalica - anchovy," and "salt cod - chili - mint - olive." But while Macau may be known now as a mecca for gamblers, Fat Rice is not playing games of chance when it comes to pairing and building flavors. And therein lies the fun of eating this food: there are so many unfamiliar tastes to discovery anew, and the chefs have done the hard work of refining their dishes, that diners can freely submit to the strongest pull of their curiosities.

At least in hopes of expediting my ordering experience at Fat Rice, I came with a plan: get the Fat Noodle ($14), which features hand-rolled chee cheong fun, a wide, thick noodle made with rice flour and potato starch. You can either complement the fat noodle with mushroom and egg or Fat Rice's x.o. sauce. I opted for the latter and was nothing but pleased with the decision. When you order flat noodles with brown sauce at lesser Chinese restaurants, this is the dish you always want but never seem to get. It's lively and fresh when others are heavy and dull. The accompanying bean sprouts, green onion, and snap peas add crunch and aromatics. The heat and seasoning are present but not overpowering. And the noodles—sometimes still rolled up like a scroll, sometimes betraying the splendid scars of the wok's sizzle—are dense and juicy and lovingly chewy. They're bound to ruin you for wide, flat Chinese rice noodles. But then again, that's what the mission seems to be at Fat Rice: change your perceptions of what Chinese food can be.

Fat Rice

2957 West Diversey, Chicago, IL 60647 (map)

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