As much as I love his food, keeping up with Tony Hu is exhausting. Back in January, I spent half of the month attempting to eat at every single one of his restaurants in Chicago's Chinatown. That was no small feat, since Hu owned and operated five different restaurants in the area, each one unique. With the exception of Lao You Ju, all explored the cuisine of a particular region of the enormous country, which meant each utilized different ingredients, techniques, and flavor combinations. I came away from the adventure with 14 favorite dishes, along with a incredible appreciation for his restaurant empire.
But Tony Hu does not rest, and since then he's opened up two more projects in the Chinatown Square Mall. First was Lao Yunnan, which Hu opened after taking over the Yunnese-focused Spring World. According to an article in the Chicago Reader, he kept much of the staff and the old menu, but also added a few more dishes from that region.
Then came Lao Ma La, which recently opened just a few doors down in the space formerly held by Lure Izakaya. This one, like Lao You Ju, skips a regional focus, and instead celebrates the glorious combination of spicy chiles and numbing Sichuan peppercorns (Talk about an apt name, Ma La literally translates as "numbing and spicy").
And that's not all! Hu is also planning to open a new restaurant in River North this fall, along with an outpost of Lao Sze Chuan in Uptown. But I figured it was time to update this Chinatown-focused post with more picks from his two most recent projects. I'll admit that much of the two menus still need to be explored, but this is my first impression of what you can expect. Along with my previous Chinatown post, you could spend the next few months eating happily in Chinatown.
Click here to check them all out.
Lao Ma La
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