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Review - Lao You Ju

By Anthony Todd in Food on Feb 4, 2011 5:40PM

This doesn't quite give the full red flavor of the interior, but it's a start. Photo by Lauren*O.
Lao You Ju, the newest member of Tony Hu's restaurant empire, looks like a late-night fantasy of a 1980's business power restaurant. Red leather, curving lines, chandeliers and a gold accent wall covered with projecting sculpture. A bar which lovingly spotlights each bottle of Patron Silver completes the image, which is sort of fun despite how over the top it is. The food is solid, but the drinks and service, sadly, aren't quite up to the flashy standards of the decor.

In yesterday's Trib, Phil Vettel gives Lao You Ju a pass, and reading his review, we recognize traces of the same restaurant we visited last weekend. As he mentioned, the huge spiral menus were ripped apart already, despite the restaurant's youth, and the restaurant does offer a full bar. At that point our impressions slightly parted ways. We took a stab at the restaurant's very vodka-heavy cocktail menu and received the most revolting concoction ever to be called an alcoholic beverage. Perhaps it is our fault for ordering a cocktail in Chinatown, but with such a dramatically lit bar, we felt we had to try it. The only consolation? It was only $7. Skip the drinks and order beer. But be prepared to wait a while to get it - while our servers were sometimes attentive to the point of paranoia (coming over every time our eyes left the table) they disappeared for long stretches of time. Food arrived at the table quickly, but it took us almost half an hour to get our check.

We've already mentioned that the decor looks like the set of a very very expensive pornographic movie. The one facet of the over-the-top decor we failed to mention? Everything in the place is branded with Hu's name. From the chopsticks to the teacups, each item that hit your table reminded you who owned the restaurant. At least the food served in those branded dishes lived up to its owners name. A dish of dried bean cured and leek greens was delicious and light, and "Tony's special vegetarian rolls" were lightly fried and delicious. The menu's selection of inexpensive soups are all excellent, and if you're in the mood for a spicier treat, grab something off of the "House Signature" list. It may cost more than the rest of Chinatown, but it's well worth it. Next time we stop in, we are going to get Tony's Special Sea Cucumber, and for adventurous eaters, take a stab at "Extremely Spicy Duck Tongue in Nestle."

Lao You Ju doesn't display the fiery antics of Hu's other restaurants, but if the line for Lao Sze Chuan stretches around the block? Stop in for dinner. Just avoid the drinks.

Lao You Ju is located at 2002 S. Wentworth Ave. The complete menu is available on Grubstreet.