Monday, June 18, 2012
Glazed & Infused/Sun Wah BBQ
I had a glorious day for a greeter tour earlier this week to take out a father and son visiting from Canada for the Tigers-Cubs series. Luckily, my guests were up for some mini-food adventures, so we started out on W. Randolph Street to see the city's latest "Restaurant Row" as some are calling it due to the proliferation of new openings. We wandered north from the new Morgan station on the Green Line to Fulton Market Street, which is a beehive of semi-truck/forklift activity on weekday mornings as boxes of product are moved between the various produce warehouses and the street. The fine dining establishments on this strip (Moto, Publican, and Next) are closed when the sun is out, but as of last month, hungry interlopers can satisfy their sandwich and doughnut fixes during the day by stopping in Publican Quality Meats and Glazed & Infused, respectively for some nosh. Since it was only about 10:30a, we opted for G&I (813 W. Fulton Market, with 2 other locations thus far) and were not disappointed. The shop has a bit of a machine shed feel to it, with wood tables and sheet metal-covered walls sporting replicas of World War 2-era propaganda posters cleverly retooled to promote doughnut consumption. Of course, the main attraction is behind the counter, where tray after tray of luscious-looking pastries await your attention (see photo above). Samples of coconut and red velvet sat atop the glass case and I availed myself of both. When the time came to select a whole doughnut, I went with the maple bacon long john (it made me think of breakfast, you know), nearly a foot-long beauty with a brown maple glaze and a whole strip of bacon crowning the soft, fried dough. My visitors chose the 4-way chocolate (chocolate cake with fudge filling, chocolate ganache, and chocolate streusel) and the creme brulee - although a bit messy, they both agreed that the doughnuts were not as over the top as they could have been with either sweetness or grease (apparently the G&I bakers have perfected a deft touch in the kitchen). The semi-remote location of the store allows the proprietors (led by restaurant extraordinaire Scott Harris, of Purple Pig and the Francesca's empire) to avoid the long lines that other gourmet doughnut shops in town experience (see Doughnut Vault), but my suspicion is that the weekdays won't stay quiet for long.
From the West Loop, we headed north towards Uptown, home of some of the city's more famous music venues (Aragon Ballroom and Riviera Theater), shuttered old theaters (the Uptown), Prohibition-era speakeasies (Green Mill), and the nation's first movie studio (Essanay). Uptown also has a high concentration of ethnic eateries, especially those featuring cuisine from Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, China, and Ethiopia. These are not facsimiles of P.F. Chang's or Panda Express, mind you - from their outward appearance, many of them wouldn't seem likely to pass a health inspection (although we here at the Commissary follow L.A. Times food writer Jonathan Gold's philosophy of "the lower the health grade, the more authentic the food"). After giving my guests a lunch choice between Ethiopian cuisine and Hong Kong-style barbecue, they picked the latter, so we ended up at Sun Wah BBQ (5039 N. Broadway). Sun Wah has been on the radar of local dining cognoscenti for many years, having arrived from New York City in 1987 and churning out high-quality roasted meats (especially ducks, whose succulent carcasses appear glistening in the front window) ever since. Having outgrown the original space on Argyle Street, the much-larger location on Broadway opened in 2009, featuring a brick warehouse full of tables, vaulted ceilings, and plenty of room to spread out. Even though we arrived at high noon, the waitstaff had no problem accommodating our party. Like many Chinese restaurants in town (e.g., Lao Sze Chuan), the house menu resembled a phone book, but we three agreed on the following: the large size BBQ combo platter (a pile of bone-in cleaver cuts of chicken, pork spareribs, and duck, covered in soy glaze and resting in a puddle of juices), a large bowl of white rice (which we didn't finish), and a large bowl of stir-fried Shanghai bok choy (which we did). There wasn't anything particularly noteworthy about the rice or bok choy; however, the meats were delicious and fairly mild, not overly sweet with glaze or too heavy on the spice (or at least the cooks dialed down the seasoning for us gringos). The visitors appeared to be very pleased with the whole experience and grateful that I'd brought them somewhere they would have passed over otherwise (my whole mantra as a greeter, I suppose)...