Photo by Bill Hogan
In 1993, Chinese restaurants in Chicago were defined by neon red sauces and moo goo gai pan. That was the year a 25-year-old chef named Tony Hu moved here from China's Sichuan province and became Chicago's greatest Chinese culinary ambassador. His five Chinatown restaurants (with two more in Downers Grove and Connecticut) make the case that the term "Chinese cuisine" has as much meaning as "European cuisine."
Dishes from Chengdu might be unrecognizable in Changsha, so Hu opened both Lao Sze Chuan and his latest Lao Hunan. There might not be a more persuasive advocate for regional Chinese cooking in the country.
In the works are three more concepts: an upscale dim-sum-by-day, best-of-"Lao"-by-night restaurant in River North this fall, a Peking duck palace on Michigan Avenue and a sixth Chinatown restaurant showcasing Taiwan's cuisine. Expect a portrait of Hu hanging above Chinatown Square before long.
-- Kevin Pang