Friday, February 15, 2008

Lan Dee

It is a Chinese tradition to gather with family & relatives before the 15th of the New Year (Chinese calendar). Thus, my parents invited hubby's parents to Lisle, IL for a nice Chinese meal. Lan Dee Restaurant used to be THE go-to place back in the day before it closed down. In the recent years, a bunch of investors took over the Grand Mandarin space, named it Lan Dee, and hired the chef/owner from the old Lan Dee to manage the restaurant and overlook the menu.

The food here is quite delicious, especially since it's such a rarity to find food closer towards the Taiwanese style that I deeply love. Unfortunately, the restaurant's a mess because of the varied opinions of investors. In addition, these dishes use quality ingredients and time/effort-consuming skills, so they're pricier than the typical Chinese-restaurant food. I think they need to revamp the space, at least get nicer plating, glasses, and improve the ambiance to match the price of these quality dishes. Sadly, I'm not sure how much longer this place will last, but here's a review of the delicious dishes we had...

Teasers - pickled radish/carrots, and peanuts/jalepeno pappers/dried fish stir-fried
Both are typical Taiwanese munchies, esp. with drinking -- authentic and delicious, especially with our Scotch (1st time we had the Crown Royal Special Reserve -- quite smooth).

综合生鱼片 (zong he sheng yu pian) - Sashimi Combination (not pictured) -- typical Chicagoland area sashimi. I think the chef added this only because my hub's family's Japanese.

烤文蛤 (kao wen he) - Baked Clam - chef's new creation - he blended clams with fish egg, scallops, shrimp in a creamy sauce, put it back into the shell and baked it. crispy top, slightly spicy creamy center.

海鲜跳墙 (hai xian fe tiao chiang) - Seafood 'Buddah Jumps-Over the Wall"
This dish originated from Fuzhou. There are many stories of how this dish came about, one of which my dad talks about: Several beggers collected the food given to them, put it into a pot and boiled it with what they had. The attractive smell of the food spread in the air all the way to a nearby temple. It was so inviting that the monks, who were supposed to be vegetarians, jumped over the temple wall and wanted to eat it. There's a poem that reads, "Even Buddha himself would jump the wall to come over." Hence the name of the dish.

There are more than 20 ingredients, such as chicken, duck, pig's trotters and mutton, stewed over a low fire with a jar for holding Shaoxing wine. These days, chefs put more expensive items into the pot -- ours being seafood, he included abalone, shark fin, scallops, etc... VERY delicious stew that's highly flavorful, I can eat this over and over... here's the pot it came in:
Main Courses:

蛋黄大蟹 (dan huang da xie) - Yolk-fried Dungeness Crab -- one of my favorite dishes (even though it's probably not the healthiest) -- Lan Dee has their own crab tank, so these crabs are very fresh. Tender, sweet, plump meat under the crispy egg yolk batter -- I love eating this with cilantro, and even chowing down on the fresh cut lettuce with egg yolk/oil drippings.

鲍鱼扣瑶柱 (bao yu kou yao zhu) - Abalone and Dried Scallop with bok choy, carrots, chinese ham in what tastes like a chicken based broth. Saltiness of the ham and broth brought out the flavors of the abalone and bok choy -- very delicious.

红烧蹄膀 (hong shao ti pang) - Braised Pork Thigh
This is another traditional Chinese dish using soy sauce base that requires hours of simmering to achieve melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. I really loved this dish, it was cooked very well-- the perfect blend of fat and meat with oozing juicy broth was PERFECT with a bite (or two) of chewy white rice. The bamboo shoots at the bottom was also very flavorful, slightly sticky from the fattiness of the meat.

酱烤鳕鱼 (jiang kao xue yu) - Baked Black Cod (aka (Sablefish, Butterfish, Skilfish) in Miso Marinade. I didn't get a picture of this but it's a crispy top, moist/silky center with intense miso flavor. Squeeze of lemon juice on top brought out the flavor of the fish.

Chinese Vegetable boiled with salty fish -- nothing exceptional, but delicious and fresh nonetheless

烤鳗鱼米糕 (kao man yu mi gao) - Baked Sea Eel (unagi) on a bed of sweet rice
Very delicious dish that my mother in law LOVED. Sweet rice was made with taro, shitake, just enough stickiness while keeping the consistency of each grain separated.

芋泥酥饼 (yu ni su bing) - Crispy Biscuit with Taro Paste Center -- steamy taro paste wasn't too sweet, biscuit was perfectly crispy.. very nice dessert that I always look forward to especially because it's always fresh from the oven (i LOVE taro)

水果盘 (shui guo pan) - Fruit Plate

The food total came up to be $300, including tax/tip without drinks (we brought our own), it's about $50-$55 per person (7 of us), which is a higher price tag than typical Chinese places. But if you think about all the seafood, it's totally worthwhile...especially since you can't get these at other restaurants in Chicago. We were so stuffed from this on Friday night that my hub and I didn't eat anything until 8pm the next day...

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