Monday, February 22, 2010


Everyone knows I am not a fan of "americanized-Chinese" restaurants, so I was never interested in Opera (self-proclaimed "Chinese with Modern Presentations"), a part of KDK Restaurant Group. However, this was one of the first groupons we received, and it's located close to our place, so we got overly excited and suckered in.

It took us months to make a reservation. When we finally did last weekend, I decided to keep an open mind, accept it won't be authentic, and just appreciate it w/out thinking it's Chinese... because it won't be.

It's a huge space, exciting/celebratory-ish decor, yet it wasn't overly loud. We were comfortable. There were empty tables, but it was quite busy, and it felt like there weren't enough wait staff, because we waited a while before our guy came to us to take the order.

under "dim sum" - Malaysian Red Chili Mussels ($9) - ground pork, sambal olek (chili paste sauce), cilantro

mussels were fresh, cooked well, and the sauce is slightly spicy but flavorful (reminded us of 苍蝇头 or "mosquito head", a famous Taiwanese dish that goes with rice). Slightly on the greasy end, but good.

under "the wok" - Diver Sea Scallops ($23) - Japanese brown rice risotto, bacon, sweet peas, shitake mushrooms, kaffir lime buerre fondue

Scallops were huge & cooked well, but way too salty. The risotto was kind of tough, but maybe it was supposed to be, since they used brown rice. The sauce was overly creamy, definitely not lime-y at all. Decent, not spectacular.

under "grilled" - Vietnamese Chicken ($17) - 1/2 free range chicken, ginger spring onion marinade

We're not sure what was V. about this chicken, and it seemed more baked than grilled. There weren't much flavor in the chicken...I guess they solely depended on the ginger spring onion sauce on the side, but that was just oily. Vegetables were tasty, but very oily too.

Everything up to this point was workable...I may be able to come try something else. However, I made the mistake of ordering a dessert...

dessert - creme brulee ($9) - flavor of the day: vanilla mint

This was the worst creme brulee I've ever had. The burnt sugar on top was THICK, I had to pull it off, otherwise my teeth would've fallen out. The filling was half cooked & tasted like toothpaste. I don't waste food, and def. didn't want to throw a fit, so we finished it... ANOTHER mistake. I ended up with a stomach ache, then sharp pains in my stomach, then "kill me now" feelings on the toilet until the night ended with D. very painful.

1301 South Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605-2504
(312) 461-0161

Le Colonial

The hubby & I heard so much about Le Colonial, but we never had the opportunity to go (or so we thought). Since they were offering Restaurant Week options (February 19th ~ February 28th), we decided to check it out.

Parking was easier than expected. At first, we accidentally "stole" a parking spot from a cabbie. The driver (of course) pointed that out, so we apologized and circled around again. We then found a spot on the same street. And upon parking, a random stranger had 45 minutes left on his ticket, so he gave it to us (gift from good karma?)

As soon as we came upon the restaurant, the hubby said, "we've been here. I remember going upstairs. I don't remember the food, but I know we've been here." When he went to the restroom (upstairs), he also recalled being seated and looking out the window... I vaguely remember any of this. He said we weren't as into analyzing good eats as we are now. So interesting how the mind recollects, sparks up memories.

Moving forward...

First Course
3. Bo Bia - soft salad rolls of julienne carrots & jicama, bean sprouts, & aromatic herbs in rice paper with peanut plum dipping sauce

Tightly wrapped spring roll that was fresh, crisp, delicate, and perfectly (lightly) flavored. I liked the peanut powder flavor (either in the roll or sauce) that really brought the whole thing together. I really love spring rolls -- it's like one perfect bite of salad, without having to fork through all of the separate ingredients.

6. Banh Cuon - steamed Vietnamese ravioli of chicken & mushrooms, with chili lime garlic sauce

I love steamed "ravioli" & the nuoc mam cham -- absolutely delicious.

Main Course
38. Ca Nuong - grilled salmon over vermicelli noodles, with dill, mesclun greens, & lime garlic fish sauce

Salmon was grilled perfectly. I love the balance of hot (salmon), warm (noodles) & cold (greens, bean sprout, etc.) and the balance of crisp (exterior of salmon, greens) & soft (interior of salmon, noodles). Signature Vietnamese.

42. Com Tho Ga - clay pot chicken with crimini mushrooms, peapods & ginger, over seasoned rice

This is the only dish I wasn't a huge fan of. It tasted like a typical Chinese dish.

Banana Tapioca Pudding - warm tapioca, coconut milk & bananas, topped with sesame seeds

mildly sweet, creamy dessert that we appreciated after a filling lunch.

Gourmet Ice Creams - two scoops of ciao bella brand ice cream; chocolate or vanilla

ciao bella ice cream does not's creamy yet silky, & deliciously flavorful.

We were very impressed by their portions...I honestly cannot imagine how big the dinner portions are. At $22/person, this meal was VERY worthwhile. The service was amazing, especially the bus boys...they filled up our waters often, and cleaned our plates / tables in a timely manner. At one point, a guy spilled a piece of ice that went under one of our plates. He grabbed a napkin & delicately covered the spilled spot immediately. As soon as we finished the plates, he grabbed another piece of napkin to re-wipe that spot and pick up the ice that was hidden. He did this faster than I was able to lift my napkin to do the same...and I was actually sitting at the table.

The ingredients were definitely fresher than typical Vietnamese places, but we can definitely get our "fix" at the V. places for a lot cheaper. As good as it was, unless we are in the area and seriously craving V., we probably won't return.

Le Colonial Chicago
937 North Rush Street
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 255-0088