6/19/2013 04:00:00 PM

Tony Hu Primed to Conquer River North with Lao 18


Hey, Tony Hu, you have seven restaurants in Chinatown, what are you going to do now? "Open a restaurant in River North" may not seem like a logical answer, but that's just what the chef and restaurateur will do tomorrow. Lao 18, the latest from Hu and business partner Bing Zhou, located in 8,000 square feet of prime real estate on Hubbard. The restaurant will fill a void recently created by the closing of Red Violet, serving modern Chinese cuisine in an area lacking ethnic flavor.

Lao 18 is a compromise between traditional Chinese elements and contemporary River North touches. Oversized, painted rice bowls hang upside down over tables, birdcages double as light fixtures and a metal swirl is fixed to the center dining room. There is also a DJ booth and bar for late night drinks and dining as well as a private dining room that seats 90.

Hu’s Szechuan cuisine remains barely unaltered. Signature dishes such as three-chile chicken and steamed spare ribs are served with all the heat and flavor of Hu’s food on the south side of town. The extensive menu features dim sum, noodles, meat, poultry and seafood. Hu also does not shy away from introducing some more unusual cuts, and appetizers include the likes of Shanghai jellyfish as well as Szechuan beef and tripe.

The beverage program features the usual suspects of wine, beer (both local and Chinese) as well as cocktails. For a treat, order Maotai, 106-proof Chinese liquor, served straight or with an off-menu Szechuan-peppercorn-infused bourbon. The Lao18 is the latest restaurant to be equipped with iPad menus. These highlight menu items as well as specials and suggested beer, wine or cocktail pairings. Tradition meets high tech meets one of the most successful culinary ambassadors in Chicago.

18 W. Hubbard St.; 312-955-8018

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