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Feb 27, 2007 07:40 PM


I will be in Chicago on business next week. A client (from San Francisco!) has requested serious Asian of any sort, except sushi. Ideally I would like a place that will take reservations as we're dining on a Friday evening. Price is not important. Clean is, so the sort of greasy hole in the wall that I love is not an option. Looking for something more real than Le Colonial and less fusion/french than Le Lan. 15 minute taxi ride from downtown max. Extra points for beer and or wine.

Thai seems to be my best option at the moment...Siam Rice or Spoon on Western perhaps?


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  1. quick off-the-cuff rec's:

    TAC for Thai(Sheridan red line stop..almost directly beneath the tracks)

    Lao Sze Chuan in the Chinatown Mall cuisine

    1. Your initial posts translates "classy" if you want to make a Le Colonial / Le Lan type impression or better.

      NONE of the great, amazing, fantastic "authentic and rustic" Thai restaurants in Chicago are going to make anywhere near that impression, trust me.

      Less "authentic" but very up-scalish would be Arun's and Vongs Thai Kitchen. Aruns is a "haute" destination in itself.

      If you rethink your needs, and determine that your business guest would be more impressed by a fantastically authentic yet pedestrian meal with appropriate wine matches, etc.... i.e. a Food/Wine experienc that would be BETTER than Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas (with all due respect to them, their food is fantastic), or Sriraphai in NYC, then let me know and we can make some other recommendations.

      But if you want to emphasize, class, "money is no object", etc. along with innovative cooking, then the above are better recommendations, probably.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Chicago Mike

        I'd second the rec for Arun's, high-end Thai. Arun's frequently gets whacked on this board and elsewhere, not for the quality of the food, but primarily for its prices. There are a lot of mom-and-dads that offer a similar quality of cuisine for a lot less. But if price is not a problem, you want "class," and you don't mind a bit of a cab ride, then check this out:

        1. re: Chicago Mike

          Chicago Mike (or anyone else): I'm an NYC hound who's visiting Chicago in a few weeks. I'm interested in a short list of the places "better than Sripraphai" in the Chicago area--I'm willing to travel (although I'll be staying downtown w/o car, so it'll need to be accessable via public transportation) and I can deal with the greasiest of spoons.

          thanks in advance.

          1. re: alex m

            Having eaten at Sriraphai numerous times, I would suggest the following:

            1) TAC Quick (Sheridan St.)
            2) Spoon Thai (4608 N. Western)
            3) Thai Avenue (Broadway south of Argyle)
            4) Siam Noodle and Rice (Sheridan St.)

            All are very authentic. I'm slightly concerned that the "fame" of TAC may be leading to "degrees" of authenticity (i.e. "how spicy you want it")...

            All are BYOB friendly, bring a chilled bottle of mid-priced riesling and you're likely to have quite a meal.

        2. With all due respect to Chicago Mike's and jbw's opinions, I think a person from SF looking for "serious Asian" would be happier at TAC. The menu there is much more interesting than Arun's and the room is nice enough, in my opinion. See this link for pictures of the interior -- at the bottom of that thread are photos of a 10 course dinner there:

          If you go to TAC, be sure to take along Erik M's translation of their Thai menu:

          If you go to the link, you'll see that many of the items listed have photo links to show you what the dish looks like.

          Good luck with your dinner, no matter where you end up.

          p.s. I agree that Thai is the best bet for Asian cuisine in Chicago that will impress a San Franciscan eater.

          p.p.s Note that TAC is BYOB. Chicago Mike, in another recent thread, has some specific wine recommendations to bring along.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Amata

            thanks for the great tips. TAC looks like just the place...thanks for the photos. I have made a reservation there. Will let you know how it works out. And I'll take Erik M's translation with me.
            Aruns looks great too, but a little too fussy and far for this client.
            Thanks again.

            1. re: liamrocks

              Liam, I love TAC, and it is probably the most nicely or "modernly" furnished of Chicagos truly authentic Thai joints...

              But it's still fairly casual, expect alot of people in Jeans, etc....

              It's not typically the kind of place I would think of for a "reservation".... it's located under a train (though the noise won't bother you), it's not in a particularly high-end neighborhood (not low-end either), though it's safe, nobody will bother you....

              The food is great, if you BYOB properly you will have a major feast, IMO, but it is what it is....

              You might want to give Vong's Thai Kitchen a second look.... if you want to keep a "business" and "reservations" type place. Otherwise, if your friend is "adventurous" and wants the best most authentic food and would APPRECIATE your "discovering" it, plus especially if you match the correct wines, then TAC is about perfect.

          2. The OP wanted no more than a 15 min cab ride from downtown. At dinner time (aka rush hour), I don't think it will be possible to get to TAC or any of the other far-North Asian restaurants. It is often 30 min or more to get up to Irving Park Rd. or further north at rush hour.

            One upscale Asian option, although not 100% authentic, is Shanghai Terrace. It is a beautiful restaurant and the food is very good.

            5 Replies
            1. re: SuzMiCo

              Thanks for the travel tip. 30 minutes is too far for this client. Le Colonial is out as they have a location in San Francisco. Aruns is also too far for that time of evening. Looks like its Vong or Shanghai Terrace. Any preferences?

              I will try TAC another evening or for lunch.

              1. re: liamrocks

                > Looks like its Vong or Shanghai Terrace. Any preferences?

                You might want to check out the menus on their websites to help in your decision:

                Vong's Thai Kitchen -
                Shanghai Terrace -

                BTW, it's no longer called Vong. That was its original name, when it was more upscale/expensive. They revamped it at one point, lowered menu prices, and redubbed it Vong's Thai Kitchen, or VTK. So just in case you see anything referring to it as Vong (e.g. old topics on Chowhound), they may be referring to its previous incarnation.

                1. re: liamrocks

                  No one's mentioned the Pan Asian "Red Light!" It's at the west end of Randolph Street (Halsted) not far from the major downtown hotels. The food is superb, and tho the food hails from several Asian countries, it is NOT fusion. The chef, Jackie Shen, has been cooking in Chicago for a long time, and has a great rep for feeding her patrons very well.

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    > tho the food hails from several Asian countries, it is NOT fusion

                    Isn't that for all practical purposes the definition of "fusion"? (As wikipedia defines it, "Fusion cuisine combines elements of various culinary traditions while not fitting specifically into any.")

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      That depends on how you read the Chef's post. They could serve spring rolls and they could serve hot and sour soup and they could serve sushi, and it would not be fusion cuisine, yet it would still hail from several Asian countries. If it were hot and sour spring roll maki, it might be Asian fusion. Rule #1 -only use wikipedia as a guide.

              2. Never been to Shanghai Terrace, but I was not too impressed with VTK. Average Thai food at best.

                Another option, although it may be a little too trendy for what you have in mind, is Red Light. A mix of Chinese and SE Asian dishes.

                Otherwise I highly recommend Le Lan if you can get in. French Vietnamese. Very classy place. Food is an East/West fusion, but its quite good.

                1 Reply
                1. re: wak

                  I have not been to Le Lan since November, does anyone have any insight on how it has changed since Bill Kim took over as executive chef in January?