Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 17, 2012 13:02
Tired of Mai Thai? Take a stroll up Wisconsin for Chinese at Shanghai Lounge, located at 1734 Wisconsin Ave., NW. A friend of a friend who studied abroad in China assured that its offerings are closer to what he had eaten on the mainland than those of most local Asian restaurants. I was eager to see how it was, so I took a friend to check it out.
While you can get good Chinese food to go from a few local stores, you would miss some of the ambiance that we got at Shanghai Lounge. The two-floor establishment gives customers a cozy feel with its soft lighting, warm color scheme and black-lacquered small tables. According to its website, it offers four schools of Chinese food: Cantonese, Szechuan, Hunan and Shanghai. The menu doesn't overwhelm customers with too many options, though it does skew from serving only Chinese dishes with a few Japanese- and Thai- inspired offerings.
The greatest benefit of eating in a restuarant is the service. Shanghai Lounge's waitstaff was completely courteous without being overbearing. They also gave great recommendations.
Our waiter started us off with a handpicked list of beverage suggestions. For beer-lovers, he had a Chicago winter micro-brew that had been picked after much deliberation and beer-tasting. The menu also featured a special swanky cocktail in honor of the the year of the dragon. We ordered both. The cocktail fizzed and bubbled as clouds of smoke whisked off of it — almost too pretty to drink. The beer was less elaborate, but turned out to be a good match to the chicken dishes we got as our main meals.
We ordered kung pow chicken and ginger chicken on the advice of our waiter. Both complimented each other well and tasted a step above general takeout stir-fry. The kung pow had enough kick to not be overpowered by the flavor of the peanuts in it. The ginger chicken was a little plain, but my friend enjoyed the subtle, clean flavor. Both meals came with a dish of steamed white rice.
In traditional fashion, the meal ended with green tea. We supplemented it with almond cookies and a Shanghai rice dumpling, which consisted of sweet rice folded over with dates. Overall, the price was worth the soothing setting, as well as for the great service.
For a delightful and relatively authentic Chinese dinner, don't miss Shanghai Lounge.