July 26, 2004
When you walk inside, it is like walking into a very tasteful and very serene Chinese palace - it is beautifully decorated in red, gold and black. There is a satay bar to your left, or you cross over a small bridge and stream to the main dining area.
Ben Pao blends the four great regional cuisines - Shanghai (simple), Szechuan (spicy), Mongolian (robust) and Cantonese (light) - to create its own distinct flavors. I have yet to have anything bad here... it's all very good.
For an appetizer, I am particularly fond of their potstickers, although their satay (spicy sticks of meat) are a good find. Their hot and sour soup (one of my favorite Chinese dishes) is very zesty. Most of their appetizers are familiar Chinese favorites - egg rolls, dumplings, soups, spring rolls - but generally all very light and tasty, so as to warm you up for the main meal. Additionally, Ben Pao does not use MSG!
Ben Pao does have traditional favorite for entrees, such as General Tso's chicken, Mongolian beef, and vegetarian dishes. However, I highly encourage you to try their house specialities, such as their wonderful black peppered sea scallops, Seven Flavor beef, or their Spicy Dragon noodles. Their ingredients are wonderfully fresh and the service is so good that the food is often still sizzling as it reaches your table.
Now, usually, we tend to get a little overexcited at the food, and order too much to share, so too often, we forget to leave room for dessert. However, this is a mistake, as Ben Pao offers several innovative and delicious dessert entrees - in fact, they're good enough that if you ate too much at another restaurant for dinner, you may consider coming here for dessert after you "walk off" the dinner a bit! Their chocolate spring rolls are a treat - or try their banana cheesecake or sublime mango creme brulee.
HOURS: M-Th: 11:30am-9:30pm
From journal Good Eats in the Windy City