by Mike Sula
Normally I don't eat at a restaurant on its first day in business, but the sheer coincidence (or not) of two new Dongbei restaurants opening so close together compelled me to have lunch on day one at Northern City, whose chef, Cheng Hai Wang, used to work at Ed's Potsticker House, Chicago's very first Beijing-ese restaurant. Ed's happens to sit smack in between Homestyle Taste and Northern City, which by the Power of Threes has now established this little corner of Bridgeport as a northern-Chinese restaurant row.
Much like Homestyle Taste's, there is much to explore on Northern City's menu, including many of the northeastern specialties I mentioned in the story ("stupid" chicken, da la pi, a variety of wheat pancakes, etc), but one dish really stood out for me as emblematic of the rib-sticking, warming winter food the region is known for. A server I almost didn't recognize as a former Red Army soldier from Lao Hunan recommended baby potatoes with soy sauce. That's number 207 on the cold appetizer section of the menu, though what arrives isn't cold at all. Instead, it's a steaming mountain of new potatoes tossed with long, spicy, green chiles (and a few dried red ones) and bits of shredded brisketlike beef. The potatoes were soft and sweet and had absorbed the tasty soy-based sauce, but the dish also had a pleasant burn that reminded me a bit of the great Famous Hunan Chile in Black Bean Sauce at Lao Hunan.*
At $7.95 this generous plate is the embodiment of meat and potatoes, and the only thing that will prevent me from ordering it on future visits is my aim to go deep on this huge menu, which lists such enticing mysteries as varied as "frog with double mushroom," "stir fried jellyfish with pork," and "spicy small frostfish." Our friends at LTHForum have some early intel too.
Northern City, 742 W. 31st, 312-842-9677
*In retrospect, that's probably why our server recommended it. Nobody I know ever goes to Lao Hunan without ordering that dish, and she'd served it to us plenty of times before.