Imperial Lamian offers authentic Chinese in River North

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Our Hungry Hound Steven Dolinsky finds Imperial Laiman offers authentic Shanghai cuisine not often found outside of Chinatown. (WLS)

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage month, Hungry Hound Steve Dolinksy will devote each of May's Friday Feasts stories to a unique dish, or two, from a different country.

First up: China.

Chinese food in the city's River North neighborhood -- with the exception of Ben Pao, which closed years ago -- has typically been mass market.

But a new Indonesia-based restaurant group recently opened Imperial Lamian -- their first U.S. location, which features a number of Shanghainese dishes, rarely found outside of Chinatown.

Lost in the busyness of the staff and the boisterous mood in the dining room, is the fact that the core of the kitchen staff at Imperial Lamian, perched at the corner of Hubbard and State Street, is from China.

"Having these chefs from Asia, they specifically pick the ingredients. It took them weeks and months to find the right ingredients and that's how we're able to execute the dish authentic," said Vincent Lawrence, one of the partners who brought the concept to Chicago.

They also have the muscle memory to perform such complicated tasks as hand-pulling noodles. Not only is there kneading involved, but also the requisite pulling, stretching, slapping and twirling that are required to stretch the gluten.

Then the even more impressive dividing into smaller and smaller strands, like a child's string game, before lopping them off into a wok of boiling water for just a few seconds. They're drained into a bowl with some cooked bok choy, then a rich beef bone broth and some slices of braised brisket, plus crunchy shallots for garnish.

Xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, are also made by hand, the filling of pork also containing congealed soup broth, so that when they're steamed for four minutes, the soup is contained in the wrapping. Served with a side of shredded ginger and black vinegar, they are among the city's best.

There are also hoisin-glazed ribs garnished with jasmine tea, and pork belly, cooked with cardamom and red rice yeast, and it's the chef's commitment that inspires the team.

"It took them weeks to find the right soy sauce. It took them weeks to find the right vinegar, and I think by having faith in them, supporting them throughout the process really pays off right now," he said.

Imperial Lamian
6 W Hubbard St., Chicago

EXTRA COURSE: How to eat soup dumplings known as xiao long bao
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Extra Course: Imperial Lamian

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foodhungry houndchinarestaurantChicago - River North
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