Usually when reviewers declare a restaurant or a dish to be “the best” in Chicago or the world or in the history of space and time, they are talking out of their asses. Anyone with the breadth of experience to be able to credibly make such a claim would never have the audacity to actually do so. And if they did, it would be with qualifying remarks that show some self-awareness of the subjectivity of the opinion. For better or worse, none of these strictures apply to MenuPages reviewers! So, then, here are some of the “bests” of the past week:
• On June 26th, “Christi” claimed that Aroy Thai has the “Best Thai food ever”:
I’m a picky eater and definitely a Thai food snob, and this place is fantastic! Now, if only they would expand their space to accommodate me and my friends and family, then I would be the happiest customer.
Aroy is arguable in the top five, along with foodie favorites like Tac Quick, Spoon and Sticky Rice. We’ll leave the last slot for your personal preference, and let’s all gingerly bracket Arun’s, shall we?
• On the same day, “Chuck Debbie Glen Alexis and Danielle” had a conference and decided that Zen Noodles is the “Best of the best in Chi-town Panasian”:
Parking was not too bad and the food was simply the best We’ve ever had. We did it “Family Style” and got to try several different things in one shot. We had one vegan in the bunch and she was floored by the “Tofu Saute’, especially the peanut sauce. The rest of us had different favorites of the four dishes we shared. The Green Curry Chicken was voted in at #1, a blend of green curry coconut sauce with Thai Basil leaves, veggies and chicken. A close second was the “Rama Chicken”, a plate of cooked broccoli and chicken covered by a peanut sauce that is “out of this world good”(sounds simple but what’s wrong with that). Surprisingly in at third was my original favorite, when it was Hi Riki’s(sp?), “Basil Chicken”. which is a dish flavored by what has become one of my favorite spices, Thai Basil. In at #4 was “Garlic Shrimp” which is a spicy blend of a garlic sauce covering perfectly sauteed shimp and other good things( can’t remember). We were in Chicago for a week and I have to say that Chicago does live up to its reputation as one of the best restaurant cities in America. That’s what should make our endorsement of “Zen Noodles” even more exciting for lovers of PanAsian food. Can’t wait get back Chicago and Zen Noodles. Oh yeah, the serving sizes were fairly generous and the price was what you’d expect to pay in any city in the country.
Pan-Asian is a weird category. Pan-Asian restaurants don’t really aspire to greatness, and it would be difficult to do so since there’s no standard system of measurement for it. Even a top Pan-Asian would have trouble competing with a top single-cuisine restaurant in any given category, since the diluting effect of juggling multiple culinary traditions is fairly strong. What Pan-Asians are good for is large, heterogeneous groups and the perennially indecisive, and the good ones will deliver consistent, high-quality product across the menu. They’re generally neighborhood workhorses and not destination restaurants, so we really don’t have a read on which one is “the best.” Several restaurants in the Pan-Asian category on MenuPages are as highly rated as Zen, so as far as we’re concerned, it’s anybody’s game.
• On June 27th, “Kenneth & Isik” judged Cousin’s to have “The Best Lehmacun in North America”:
My wife and I live in Minnesota. We drive 6 plus hours just to eat Demir Bey’s lehmacun and pide. It is truly the best you will find in the USA. We been to several different restaurants that provides Turkish cuisine, but have never found anything that compares to Demir’s. However, the most important of all he always make time to greet and have a chat with us.
This has a whiff of the shill to it, but we’re fairly sure it was at least written by a Turk, what with the charmingly Turkic grammatical errors and the Turkish name in the user alias. Other Turkish restaurants that might give Cousin’s lehmacun a run for its money include Nazarlik, but since Kenneth & Isik called the lehmacun here the best in the entire country, there’s going to be hell to pay in Paterson, NJ.
• Also on the 27th, “bklyn” wrote a short review for Arturo’s Tacos entitled “Great”:
The Shrimp soup and Chorizo Tacos here are the best!!!! The price is right too.
This barely counts because “best” is being used colloquially here, but either way, what would a Brooklynite know?
• Finally, on the 30th, “Pat P.” unilaterally declared the “BEST DONUTS EVER” to be from Old Fashioned Donuts:
I have been eating these donuts since 1973, and I have not tasted anything near these great tasting donuts. If you have not tried them you should . Not only do they have good donuts, they also have good food. The polishes and fries are to die for. Now that I live out of town, I only get them when I visit the city.
Wow, since the early 1970s? Hmm, was there ever a time when Old Fashioned Donuts was called, like, “Fashionable Donuts”? Pretty much the only reference to fashionable donuts on the internet is this, and it’s a total letdown. Anyway, to address the reviewer’s point, no argument here!
[Photo: Arturo’s Tacos al pastor, via Fancy Toast (who calls them the best in Chicago, for what it’s worth)]