The Other Critics

Sula Says Lao Hunan Lets a Thousand Chiles Bloom; Tarmarkin Loves Breakfast at Kingsbury’s

“It’s a cookbook!” Photo: courtesy Lao Hunan

In the Reader, Mike Sula finds the Mao Zedong kitsch at Tony Hu’s latest spot, Lao Hunan, brash and a bit politically off-key: “His recent projects, if you take the trippy Lao You Ju as evidence, seem to be increasing in theatricality… [but] I’m here to at least advocate for his successful exploitation of Mao’s lifelong devotion to the simple peasant food of his southern home province.” And indeed Sula seems pretty thrilled by fiery dishes such as “Famous Hunan Chile in Black Bean Sauce, a deceptively simple plate of two imported green chile varieties—one long, one short—whose mounting intensity never obliterates the earthiness of the fermented beans. It’s one of the most irresistible things I’ve eaten all year.” Noting that Hu has planned a research trip to Hunan for next month, Sula concludes, “Dubious political kitsch aside, what excites me most about this new restaurant—one of my favorites of the year—is that Hu isn’t finished with it.” [Reader]

Hot off Time Out Chicago’s brunch roundup last week, this time David Tamarkin gets up even earlier to try six new actual breakfast places, saying “Collectively, these openings have done something surprising: They have switched the main meal of the day.” Top honors, a 4 out of 5-star rating, goes to Kingsbury Street Cafe, of which he dreamily rhapsodizes, “In the pantheon of this city’s breakfast spots, there is nothing sweeter than Kingsbury Street Cafe. To eat here is not only to swim in a pool of sunlight, but to grab some of that sunlight and take a bite.” Three other places get a well-worth-checking-out 3 out of 5 stars, but Bleeding Heart Bakery’s new cafe on Chicago Avenue gets taken out back and pummeled with one star: “The punk-rock diner succeeds in its mission aesthetically (It’s punky! And dinerish!). But I doubt the folks who run Bleeding Heart meant for their food to be quite as true to diner food as it is… the bakery case near the register, the one full of doughnuts, should be avoided at all cost. Eating any of these doughnuts is like chewing on dried rubber cement.” [Time Out Chicago]

Sula Says Lao Hunan Lets a Thousand Chiles Bloom; Tarmarkin Loves Breakfast at