Sun Wah BBQ
5039 North Broadway
Date of Last Visit: Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The Victims: Aileen, Bob, and their two young doppelgängeren.
The Background: Fact: On my birthday, I like to eat Chinese food. I think it’s a childhood thing. We always used to go to Hunan Dynasty back on Strong Island and my brother and I would split the “Pu Pu Platter” which involved fire and multiple sparklers. Kids like fire, what can I say?
For my actual birthday this year though, I was in London. No Chinese food. (Not that there’s no Chinese food in London…it’s just that I have this certain set of friends that will only eat at a certain level of restaurant.) So we went to the very white and very pristine St. John Hotel instead. (More about that sometime soon.) But the desire for Chinese food was still there…so once back in Chicago, I rallied up my troops for what I was hoping to be an onslaught of DUCK.
Problem #1: Aileen and Bob have never had crispy duck or Peking duck before. They seem unsure of the concept. Bob admits that he’s never had any sort of duck before! I pause momentarily…to get to this point in life and to have never had Peking duck or duck rillettes or any sort of duck?? I think I would die.
Problem #2: If you want real Peking duck, you have to order it 24 hours in advance. Whoops. There goes that idea.
Combine Problem #1 and Problem #2 and I order a quarter duck and proceed to drink all of Aileen & Bob’s Pinot Noir. (Note: it was not a full bottle!)
Bob let me have some of his hot & sour soup. Normally, I think sharing soup is WEIRD. But Bob’s small was so huge, there was no way he could finish it all, even with the doppelgängeren. Plus, I think the doppelgängeren are a little too young for hot & sour. This was pretty excellent and it was also super CHEAP. $4.50 for the huge bowl? Wow.
There is no vegetable I love more than Chinese broccoli. But you know what? This just wasn’t very good. I felt like it tasted bad…like it was just about to go off. Aileen and Bob kindly gifted me the leftovers; I woke up the next morning, opened the fridge, and was struck with the gaseous stink of broccoli gone bad. Yuck.
OK, so back to the duck. I thought for sure I could convince them to give me some pancakes/buns with my 1/4 duck. NO DICE. They gave me plum sauce. They gave me veg. They refused me pancakes. Only, apparently, if you order the Peking duck. We debated asking the table next to us if they would give us any of their pancakes. I even told our server I would take someone’s leftovers. No love. No love at all.
The Decor: It all felt just a little bit dirty. Again, I’m all for a good hole-in-the-wall (although Sun Wah is so big it could never be consider a true hole-in-the-wall), I’m getting a little concerned by the number of Chicago restaurants which have never seen the end of a high pressure water hose.
The Verdict: Meh. Everyone seems to love this place, but my experience was just not so compelling. And to refuse me pancakes! Blasphemy.