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There’s no way around it—the menu at Imperial Lamian, the first U.S. location of the modern authentic Chinese restaurant that opened in River North in March, is long. Unless you want to spend your evening eating duck in different formats (which, we wouldn’t judge you for, of course), you’ll have to do some hardcore planning before you order. The plates are shared, which can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, but my date and I turned it into a game, starting with what we wanted to try most.
With more than 60 dishes on the menu, it’s easy to over-order at Imperial Lamian, so take a minute to think and choose wisely. Start with the xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, which are perfectly sized and flavorful although a bit delicate, and save room for the braised pork belly lamian, or hand pulled noodles. The restaurant’s signature dish comes in a variety of flavors, but we picked the beef brisket with tender noodles in a profoundly savory and umami bone marrow broth. Fluffy fried rice dishes shouldn’t be overlooked, like the seafood, that’s elaborately plated with lobster shells. Tender scallops and hunks of lobster pepper the large dish that somehow stays light, despite being a ridiculously starch-heavy dish.
But there are some dishes you could overlook. The crispy pork belly in the “BBQ” section is perfectly tender, but doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the menu with its slithering squeeze of generic yellow mustard on top (and rest assured, I do love a good mustard). The siew mai dumpling is perfectly okay, but I’d rather buy better dumplings cheaper elsewhere.
The space itself is gorgeous but a tad loud (hey, it’s River North, right?), but the chairs are comfortable so you can relax as your items come out progressively by menu section. Even if some of the dishes fall flat, others more than make up for it, like the lamian noodles and fried rice that I’ve been thinking about ever since. What stands out about my visit to Imperial Lamian, though, is how excited I was for the next course, anticipating what would come next. And with a newer lunch menu available, I’m ready to belly up to the bar again soon.
Atmosphere: The restaurant has high ceilings with dark wood and turquoise accents, with mostly four tops and booths and a bar area.
What to eat: The best dishes of the night were seafood fried rice, soup dumplings and beef brisket lamian noodles, all good enough for a repeat trip.
What to drink: I didn’t mind the Singapore Sling, but I’ll stick to beer and tea on my next visit.
Where to sit: Snag a four top for a great, comfortable seat.
6 W Hubbard St
|Transport:||El: Red line to Grand. Bus: 22, 29, 36, 65|
|Price:||$31 to $50|
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