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Mapo Restaurant (Naperville IL)
||1563 Naperville-Wheaton Road,|
Naperville, IL 60563
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 2010 Issue: 17(1) page: 32
Kevin Wu owns Mapo, a Sichuan eatery in an area with a high concentration of research organizations and a fairly high number of technical people many of whom are Asian. Actually, on the two days we ate there, we saw no Caucasians. Not only that, but when we learned Mr. Wu supports six cooks of different specialties and is successful, we guess-timate his restaurant has a good following.
On the take-out menu, seven dishes are listed as Signature Dishes; they sport a red-circled-face matching the one on the top of the business card. All are spicy-hot. The one hundred seventy-one items total, show seventy-seven of them with the hot pepper indicating they, too, are spicy hot. That is forty-five percent of the total. In addition, there are two hot and spicy Korean noodles dishes.
The two days we dined at his restaurant we were able to sample many dishes. The Vegetarian Chicken made with doufu skins comes stuffed with Chinese mushrooms and garnished with cilantro. It is very tasty but not spicy-hot. The Yang Chang Pi is one of the Korean dishes; it surely is and comes with spicy mustard sauce mixed with sea food and pork. One can have it made with beef, if preferred, either of these come on top of a bed of mung bean skins. This dish is not very special, but the Spicy Beef Noodle Soup is one of the signature dishes and it is outstanding. We are able to translate a Chinese version of chef Wu's description of this dish for him, and as a signature dish we find it very spicy, very hot, and very good.
Here, the Mapo Spicy Beef Noodle Soup is a classic Sichuan favorite, well known and loved by many generations of Chinese. The rendition at this restaurant is both savory and healthy. It is prepared using meaty beef bones rich in calcium. This Mapo also uses beef tendon rich in gelatinous protein. This extra ingredient is especially good for those who need to remedy their aging and arthritic joints. Many hours of slow cooking achieve its fork-tender beef and its well blended flavors.
The features of this soup are visually reflected in its colors. The glistening red beef soup is fragrant, rich and peppery; its white wheat noodles are home-made with a smooth yet slightly chewy texture. The yellow pickled cabbage is crisp, and it enhances the soup perfectly. The sumptuous green scallions and baby bok choy add additional eye appeal and color to the soup. One cannot help but be attracted to this savory and well-balanced beef noodle soup that is good to the last drop! Every person at our table loved it; it enhanced their satisfaction and provided fulfillment at an outing of time and taste well spent.
Mapo Do Fu is another signature dish of this restaurant. Here, silken dou fu is cooked with a hot soy bean sauce, red oil, Sichuan peppercorns, and scallions; it is both spicy hot and super tasty.
Beef with Bitter Melon is cooked not only with bitter melon, but also with garlic, scallions, and ginger, and a super black bean sauce. Red-In-Snow with Eggs is mustard green pickled with salt for twenty-four to forty-eight hours, then cooked in a savory meat sauce with fried egg skins. These two dishes are good but not spectacular; one reason, the mustard green could benefit from a little more aging allowing it to achieve full flavor.
Mao Style Red Cooked is fat pork belly meat with skin. It is braised, the pork blackened, then steamed to tenderize the pork belly. This dish is very good.
The Basil Eggplant made in the form of medallions comes sweet and crispy on the outside and soft and juicy inside. It includes a savory sauce and some shrimp, and it is garnished with basil. This dish was the highlight of our visit. Anyone eating here is wise to order it.
The dessert, 'on the house,' is made with honey, jack fruit, palm seeds, basil seeds, and young coconut flesh. This version is considered coming from the South Sea Islands. It, too, was outstanding.
With so many phenomenal foods, we would have been back more than twice, but we stayed near Naperville but two days and did maximize our eating there. We recommend when you are in the neighborhood, you do likewise. It is hardly enough time to allow them, as the menu says, to 'customizes the meal, and create delectable dishes with roots from Sichuan, Hunan, and traditional Chinese food from Taiwan.' It also says, 'We hope...we will see you again soon.' When next near there, they surely will!