Chicago: Grand Palace
I grew up in an atypical Asian family. My mom is not a good cook. Never was, never will be. And because of that, I am always on the lookout for good homestyle Chinese food.
Located in the outskirts of Chinatown, Grand Palace looks like an Ameri-Chinese place on the outside. There is limited parking in the small parking lot, but street parking is plentiful. It’s a family business. The wife takes the order, the husband is in the kitchen cooking, the teenage son helps serve and collect the money. This is what they meant by “family business”.
There is a menu… two maybe. I have never used it. Would you order from a menu when you go home to see your mom? Didn’t think so… You walk in, tell the owners how many people and you sit down. There is Chinese TV on the flat screen, Chinese families having dinner. Close your eyes, you could be in Hong Kong. The food is fresh, not over-salted, no MSG, because your mom would not feed you that stuff, would she?
At a recent dinner, we had Peking Pork Chops, Salt Baked Chicken, Sauteed Pea Tips, Ginger and Scallion Lobster, Braised Beef Brisket with Radish, Oxtails, Soft Shell Crab in Salted Yolk Sauce, Steamed Scallops on the Shell with Garlic and Mung Bean Threads, Egg Tofu with Mushrooms and the absolute must have: Steamed Egg Custard.
Let’s talk about the Steamed Egg Custard. A very simple dish but very hard to make well. There are 2 versions: ground pork or dried scallops. I like both. Silky smooth egg custard, steamed perfectly. Just enough meat to flavor the dish, without making it too heavy. The perfect way to eat it: hot, quivering, spooned onto hot rice. It melts into each grain, coating it with silky smooth eggy-ness.
The softshell crab last night was my first time ordering the dish. The crab was cut up into smaller pieces, deep fried and then tossed in a salted yolk “sauce”. While most other places have a oily preparation, this dish here was drier. Small bits of yolk were clinging onto the crab, and there was barely any grease. Which meant that the last piece on the dish still had the same crunch as the first piece. It was one of the better renditions of soft shell crab I’ve had. This is an excellent example of taking the lady’s recommendation and it was stellar.
Dinner for 6 including tax and tip: $33/person.
If you do come here for a meal, be patient. A small mom-and-pop operation means things move a little slower. But you will be rewarded with good Cantonese home cooking. The way your Chinese mom would make it.
225 West 26th Street
Chicago, IL 60616-2203