For Chinese New Year, I had grand plans to take my husband Tom and number one son to a newish Macanese restaurant in Chicago–Fat Rice. With the babysitter lined up and the afternoon cleared of any diversions that would keep the little kids up past their bedtime, we were all set.
And then it snowed. And snowed. And snowed some more. We’re usually pretty quick with decision making, but in this case we didn’t know what to do. The restaurant is about 30 miles from our house and doesn’t take reservations.
A few hours before we planned to leave, I decided we’d go for it. The roads were actually clear and the snow had stopped just as we left the house.
Fat Rice is an inconspicuous restaurant on a non-descript Chicago street corner.
But inside it was hopping.
When we arrived, we were told it would be a wait of an hour and a half to an hour and forty-five minutes. It sounded like a long wait, but they told us about a secret waiting area around the corner.
We had made such a big effort to get there. And it is Chinese New Year, after all. So I took the playing card (our ticket to enter the secret waiting area) and we headed around the corner.
Once inside the cozy room, we ordered drinks and took at a table when one opened up. We even met Abraham Conlon, one of the owners. When I introduced myself and the family, I was so impressed he knew about my book and had remembered something I had posted around Christmas about baking apple pie.
After fifty minutes, the waitress came over and told us that our table was ready!
We had studied the menu in the waiting area, so ordered almost as soon as we sat down. Up first were vegetable dumplings:
Next baby bok choy:
And then the piece de resistance–fat rice!
I broke my no-pork rule and ate everything in this bowl except the char siu and sausage, but as my son Jake said, the rice was definitely “porky”. He was secretly proud of me for being a bit flexible about this.
The vegetable curry was also out of this world. It was made up of okra, Thai eggplant, long beans, tofu puffs, cabbage, and purple sweet potatoes.
We also went all out on dessert. The pineapple upside down cake was moist and light, with taro chips and prunes on top.
Serradura is a guava, cheesecake mousse topped with tea biscuit crumbs. It was heavenly.
And finally, for Chinese New Year, tang yuan! These dumplings were filled with crushed ginger snaps.
It was so worth the drive and the wait. The bill was quite reasonable, too.