Sun Wah BBQ (5039 N. Broadway) is special. They’ve been in business for a few decades and do a lot really really well. But they do one thing better than anyone else in the city – Peking Duck. I’m not the only one who feels this way though. Anyone who has patronized this fine establishment on the far North side knows what I’m talkin’ bout.
Family owned and almost always busy, Sun Wah prides itself on traditional Chinese BBQ prepared with time and care in a traditional kitchen setting.
The dining room is a cafeteria setting with full service. As you walk in the front door you’re greeted by hanging animals of all kinds – baby pigs, duck, chicken and even giant cuttlefish.
You see the chefs chopping away at different fowl non-stop as guests line up at the door to be seated and at the to-go counter for their food on the run.
While I’ll eventually get to the duck, there are a number of other dishes that are superb and worth sampling at Sun Wah.
One of the best versions of Beef Chow Fun is found here. Excellent depth of flavor, quality beef and great consistency is achieved but what makes this different is how they crisp up the ends of the flat noodles.
This crispy crunchy texture makes the dish and is really why we order it alongside the duck every time we visit. Here and there you uncover clumps of completely crispified noodle – heaven – it’s like the best fried up “inset food here” ever.
Unfortunately, they were out of roast pork this evening – NO! Their roast pork is another sure bet. Crispy skin and moist, tender savory meat come hot and expertly prepared.
Many dishes, especially the BBQ items, come in three different sizes. Small is plenty for two people while medium can make three or maybe four happy. If you’re sharing, get a small of a few different BBQ dishes to get an idea of what Wah is all about.
Instead of pork we ordered the sizzling eggplant – a go-to dish when we try a new Chinese restaurant. The eggplant itself was cooked down nicely. The skin was easy to chew through but the vegetable itself still maintained its shape and held up in the sauce. The garlic sauce was excellent. Great layering of savory, tangy and really garlic driven sauce was excellent – I just wish there was more so I could have poured it over my rice.
We tried a new item this trip, Mike’s fried chicken. It was good, but it wasn’t really fried chicken. It was more of a roasted chicken with really crispy skin. A roasted, soy sauce flavor, there were some joint bones to work through but the meat I ate was flavorful and really really tender. The skin was extra crispy unlike other fried chicken – no batter or breading.
Anywhere else this dish would have excelled; at Sun Wah you have to kill it to make the “must order” list. I enjoyed the dish a lot but I would opt for the soy sauce chicken I’ve sampled on past occasions.
Finally, the main event. What we’ve all been waiting for. The Peking Duck. For a simply insane $38 you get an entire duck carved tableside and served with bao style buns, pickled veggies, and a rich dark hoisen sauce. Then they take the carcass back to the kitchen and prepare a duck soup with it as well as duck fried rice. The dinner includes (as if you need it) sorbets to send you packing with a fresh feeling – I guess.
The duck arrives glistening with juices all over it’s crispy perfectly golden brown skin. It’s an exact process breaking down the duck in just the right way to be used in bao buns. Sliced at just the right angle, every piece has some of the intoxicating skin.
The four wing and leg pieces are separated and all the extra skin is laid across the top of the platter. Oh my Lordy.
Sitting in front of you is one of the best single plates of food offered anywhere in Chicago. You know this is true.
You get to create your own bao with duck and all the other fixins. It’s succulent, rich, gamey and incredibly moist. The slicing of the animal is key in this case – you need it cut against the grain to achieve this kind of tenderness.
Everyone who tries this duck agrees it’s the best you can find…and for $38!! Are you kidding me? A single duck breast in a fine dining restaurant can cost upwards of $40 alone! The soup is mild and warming. Very simple. Fried rice is a nice accompanyment. But its all about the duck duck.
You can take home a duck that’s prepared in a similar fashion for $16 if you like. They’ll even break it down for you into sections. Half duck to go will set you back $8.50.