Review by Ann Thurlow
For the past few months I have looked at the “Open” sign flashing at the end of my street and resolved to check it out. The Luo Family Restaurant opened to little fanfare and appears to have a small but steady clientele.
What it does not have is the sort of acclaim it deserves. Because man oh man, this place is good. And now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to try it.
It’s in the space once occupied by the beloved Interlude Café. All the fanciful decorations are gone; the walls are painted a bright, cheerful yellow. The menu is traditional Chinese. You’re not going to get sweet and sour chicken balls (though there are some sweet and sour dishes), but you will find many familiar things like the great take on kung pao chicken.
Because the place is small, you can hear and smell everything being prepared. I was tempted, the first time I went, just to order what was being cooked because it smelled so good. But we stuck to the menu and ordered pork in black pepper sauce and an eggplant dish.
I have written before about my great love of eggplant. And, I must say, this is about the most delicious eggplant I’ve ever had. It is vinegary and garlicky in nearly perfect combination; I kept having just one more bite way after I was full.
The pork was also spectacular, as were the dishes we had on the next visit—kung pao chicken and shredded pork. The servings are large—one plate plus rice would easily serve two at lunch, though I don’t believe I could pick just one.
Another bonus: as in many Asian restaurants, you get an extra treat from the chef. One visit we had kimchi—not as fiery hot as the Korean variety, but still really good. The next time we were brought bean gum with chili after the meal. I can hear you being dubious—I was, too. But it turned out to be delicious: slightly chewy, spicy and cool and a surprisingly good pick-me-up after a big meal. And at the third visit we got a kind of potato slaw and a little dish of mild and sweet fried pumpkin.
There are many good looking things left to try: fragrant noodle soups, in particular. The service is friendly and extraordinarily kind. After the good food and lovely treatment, you leave feeling lovely and warm and happy.
Interestingly, there’s another Chinese restaurant going in right next door. I hope it’s as great as this one.
Luo Family Restaurant 223 University Avenue is closed Mondays and is licensed.