You won't have to travel very far to enjoy the Chinese and Japanese food at 8,000 Miles restaurant, which opened in June to transport a wealth of Asian flavors to Main Street in downtown Roselle.
Owned by a quartet of restaurant veterans with expertise in Asian cuisine, 8,000 Miles is named for the distance three of the owners have come since they met as teenagers in their native China. They partnered with front-of-the-house impresario Ed Culleeney, who honed his restaurateur skills during a quarter-century with Chicago's Lettuce Entertain You restaurants. Culleeney and partners also own PL8 in Barrington.
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8,000 Miles107 Main St., Roselle, (630) 283-0053, 8000milesrestaurant.com
Cuisine: Chinese and Japanese
Entrees: $9 to $50
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
In addition to a well-chosen wine and beer list and a full bar, the restaurant offers an assortment of freshly made Asian-accented signature cocktails. The one I selected was the lemon ginger tini, made with organic lemon vodka and house-made lemon and ginger syrups. This heavenly cocktail will put you on cloud nine.
Other celestial-sounding spirits on the cocktail menu include the Roselle fizz (double rye whiskey, orange flower water, Sorel liqueur, fresh orange juice, honey and ginger syrup) and the Chinese itch (rum, Champagne, and almond and passion fruit syrups).
The extensive menu is designed to encourage mixing and matching, rather than to promote the standard American dining routine of appetizer, entree and dessert. The many-sectioned menu headings may look daunting to some customers, but only until they've tasted a selection of dishes in no particular order.
For instance, one could start with a cold sashimi or maki plate, sample a soup, move on to one or more entrees and end with an unlisted dessert, such as the luscious multicolored mochi.
I began with a big eye tuna and avocado roll maki. The freshness and artistry of this delicacy were top-notch. Low-sodium soy sauce, which I recommend, is available on request.
My friend and I shared a "small plate" of pan-seared pork pot stickers, accompanied by soy ginger dipping sauce. The rice flour dumplings were cooked to perfection -- crispy and browned on top. In addition to ground pork, the filling mixture contained ginger, scallions, cabbage and white pepper, providing just the right amount of seasoning.
I then moved on to a cup of hot and sour soup, a Sichuan classic with tofu, wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots and scallions. The balance of sour, sweet and spicy flavors in this rather complex concoction was right on. Having ordered a sea of hot and sour soups at Chinese restaurants over the years, I was delighted to find that this version did not contain too much vinegar.
With just the right timing on the part of our excellent waiter, the piece de resistance of my meal -- Thai basil shrimp -- was set before me. The aroma alone was my first clue, along with the dish's fresh and colorful appearance, that I was in for a treat.
The shrimp, I learned, is wild-caught and fresh from Mexico's Baja Peninsula. It offers a flavorful difference from the usual frozen variety that is farm-raised, usually in Thailand, and served in the vast majority of restaurants in the area.
This version of the classic Thai dish was a masterful blend of Thai basil leaves, cilantro, red onions, roasted peanuts and cherry chilies in a citrus and chili sauce, resulting in just the right amount of spice, tang and tartness. While 8,000 Miles does not have many Thai dishes, they are well-worth seeking out.
My friend, who cannot eat highly spiced foods, enjoyed her orange peel chicken, a classic Chinese stir-fry containing lightly battered chicken, fresh orange juice, candied orange peels, roasted chilies, and red and green bell peppers. The portion size provided enough food for about three servings.
Dessert, the aforementioned mochi, is brought in from Hawaii and consists of various ice creams -- on this night pistachio, mango and tiramisu -- mounded in colorful pounded sticky rice balls. They were beautifully presented on a rectangular plate and tasted as good as they looked.
Extra menu sections should eliminate the veto vote on the part of anyone in any group of diners. These include "wheat free and gluten free," "kids menu" and, for those seeking something really authentic and sometimes spicy hot, the "Sichuan menu."
The kids menu is not the usual hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches, by a long shot, but is designed by someone who knows what youngsters like, no matter what their ethnicities. Among the choices are kid noodle soup -- noodles with all-natural chicken and house-made broth -- and kid teriyaki, offering either chicken or a small New York strip with teriyaki sauce and rice.
Hinting of the restaurant's kid-friendliness are three extra-large vintage black-and-white photos on one wall of Chinese children who, I learned, are the owners in their youth. These family heirlooms, along with their owners, also traveled 8,000 Miles from Chong Ching, China, to find new homes in Roselle.