Newspaper writing is rife with clichés. However, I'm forced to employ one in describing Hua Ting Szechwan and Mandarin restaurant in Hinsdale.
This place is a hidden gem.
Hua Ting777 N. York Road (at Gateway Square), Hinsdale, (630) 789-0505, www.huatingrestaurant.com
Setting: Contemporary open room with white tablecloths
Entrees: $7.95 to $13.70
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday
Tucked inside the tony Gateway Square mall on York Road, itself hidden from sight just south off busy Ogden Avenue, Hua Ting offers some of the freshest, most flavorful Chinese food I have had in years.
Established on a small scale in 1995, Hua Ting has grown in reputation as a place for an intimate date night, a gathering spot for meeting with friends and a welcoming site for family meals. Well-known by the residents of Hinsdale, this place is worth the trip from DuPage County and beyond.
Eschewing the stereotypical Chinese restaurant decor of red walls, golden dragons and photos of the Imperial Palace, Hua Ting offers a clean, contemporary motif that reminds one of an upscale River North bistro without an attitude. Servers and staff are friendly and attentive -- our water glasses never went empty for more than a minute and refills on pots of hot tea were rushed to our table.
The star is the vast menu -- all made without MSG and featuring very fresh ingredients cooked in vegetable oil.
We started with one of my favorite Chinese appetizers, pot stickers, and we were not disappointed. Soft, chewy steamed dough enwrapped juicy morsels of pork and scallion -- one of the best pot stickers ever.
Soups are extremely favorable; even the won ton was loaded with taste-bud tingling joy (unlike so many other bland versions) and crispy-fresh veggies.
While Hua Ting offers a variety of chicken, beef and seafood, it is their pork dishes that have had me ranting. The Mandarin pork is a dish I could order on every visit. Tender marinated shredded pork was awash in a succulent reduced plum and wine sauce. The twice-cooked pork adds crispy cabbage and a spicy plum sauce to the plate.
If you're not a fan of pork dishes, you won't be at all disappointed with Hua Ting's other selections. Outstanding entrees we tried included garlic shrimp -- perfectly cooked shrimp in a just-right brown garlic sauce -- or chicken chow fun featuring soft, wide rice noodles, or Mongolian beef with crispy fried noodles.
Many of the offerings on Hua Ting's menu allow you to choose your level of heat -- mild, medium or hot. For a true taste of Szechwan food, try the "hot" option (don't worry, the staff will make sure you always have a full glass of ice water!).
Vegetarians have a wide selection to choose from at Hua Ting, from veggie pot stickers or edamame appetizers to entrees like eggplant in garlic sauce, sesame crispy tofu and vegetable moo shu.
Even though most dishes come with rice (brown rice available), don't bypass the wonderful fried rice, all made with fresh vegetables.
Hua Ting offers a special lunch menu, with prices averaging $5.60. The fresh-cooked meals include rice, soup, fruit and a fortune cookie.
With a wide selection of wonderful dishes, welcoming and comfortable dining and affordable prices, one visit to Hua Ting is all you'll need to put this restaurant on your Top 10 list … even if you may need help finding the place.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.