Fresh fare, superior service make Lu's Sushi and Chinese a standout
If you've ever witnessed a chef making hand-pulled noodles -- and then had the good fortune to taste them not an hour later -- you'll know just what a special treat it is. And that is but one of the delights that awaits diners at Lu's Sushi and Chinese in Glen Ellyn, where we were irreversibly charmed by the sight of long, perfectly symmetrical noodles handcrafted by stretching, twisting and flinging an ordinary ball of dough.
Named after one of the sisters who own it, Lu's is blessed with scores of open space, thanks to the buffet that occupied the site at one time. But there are also several separated areas; one is a tatami room and another a party room with faux bamboo wood and oversized wooden leaves, along with a smaller dining area toward the back. Red lanterns line the way to the centrally located sushi bar, and a part of the ceiling is cut out, projecting an ice-blue light, giving the impression of an upside-down frozen lake.
While waiting for our sushi, we were treated to great little bonuses, the kind of details that make you feel special: a never-ending supply of green tea, no less than three different people stopping by and taking care of us, as well as a Chinese amuse-bouche of sweet pickled cabbage. The sushi itself was competent and clean; we went only with a few pieces of nigiri -- super white tuna, Suzuki (sea bass) and king crab, all very fresh -- as well as a maki of crunchy, toasted nori and wasabi tobiko, or green roe.
The Japanese side of the menu offers a handful of familiar dishes like tonkatsu (breaded pork with barbecue sauce), teriyaki and tempura, but we were drawn to the Chinese items on the menu -- and amply rewarded with some of the best dishes we've eaten this side of Chinatown.
There were standard items like pad thai and sweet and sour chicken, but take your time going through the menu and you'll start spotting some of the real treasures. Put yourself in the chef's capable hands and you won't regret it.
Start at the back of the menu with the hand-pulled noodle soup, and pick a meat, seafood or tofu. You'll get a steaming heap of julienne vegetables high above the bowl, as well as about a dozen large, plump shrimp in a clear, mild broth. You can drink up the soup and then sink your teeth into the soft, pillowy comfort of some of the freshest noodles you're likely to taste.
Inspect the menu a bit more and you'll happen upon the Singapore fried noodles. Thin, translucent angel-hair noodles tinged green by the sweet homemade curry they were tossed in get added flavor from slivers of barbecued pork, fried egg, and julienne green and red peppers.
Though slightly less successful than our other choices, the flounder in Sichuan sauce was still very good. The long, breaded fillet of flounder was fresh and slight, if a bit masked by the otherwise sweet and vibrantly saturating Sichuan sauce.
The mu-shu pork, folded into pancakes tableside by our server and accompanied by a drizzle of thick plum sauce, carved its own special place in our heart. Sweet pieces of fried pork set against the crispness of the vegetables came together with the yielding pancake and dark sauce to create a multilevel experience of texture and taste that left little room for speaking.
Mochi was an easy choice at the end of a meal like this, with old standbys like green tea and red bean providing some cool refreshment.
Lu's Sushi and Chinese579 Roosevelt Road, Glen Ellyn, (630) 858-8889
Cuisine: Japanese and Chinese
Setting: Oversized dining room with pockets of coziness and a sushi bar
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday