BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT - 2000
One would rather root, root, root for the home team than pick the out-of-state ringer--in this case Big Bowl, a chain restaurant imagineered by bigwig foodie Bruce Cost and owned by the gargantuan, Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You. But we've got to call them like we see them: Local favorites Rainbow Chinese, Shuang Chen, Village Wok, and promising newcomer Hong Kong Noodles are so inconsistent, it would be a lie to say that any of them are as good as they can be. My Le Hoa can be trusted to deliver excellent food every time, but has none of the atmospheric qualities needed to make an extraordinary restaurant. Meanwhile, down in Gucci Gulch (or is that Gap Ghetto?) Big Bowl keeps dishing up Chinese (and other pan-Asian) selections with the elegance and predictability of a fine Swiss watch. Here's where you'll find fresh ingredients, high-quality noodles, scrupulous preparation, thoughtfully chosen beverages, alluring décor, and efficient service all unified and humming. And almost everything on the menu is priced below $10. Sigh.