ST. CHARLES – Chinese restaurants and take-out joints are a staple in the American dining scene, and – often – with popularity comes ubiquity. With so many options, it’s difficult to hone in on the places that are doing it better than everyone else.
Liu Brothers Asian Bistro off of Route 64 in St. Charles is doing it slightly different, and it’s good – oh, so good.
Liu Brothers serves modern Chinese fare in a casual setting. Having only recently opened in February, Liu Brothers’ friendly atmosphere is heightened by the dining room’s clean lines and minimalistic interior, which includes white linen-dressed tables topped with roses. And the prices are very reasonable. Entrées range in price from $7.95 to $14.95. (The more expensive dishes generally have seafood.)
In addition to popular Chinese food menu items, such as Sesame Chicken or Beef and Broccoli, Liu Brothers has introduced a variety of seafood dishes and noodle soups to its menu. The bistro also is a B.Y.O.B. establishment that doesn’t charge a service fee to pop a beer bottle cap or uncork wine.
My dining companion and I visited the bistro on a recent Friday for lunch and were greeted by an owner, who doubled as the host and server. Throughout our experience at Liu Brothers, the owner chatted with customers, shared stories about the restaurant and made sure to inform diners about each dish and the freshness of ingredients used. He handled everyone with care and showed exceptionally high standards for what came out of the kitchen and how the food was presented.
Seated in a cozy corner near a large window, we ordered the Fried Pan Pot Stickers ($4.95) that came with six pork and vegetable dumplings, the Crab Rangoons ($4.95 for six pieces) and the Seafood and Sizzling Rice Soup ($6.95) to start.
Upon the soup’s arrival, the owner provided a bit of novelty to the meal by slowly sprinkling in a healthy amount of crunchy white rice, which sizzled loudly on impact with the broth.
The gargantuan soup bowl provided a healthy portion and could have been lunch on its own. Scallops, crab, jumbo shrimp, mussels and vegetables came in a homemade broth. Some of the other soups, made with wheat noodles, include the BBQ Pork and Noodle – slow-roasted pork, vegetables, sweet corn and boiled egg – Chicken Noodle and Beef Noodle, to name a few.
The delicate Crab Rangoons came served with a delectable strawberry glaze that the owner said was made from scratch using fresh strawberries.
My dining companion opted for the Sesame Chicken lunch special ($6.95), which comes with steamed rice and a choice of fried egg roll or crab rangoon.
“This is the best sesame chicken, I’ve ever had,” he uttered between bites.
I had similar sentiments about the Honey Walnut Shrimp ($13.95), which the owner mentioned his mother had ordered the last 11 times she visited the restaurant.
Sweet like the Sesame Chicken, the jumbo shrimp had a hint of crunchiness underneath a creamy layer of coconut sauce. Walnuts soaked in honey dotted the dish, providing an extra flavor component and texture.
Though not on the menu, Liu Brothers dessert, which changes often, sounded outstanding, and with the made-from-scratch, fresh-forward food coming out of that kitchen, I’m sure any dessert tastes as good as they sound.
In St. Charles’ competitive dining scene, Liu Brothers Asian Bistro provides a bit of familiarity with Chinese cooking, but does it in a way that is fresh and new. With ubiquity, when something is done well, it tends to stand tall among the many.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant every other week and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.