Friday, April 20, 2012

PL8 Simply Asian Restaurant Review

Tucked away in a quiet corner of a Barrington retail development, PL8 Simply Asian  is well-worth seeking out. Creative and varied dishes for everyone from vegans to carnivores or seafood lovers, there is something for everyone on the menu. Handmade ginger ale to wine to beer to sake, quench your thirst with something new to you from their extensive drinks menu.

Laima and I headed over to PL8 for a Friday lunch, not knowing what to expect. On busy Northwest Highway, we pulled into The Foundry, a midsized retail development which was an oasis of calm. Tucked away in a corner, PL8 welcomes with an outdoor seating area, though it was too cold and windy for us to sit outside. An indirect entry means that the hostess greets you and, as you turn the corner, the restaurant opens up in front of you. With an open feeling, the restaurant is divided into three distinct sections: dining area, bar, dining area. The restrooms (very clean, a good quality indicator and key for me) are tucked away in the back.

I had to start with the Sake Sangria, because of the creative mix of wines—delicious and I felt like I could have drank it all day (luckily I didn’t as we still had the afternoon to go and no nap in sight). Laima opted for Adam Seger’s HUM inspired cocktail: sparkling sangria – hum liquer, yuzu luxe sour, vovetti prosecco, and fresh cut strawberries. While very tasty, it was ultimately just too sweet for us. To go with the meal, I opted for the sake flight, featuring a silk, green ridge and kimoto sake, each in a large tasting glass. I immediately loved the silk, with its flowery crisp flavor, and was fascinated by the change in each sake as it slowly warmed throughout the meal (the sake was served cold).

For starters I tried the veggie spring rolls, perfectly done and with a tasty dipping sauce. Laima was more adventurous, ordering (from the Specials menu) the Kobe Beef and Curry Turnovers – the pineapple hoisin sauce was a good foil for the turnovers. Ed, the Managing Partner at PL8, came out for a chat and, when he heard I had vegan tendencies, had Chris, the sushi chef, make us some Autumn Rolls, veggies and rice wrapped in soy paper – incredibly good. Chris outdid himself with his other creation, not named because it was a spur of the moment thing, with a tempura-inspired roll that included several types of mayo, seared fish, and was amazing, according to Laima. The wasabi was the smoothest, tastiest I have yet tried. While their sushi menu is quite extensive, I’d suggest asking that Chris make something special for you, especially if, like me, you can’t eat fish.

We totally over ordered the entrees and sides, but we wanted to taste a variety of items. Laima tried a signature PL8, the basil garlic chicken, which is heavy on the basil and quite tasty. For me it was the wide rice noodles, wok crisped with veggies and a nice gravy – very reminiscent of pad si ew, one of my Thai favorites. On the side: Sichuan string beans, asparagus with mushrooms, and wok tossed gailan. All three plates were very good. The gailan is especially interesting – a slightly tart Chinese broccoli, make sure you get a knife if you order this, as the pieces are large. One of my favorite flavors was the mushroom soaked in the wine sauce, such a great flavor. Sichuan string beans are always one of my go-tos, and these definitely did not disappoint.

While we pondered the advisability of eating even more, we knew we had to try the desserts, and asked for a sampler plate to once again see the range. A mochi (imported from Hawaii), chocolate and banana wonton, and a tapioca pudding arrived from the kitchen and were summarily dispatched (so quickly we forgot to take a photo!).

PL8 Simply Asian is a great place for a meal, whether a simple lunch or a special meal. The friendly service and broad menu make this a good choice for everyone. The variety of Asian influences mean that you can possibly not only get an old favorite, but be wowed by a creative take on the same. Make sure to put yourself in the capable hands of the sushi chef Chris, whether you’re a seafood lover or not. Don’t miss the unique desserts as a tasty finale. And definitely get the sake flight – you might surprise yourself!

Pl8 on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of PL8 Simply Asian. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the restaurant a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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