Lao Sze Chuan, Chicago’s most famous Chinese restaurant, has just arrived in Houston.
Taking over the location formerly occupied by Duck N Bao at 510 Mason Road, Suite H, in Katy, the Sichuan specialist quietly opened its doors to the public a few weeks ago while continuing to train its staff. Founded in 1998 by chef Tony Hu, Lao Sze Chuan, which means “old Sichuan,” has reigned as one of Chicago’s best Chinese restaurants for the better part of two decades. In 2014, Travel + Leisure magazine named it the number one Chinese restaurant in America. It has featured prominently on Chicago’s best restaurants lists for many years, and has earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand designation.
Now with several locations in the greater Chicago, Lao Sze Chuan has expanded its footprint with additional locations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Connecticut. “We will open 10 more locations in the next couple of years,” Jack Deng, Lao Sze Chuan Katy’s general manager, tells Eater. Local businessman Xiaowei Liu is behind the Texas expansion.
“The plan is to open in Dallas and Austin, with three more locations in Houston next year,” says Darren Ren, another representative of the company. At present, a Montrose location is currently in the works at 3407 Montrose Boulevard, but construction and other delays related to COVID-19 have made it difficult to predict an opening date with accuracy.
As for the menu, “About 70 percent of it is the same as Chicago,” says Deng. In addition to popular Sichuan specialties such as Chef’s Special Dry Chili Chicken, mapo tofu, and Chengdu dry fried green beans, a section of the menu is dedicated to Lao Sze Chuan “Classics.” Delineated by series, the Classics include: Tender Tofu Series, Green Peppercorn Series, Lalala Spicy Pot Series, House Made Sour Pickle Chili Series, and Salted Egg Paste Series.
And that’s not all: Just inside the entrance is a small exhibition-style carving station dedicated to oven roasted Peking duck. According to Deng, the dish is so popular that diners should make plans to call ahead and reserve the duck in advance, especially on weekends. A small section of the menu is dedicated to handmade dim sum classics, the most popular of which are the juicy soup dumplings, or xiao long bao.
The restaurant’s design is contemporary, with large format screen prints in a neutral taupe palette set against bright red tablecloth-topped tables and bright red banquette seating. There are round tables for parties of eight to 10, as well as a section of booths with four to six-top seating.
Lao Sze Chuan is now open in Katy seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Stay tuned for more details on its forthcoming Houston locations.