For the longest time, I was convinced Chinese, or any Asian, food was all the same. You could get fried rice, egg foo yung, or any of the other typical dishes from anywhere and they’d all look and taste alike. I live in suburban hell, it’s all I knew growing up. As I got older though, and more importantly, got my own car, I started expanding my horizons.
I’m no snob when it comes to Chinese food, because I still love me a MSG induced comas; but you’d be hard pressed to get me into any of the Chinese buffets that litter the local landscape. The last time I ordered from one, 1999, their “fried rice” consisted of white rice, corn and broccoli. I wish it was a joke. Gimme places like Lao Sze Schuan in Chicago/Downers Grove, Fabulous Noodles or Grand Mandarin in Lisle, Wild Tuna or now Cho Dang Tofu in Naperville. The food is more authenticate, and the flavors have actual, you know, flavor.
Located at 1271 E. Ogden Ave #119, next to the Ogden 6 Cinema, Cho Dang Tofu Village feels pretty authenticate to me. The small, no frills, restaurant with cafeteria lighting wastes no time in delivering the goods. We sat down and were given a rice soup, the base for all the side dishes that were about to be delivered to our table. With items like kim chee, pickled sprouts, raw eggs, and even squid delivered on a tray, we were instructed to mix in the items as we saw fit to create our own soup. Our party was both impressed, and a little weary of all the potent flavors that had been thrust upon us. The results were mixed, seeing as how we didn’t know what the perfect combination would be to create the perfect bowl of soup. But we enjoyed the experience nonetheless.
Appetizers consisted of a gourmet tofu salad. Soft tofu and almonds sat atop a variety of lettuces, all covered in their delicious house sauce. Katie ordered steamed chicken dumplings which she gave a mighty thumbs up to.
The main menu consists of several soups, from pork to vegetable dumplings, with the main ingredient being tofu. You can select one of three rices to go with it, along with your level of heat. I found the medium spice was a nice burn, but am still curious to see if hot would bring the heat. Katie ordered the beef, while I naturally ordered the vegetable dumpling. Along with our rice we were also given a couple more raw eggs, and were told to enjoy.
My food was delicious. Beyond delicious. I offered up a sample of the salad to everyone, but only reluctantly. I could have eaten that as my main dish. The dressing, oh the dressing. It was just so tangy and sweet. The soup was delivered in an individual-sized bubbling cauldron, and was also quite tasty. Having tofu as the base, the soup was quite mild in flavor, but still filled you up.
Katie’s experience with her soup was a little different. She thought the beef was a little chewy, possibly because the meat had been stewed or steamed as opposed to typical American cooking. She preferred my soup over hers.
But we all agreed that Cho Dang provided a great experience. Our table was full of empty bowls (pictured), and none of us complained about going home hungry. The staff was friendly, explaining anything we didn’t understand, and constantly making sure we were happy. We’ll definitely be making a return visit.
Oh, and although I’ve been a vegetarian for over a decade, I decided to dive in head first and try the kim chee squid. It was surprisingly tasty. I used to hate the chewy texture of squid and calamari, but this was cooked to a crispness even I could applaud.
As an aside, if your mouth is on fire (with passionate love?), there is a gelato cafe only a few store fronts down. While not my favorite gelato place in Naperville, it was still quite tasty.