Best Chinese Restaurant - 2005
Readers' Choice: Chinese Noodle Café and P.F. Chang's (tie)
There was a dark, dark time -- a time before St. Louis, before our salvation -- when the mere thought of Chinese food filled us with tremendous ennui. Our shoulders slumped at the sight of orange-lacquered shrimp. Well-meaning offers of egg rolls were met with world-weary sighs. Everything looked as bleak as a half-empty steam table. And then In Soo and kicked our ass. The hot-and-sour soup, peppery and head-clearing, was the first sign of an unfolding revelation. Then came the potstickers, savory fried dumplings stuffed to the gills with seasoned pork. Soon religious experiences arrived by the plateful: toothsome crisp eggplant, delectable moo shu pork, kung pao chicken so good that we'd like to crusade against any lackluster, heat lamp-warmed chicken that dares call itself kung pao. Our guru is the inimitable In Soo Jung, who always greets us with a hug, then yells at us for not eating enough, or for using the wrong condiment, or for holding our to-go box at the wrong angle. ("Straight bottom!" In Soo once bellowed at a companion who'd inadvertently tilted his leftovers. "Straight...bottom! Don't you speak English?") And as soon as we drive away from In Soo, marvelously sated, we plan for the next visit. Once you've seen the light, it's impossible to ignore.