Feeling Chile

Spice-packed dishes at Chinatown's new Lao Hunan

Dried chiles and jalapeño slivers are common sights at Lao Hunan.

Expect to feel a slow, steady burn at this new restaurant from the king of Chinatown, Tony Hu of Lao Sze Chuan, Lao Beijing, Lao Shanghai and Lao You Ju.

But hot is not the only note these dishes play; a recent meal was rich with Hunan cuisine's emblematic flavors: scallions, garlic and warm spices.

Under the gaze of a portrait of Mao Zedong, waiters in military-inspired uniforms deliver bowls of Chairman Mao's Favorite Pork Belly ($10), a classic Hunan braise redolent of star anise and cinnamon. Keep a bowl of rice handy to help soak up the oil slick at the bottom of the bowl, colored a deep red-brown by caramelized sugar and chiles.

Twice-cooked sliced duck ($15)–nuggets of roasted duck enveloped in salty, crunchy batter and wok-fried with dried and fresh chiles–had us rooting around for crispy fried bits long after we were full.

For a break from the carnivorous offerings, there's jade tofu ($5.45), with slices of firm tofu, scallions and pickled chiles in a pool of vibrant chile oil, and a doubly hot dish of blistered green chiles with toasted garlic and salty black beans ($9).

Lao Hunan, 2230 S. Wentworth Ave.; 312-842-7888