Ma Gong & La Po's Chile-Laced Chinese Food | Chicago

Chile-laced adventures at Chinatown's new Ma Gong & La Po

The dozen or so tables at Chinatown's new Ma Gong & La Po are laden with the same striking centerpiece on any given night.

A butane burner is laid down and lit. It's topped with a massive pan holding an edible arrangement: a wok-fried carp or catfish swimming in violently red chile broth.

During our last visit, the Szechuan restaurant had no English menu. We peeked at an in-the-works copy on an employee's laptop and were directed to the dish mentioned above, Special Grilled Fish. Yes, the dish is actually fried; no, semantics do not make it any less stunning. Choose from accoutrements, like enoki mushrooms and slippery, translucent noodles, to soften in the savory broth that bobs with garlic cloves and tongue-numbing Szechuan peppercorns.

After pointing to the metal bowls gracing most other tabletops, we were brought a Mala Spicy Pot with beef, its beansprout- and cabbage-packed stir-fry slick with chile oil. We recommend filling the table's remaining space with garlic-laden eggplant and potato silk, thin ribbons of barely cooked potato tossed with sliced jalapeƱo.

We went too late in the evening for house-made scallion pancakes and steamed bao, but were told that they merit a return trip.

Ma Gong & La Po, 2215 S. Wentworth Ave.