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Lao You Ju Expands with Karaoke Lounges

By Casey Cora | June 17, 2013 7:00am

CHINATOWN — Lao You Ju, Chinatown restaurant impresario Ton Hu’s dim sum lounge, has expanded to include swanky private party rooms that double as karaoke lounges.

The five new private rooms at the restaurant, 2002 S. Wentworth Ave. in the Richland Center Chinatown Food Court, contain big round tables with seating for up to a dozen diners, with dishes served on revolving glass dish in the center and crystal chandeliers hanging above.

Each room is equipped with a dimmer switch to soften the lighting, along with an internally lit disco ball that sends vibrant colors shooting across the room.

The rooms, which opened earlier this month, can be reserved for free.

If it all sounds over the top, it fits right in with Lao You Ju's existing motif, which Chicago Reader food critic Mike Sula has called “hallucinogenically overdecorated.

The full menu — a mix of traditional small-plate dim sum like beef skewers, frog legs and pot stickers, plus ambitious fusion dishes and entrees — is available through midnight. The bar remains open through 2 a.m.

Nei-Long Lyang, a biologist at the Illinois Institute of Technology research institute, did the ordering for a group of diners in one of the new rooms during Friday's lunch service. Although they didn't make use of the flat-screen TVs with karaoke software, they did enjoy a wide variety of dishes.

'It's like a combination of traditional dishes and Western culture. It's different," he said.

The expansion of Lao You Ju is yet another move in Hu's mini-empire, under which he runs eight restaurants in the city, two in the suburbs, plus one in Connecticut.

Expansions of Lao Sze Chuan, widely hailed as one of the city's best Chinese restaurants, are underway for Michigan Avenue, in Evanston and Schaumburg. That's all in addition to another new Hu endeavor, Lao 18, which is expected to open June 20 in River North.