It’s not easy to find Chinese food made with cheese, let alone soup dumplings that come in several colors of the rainbow -- but you can get both at Chicago’s Imperial Lamian, the first American outpost of a famed Indonesian chain. At the River North restaurant, CEO Vincent Lawrence serves traditional dim sum with a Midwestern twist, and the results are as tasty as they are photogenic.
The menu offers orange dumplings stuffed with crab meat, green dumplings filled with roasted duck, black dumplings dripping with truffle oil and pork soup, and, a bestseller, shiny yellow creations packed to capacity with melted Gruyère -- it's like deep dish and dim sum, all at once. “You know, we live in the Midwest so you gotta have cheese,” he says of the peculiar multicultural dish. “People love their pizza, people love their pasta. We gotta have cheese.” Keeping with tradition somewhat, the dough is hand-rolled, and each serving is steamed to order.
And while Imperial’s dumpling lineup sounds about as stylish as dim sum can get, Lawrence and his team also serve a bright orange fried masterpiece, the Pumpkin Puff, which is stuffed with butternut squash, black pepper sauce, and roasted pork. The chefs carve ridges into the sides and top it off with a little green stem to make it look like the real Halloween staple.
Classic dim sum is easy to find in Chicago, but as Imperial’s devoted fans can attest, there’s nothing quite like a dumpling that’s oozing warm Gruyère (or one that’s shaped like a pumpkin, for that matter).