By CHRISTIAN BELANGER
Southside Ken Chinese Cuisine, a new restaurant from the old owners of Pho 55, opened on 55th Street on Oct. 30. The menu features dim sum alongside a variety of “Pan-Asian” cuisine including mapo tofu, bento boxes, and udon noodles.
Ken Zheng, the owner of the restaurant, called it the first authentic Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood. “I want to bring good Chinese food and culture to Hyde Park,” he said in an interview with the Herald.
Zheng’s roots are in the southeastern Chinese province of Guangdong, and the menu is headlined by Cantonese-style dim sum — shrimp dumplings, curry cuttlefish — native to that part of the country.
It was another style of dish, though, that drew in Rex Yu. Yu, a grad student at the University of Chicago, said he tried the Peking duck when he visited the restaurant shortly after it opened, and was so impressed that he stops by the restaurant almost daily — the afternoon I visited, he was helping Zheng set up an Uber Eats account ahead of winter. (It doesn’t hurt that he lives close by, in I.M. Pei’s University Apartments.)
“I’ve been here two years and have had to go to Chinatown to eat ramen and hot pot. Having this here is a breakthrough for Chinese students and scholars at the university,” Yu said. “But it’s risky — nobody has tried it before.”
For now, the risk seems to be paying off: Zheng said that the restaurant has been crowded on weekends. Added an optimistic Yu: “People in Hyde Park are so friendly. I think they’ll want to try it. I wish this restaurant can be a big success.”
For its first two months of operation, Southside Ken will offer 10 percent off all dine-in meals.
Southside Ken Chinese Cuisine, 1611 E. 55th St. Sunday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. southsideken55.com