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Family-run Golden Chef has a simple success formula

By Linda Bergstrom
Tribune Staff Writer
Friday, October 18, 1996

At Golden Chef Cantonese & Szechwan Restaurant in Wheeling, the menu stops at item No. 126. And that doesn't include the diet offerings or the specials of the day.

Too much? Well, it makes decisions a bit tough. But Golden Chef delivers. The dishes show a light touch and an experienced hand.

It's in the simple dishes that restaurants often fail. Not here. At Golden Chef, sizzling chicken rice soup sets the tone for the rest of the meal. The rich, thick chicken broth is stocked with chunks of chicken, fresh mushrooms and other vegetables; it gets its sizzle when poured over rice.

Barbecued pork fried rice is a good indicator of Golden Chef's care when it come to standard dishes. This version is not at all greasy and it holds bits of flavorful pork and slivers of green onion.

Simple seems to be the byword in decor too. There's nothing special about the surroundings. The nondescript building is long and narrow, with decorative touches limited to lattice work and a few pieces of Oriental art. Red tablecloths and a red tile floor provide the colorful touches, though each plate sports a bouquet of vegetable garnish.

Owners Wally and Ester Moy save the flourishes for the menu. Among the specials are stuffed eggplant and fish and fish kow. Many choices come hot and spicy, such as twice-cooked pork and lobster in garlic sauce. And chicken comes more ways than you can count: shredded or crispy, with mushrooms or with green beans.

The chicken in bird nest has both the flavor and the fun. Taro strips are shaped into a basket and placed atop a bed of lettuce. The edible nest holds a colorful and tasty combination of chicken and vegetables. The bird nest is also available in beef and seafood.

The sauce in some sweet and sour dishes can be cloying. Golden Chef's sweet and sour shrimp keeps the sauce thick but not too rich, and there are plenty of shrimp to go around.

Shrimp also takes a starring role in the Golden Chef Treasure plate, an appetizer selection with puffed shrimp, tasty egg rolls, crispy crab rangoon, skewers of barbecued beef and too-chewy ribs.

On the vast menu, there are separate sections for soft noodles, chow mein and egg foo young.

The menu also includes a full section of Hong Kong specialties, which reflect the Moys' commitment to "traditional" Chinese specialties., according to Janet Moy, one of four Moy daughters (others are Jenny, Shirley and Sharon) to join their parents at Golden Chef. Among the 20 or so Hong Kong offerings are shrimp pot stickers, old-fashioned tofu with shrimp and lemon chicken.

The Moy girls are building on a rich family tradition. In 1988, Wally Moy came from Hi Howe, the Chicago restaurant his father, Sam, has operated for 34 years, to open Golden Chef.

The servers seem to be part of the family too. They'll point confused diners in the right direction. And they'll even bring an extra bowl for the sizzling chicken rice soup -- if there's any left.

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