Subway: Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Merchandise Mart; Red to Grand(312) 828-0222 redvioletchicago.com41.889776 -87.632075 121 W Hubbard St (at LaSalle Dr) River North, Chicago
Lunch, dinnerAverage main course: $17
This sprawling split-level space decked out with Chinese curios appears to have the trappings to entice a River North crowd. But on this increasingly competitive stretch of Hubbard, it’s going to take more than kumquat cocktails to lure the masses. Chef Franky Fong is a veteran of Tony Hu’s Chinatown empire, and he executes standards with ease: Crispy salt-and-pepper calamari is a greaseless tangle; tender beef hunks bob in a Szechuan-style hot chili broth; and baby Chinese cabbages soak up the juices of Cantonese-style sautéed shrimp and scallops. But these are Chinatown standards, not exactly the “Modern Chinese” advertised with the moniker and, unfortunately, not likely to entice the scene seekers nearby.