With an atmosphere similar to nearby Puccini’s Smiling Teeth Pizza and food more than a notch above your standard strip-center Asian eatery, Tiger Lily (1146 W. 86th St., 848-9077) has quickly built a reputation for comfortable—if a bit loud—family dining on the northwest side.
On our visit, the superior stuff came early. Lily’s Calamari ($7.50) was lightly breaded yet crisp, served in a Korean red chili sauce. All the sauces here are house-made, and this one was only disappointing to the lone diner at our table who likes fire more than heat. Crab Rangoon ($5) clearly showed the difference between Tiger Lily and its lesser relations, with the wonton fritters containing but not dominating the creamed cheese and crabmeat stuffing.
Outstanding Vegetable Spring Rolls ($3) similarly avoided letting the fryer set the agenda. Here, the rice paper exterior offered an audible snap as the flavorful interior veggies were released. Salt and Pepper Shrimp ($8) proved that the kitchen here knows it can sometimes excel by keeping things simple.
The highlight of our dinner selections was an order of Mongolian Sea Scallops ($15), in which the sizable shellfish were tossed with onions, scallion and rice noodles. Singapore Noodles ($10) needed more than the stated “touch of curry” to give them the flavor they deserved. A dinner special, Chicken Bulgogi (the daily menu features Pork Bulgogi at $11) wasn’t as special as it might have been, in part because of sauce stinginess. (Bulgogi is a Korean dish emphasizing marinated meat, pork or chicken cooked over an open flame)
The Hot and Spicy Shrimp ($13.50), however, was a winner, with peapods, onions and jalapenos blending nicely in the mix. It wasn’t much different from our shrimp appetizer, but that didn’t matter.
For those more comfortable with the familiar, Tiger Lily’s menu features a slate of classic Chinese dishes, which can incorporate chicken or pork ($10.50), beef ($11.50), or shrimp ($13.50). We tried the Sweet & Sour Chicken, which was more than acceptable, but, with sauce on the side, didn’t feel kitchen-crafted.
Anything we dipped in the house-made spicy mustard and duck sauce, though, got an instant upgrade.•
Fourth in our month-long series of reviews of newer ethnic eateries.