Chi Tung is Grotesquely Overrated
Chi Tung is one of those places locals rave about but which doesn't actually earn its reputation for the experienced diner. This is the most grotesquely overrated restaurant I've ever been to (and I've given it more than one chance to prove itself). It's famous for its ridiculously large portion sizes, and its surprisingly low prices. But the food is mediocre at best, so the low prices are only fair. They're always busy and it shows: their preparation and their presentation are obviously hurried.
Chi Tung offer three separate menus: Chinese, Thai, and Japanese. But this restaurant is Chinese-owned and -operated, and in the end, it's just another Chinese-American family-style restaurant specializing in giant heaps of fried food, and free refills on soft drinks.
The Chinese menu is full of such Chinese-inspired American dishes as Egg Foo Young and breaded, fried morsels of chicken or shrimp that are indistinguishable from those served at Panda Express. There are not many vegetable dishes on the menu, and the rice is often under-cooked.
The Thai menu is completely inauthentic and unadventurous. By that I mean that if the dishes are not authentic in their preparation (using Thai ingredients such as Nam Pla), they could at least be creative and surprising, offering something new and different to justify their lack of authenticity. But these dishes are neither. The Pad Thai is buried in crushed peanuts, with a only hint of tamarind, and other noodle dishes are drowned in an overly sweet soy-based sauce, so that in the end, it all tastes like the same nondescript pile of noodles and sauce you would expect from an Chinese-American family-style restaurant. Nothing Thai about it.
The most inauthentic and unappealing of the menus is the Japanese. The sushi rice is undercooked (or possibly cooked too far in advance and allowed to dry out at room temperature). The fish is obviously frozen and thawed. This is not uncommon in the Midwest, because truly fresh fish is so expensive here, but Chi Tung's fish both looks and tastes like low-quality stuff. Keeping with their tradition of absurdly large portions, the sushi is too large to eat in one bite, or with chopsticks. Regular customers seem to equate this enormousness with quality, but Chi Tung's attempt at sushi goes against the whole concept of the cuisine. True sushi is supposed to be elegant, with (usually) small morsels, and a wide and artful variety of seafood and vegetables. But here we have more fried shrimp with a choice of super-sweet sauce or super-spicy sauce.
The restaurant itself is reminiscent of the tourist attractions in the River North area (near the Hard Rock and Rainforest Cafe on the north side of Chicago). The building is large, with lots of traditional Chinese d?cor, and the mostly-female wait staff dress in silk uniforms. Customers routinely wait for their tables, because at lunch and at dinner, there's always a noisy crowd.
Overall, Chi Tung is a perfect example of the idea that quantity does not equal quality. This is actually a low-quality restaurant famous only for its monstrously large portions.
Do not travel very far to try Chi Tung. If you live in the area, Sesame Inn in Evergreen Park and Sushi Thaime in Oak Lawn are far superior. If you want to enjoy authentic Asian cuisine on the South Side, and are willing to travel a little, try Thai Smile in Palos Heights.