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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pan-Asian Experience

Potawatomi’s newest addition

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The continuing expansion of the Potawatomi Bingo Casino includes more than just slot machines and gaming tables: The restaurants are also undergoing major changes. In addition to the relocated buffet and Dream Dance, there will be a food court and two new restaurants. One of the restaurants, RuYi, has already opened. RuYi offers a Pan-Asian menu, with everything from Hmong to Vietnamese, from Japanese to Chinese, and even an item or two from Singapore.

The restaurant is conveniently located in the heart of the casino complex. The dining space, while casual, is richly detailed. Curved walls and tables surfaced in gold and red-orange hues add to the experience. Of the two counters, both of which are topped with stone, one has kitchen views where the busy chefs can be glimpsed at work. Try to get a table as far from the entrance as possible, as even the noise of woks and cleavers is drowned out by the incessant music of slot machines.

It’s possible to sample the foods of several nations in one visit. The multi paged menu is grouped by starter courses, soup noodles, wok noodles and entrees. The Chinese options will be most familiar to diners, and include chicken lettuce wraps, kung pao chicken and the house specialty, roasted Peking duck. Another specialty is the homemade pot stickers ($8), which is a serving of six pork-filled dumplings that are steamed or fried. (Fried is the way to go.) Be sure to dip them in the vinegar soy sauce. The price may seem high, but the dumplings are larger than normal and the serving is as large as some of the entrees.

Take a visit to Southeast Asia with the green papaya salad with shrimp ($9). This is described as a Thai dish, although it’s a dead ringer for a similar salad I had in Vietnam last year. Green papaya brings a refreshing tartness. The sauce is labeled as Thai garlic, but the taste of garlic barely registers; instead, the subtle flavor of fish sauce comes through. Though this salad is usually served with hot peppers, their absence here is not missed. Once you remove the slices of red onion, all of the competing flavors will be in balance.

Korea is represented by bulgogi ($12), sliced barbecue beef. Korean restaurants (none in Milwaukee) often have tabletop grills so that you can cook the beef yourself, but the cut here is different. The restaurant serves boneless slices of short ribs whose proper term is kalbi. All pettiness aside, however, this is a fine tribute to Korea. The dark, slightly sweet sauce complements the beef, which comes with a few chopped green scallions and a sprinkling of sesame seeds and is served over white rice.

Ultimately, although the Thai and Korean efforts have merit, the best items tend to be Chinese. Shrimp with spicy salt and pepper ($15) is a prime example. This usually consists of sliced fresh hot peppers and shrimp in the shell covered with a salty coating before being fried, but this version varies a bit. The shrimp are shelled and there are a few dried hot chiles comple mented by bits of chopped sweet red pepper. This method is just fine, with the flavor of the shrimp rising from the sea of salt and the dried pepper infusing the remnants of cooking oil. The serving is generous, with more than a dozen shrimp.

RuYi is a fine effort and offers high hopes for the next restaurant due to open here (a casual version of Dream Dance named Wild Earth). Service is efficient, but customers will not feel hurried. The noise level is the sole drawback, and serves as a reminder that the slot machines await you.

RUYI 1721 W. Canal St. (Potawatomi Casino) (800) PAYS-BIG $$ Credit Cards: All major Smoking: Casino only Handicap Access: Yes Age Limit: 21

Ruyi | Photo by Tate Bunker

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