Off the beaten path of Chinatown’s swarming Wentworth Avenue is Go 4 Food — a small, unassuming storefront that foodies swear serves some of the best Asian-style seafood.
The flavors at Go 4 Food, 212 W. 23rd St., can be best described as Cantonese fusion, reflecting the cuisine owner Wendy Cheung grew up eating as a little girl in Guangzhou, China, and in Chinatown after her family moved to Chicago when she was 12.
Guangzhou is close to Hong Kong and Macau — and has been heavily influenced by both multicultural cities. Cheung, like Guangzhou, has also adopted the intercontinental spirit, infusing the essence of Indonesian and Malaysian delicacies throughout her menu.
Cheung, who attended bilingual classes at Haines Elementary, went on to receive a degree in finance at DePaul University. She had started a career in banking, but she could never shake her entrepreneurial desire or her memories of cooking with her family.
“My father and grandfather basically taught me how to cook. My mom was kind of pampered by them,” chuckled Cheung, who was raised near the site of her restaurant, which will be celebrating its tenth year of operations in August. “When I first opened this business, I didn’t tell them until I had my grand opening. I didn’t want them to worry.”
The name of the restaurant, translated from a Cantonese phrase for the act of gathering for a shared meal, reminded Cheung of the question we all ask before we go out with friends: “Where do you want to go?”
So why the number “4?”
“It’s something simple. I’m not fine dining here. Where do you wanna go? Go for food … even shorter,” Cheung laughed.
Cheung runs the restaurant with manager Milo Chan, a family friend she describes as like a brother. She also works closely with head chef Jacky Choy to keep the menu innovative and with longtime server Kit Chan to ensure that the customers are always comfortable.
“It can be really intimidating [as a diner] if you don’t speak the language and don’t understand the culture,” Milo Chan said. “[We] make things friendly and more personable here.”
Dungeness crab, king crab, lobster, giant clams, razor clams, and shrimp — all plucked from a seafood tank — can be cooked with either salt and pepper, ginger and onion, salted egg yolk, Hong Kong-style or chili fusion.
The chili fusion recipe is a secret medley of spices derived from onions, curry powder, soy sauce, ketchup, shrimp paste, chiles and butter incorporated over seared crab in a hot wok.
Other standouts include seafood hot and sour soup, fish filet with hot and sour lime sauce, crispy silver fish and manila clams in homemade XO sauce — a chili sauce flavored with dried scallops and spices. My personal favorite is fresh razor clams with vermicelli noodles and garlic sauce.
Popular non-seafood items include the French style beef tenderloin — cubed and marinated in a soy and fish sauce and wok fried with a crispy crust and a tender interior — and the tea smoked duck, which is marinated over tea leaves.
Kit Chan, a budding pastry chef, also oversees the new desserts. On my last visit, he proudly displayed an exquisite coconut-mango cake.
For a special occasion, I’d recommend trying the private dining service where you call ahead with your preferences, budget and number of guests, and a custom prix fixe menu will be designed for you.
Go 4 Food is located at 212 W. 23rd St. For more information call (312) 842-8688 or visit http://www.go4foodusa.com