Hutong Cafe (Oak Park, Ill.): Wine expert Gina Signorella tells diners which wines to bring to a pan-Asian BYOB

Hutong Cafe encourages diners to bring in their own wine to enjoy with the eatery’s pan-Asian plates.  Photo by Alex Janowski

Sure, one doesn’t normally associate fast-casual dining with fine wine.  But not everybody wants a large fountain drink with his or her dinner.  So Hutong Cafe, a west suburban storefront, encourages guests who are so inclined to bring in a bottle to enjoy with the eatery’s fresh, made-to-order pan-Asian fare.  And the Hutong folks will happily grab a wine glass or two and a corkscrew from Sushi House, their upscale sister restaurant down the block.

Gina Signorella, a wine writer for, looked at some of Hutong’s offerings and came up with a few suggested pairings for diners to enjoy.  Signorella selected all Old World wines.  “I wanted to keep it ‘international’ — matching the adventure of Asian food with adventurous wine pairings,” she says.

Fusion Roll Appetizer (Mixed vegetables and fresh mango rolled in rice paper)

Wine expert Gina Signorella recommends pairing Old World varietals with Hutong’s dishes for a bit of international flare.  Photo courtesy of Gina Signorella

Match:  Prosecco

I ideally like to whet the palate with a sparkling wine as a starter.  They’re light and don’t weigh down your appetite before other courses — which is the objective of an appetizer.  I would try an extra-brut or demi-sec sparkler, which won’t be as crisp and dry as a traditional brut.  It will be a softer and more appropriate match for the fruit in this appetizer roll.  Proseccos tend to be less dry overall than French Champagnes or Spanish Cavas.

Try:  Mionetto “IL” Prosecco D.O.C. —  a fresh, crisp sparkler with apple and peach flavors.

Singapore-style Noodles with Chicken (Stir-fried rice noodles with bean sprouts and bok choy in a golden curry sauce)

Match:  Viognier

Curry is a complicated flavor of spicy-sweetness, and this particular preparation requires a wine with similarly layered flavors and enough structure to stand up to its bold flavor.  Viognier, a medium-bodied wine from France’s Côtes du Rhône region, offers an excellent balance of citrus and sweet flavors and a good structure that would be an excellent complement to the curry’s boldness.

Try:  Domaine Georges Vernay — this well-known wine is characterized by its apricot and peach flavors and its violet fragrance.

Pork Ramen Broth (Tender pork belly, soft-boiled egg, pickled bamboo shoots, fish cakes and seaweed in Japanese ramen broth)

Match:  Rose

Signorella is a big fan of roses, which have made a comeback in recent years.  Photo by Mariyana Misaleva

Soup and wine.  Not something you think about together.  With it, I’d experiment with a rose.  Finally overcoming the baggage of the days of

“white Zinfandel,” traditional roses are once again appearing on wine menus.  I believe they’re an excellent option for summer drinking when the menu calls for a traditional red — but the summer heat can make red wines less appealing.

A rose also offers some structure.  Like a red wine, it can stand up to the richness of the pork belly, but is still light enough for a soup course.  Roses are typically less dry with a hint of bright berry fruit sweetness, which would also complement the smoky-saltiness of the pork.

The best roses are coming from southern France.  And these Old World wines tend toward a little earthiness in their palate that would also fare well with the more vegetal flavors the seaweed will impart.

Try:  Any Provencal rose — two famous producers in Southern France are Domaines Ott and Domaine Tempier, both making succulent, earthy roses with hints of wild herbs.

Honey Shine Chicken (Crispy, battered fried chicken honey-glazed with sweet-and-sour sauce)

Match:  German Riesling Kabinett (sweet) or Spatlese (sweeter)

Riesling — which usually gets the bum’s rush as a sweet, unsophisticated wine — is really among the world’s noble varietals and can be layered and complicated in a way like no other wine.  With Rieslings the fermentation process is shortened, so more sugar from the grapes remains in the wine rather than fermenting into alcohol.  This means Rieslings are usually a bit sweeter and lighter on the alcohol, which is great — particularly when enjoying wine with multiple courses.

Try:  Any German Kabinett (sweet) or Spatlese (sweeter)

Leeks and Beef (A classic Mongolian dish served with sautéed bell peppers in a mint-cumin sauce)

A medium-bodied Syrah will stand up to a beef dish without clashing with its seasonings.  Photo by Alex Janowski

Match:  Syrah

When I think of beef and spice, I think of Zinfandel.  But that could be a bit heavy for an Asian dish.  So we’re going with a Syrah, medium-bodied wine with some spice that won’t clash or overwhelm the flavors of Asian cuisine.  This is a wine big enough to stand up to the beef’s heartiness, and like the dish, will impart added layers of peppery spice to match it.

Try:  Guigal Côtes du Rhône —  Guigal is synonymous with the Côtes du Rhône, and this Syrah blend is beautifully laced with flavors of black currant and cherry as well as hints of exotic spices.

For those who opt to follow Signorella’s advice and BYOB at Hutong, Fine says, “gan bei — bottoms  up!”

Hutong Cafe
1113 Lake Street
Oak Park, Illinois  60301

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