Few restaurants offer a large selection of wine and cocktails alongside ramen, but Lucky Belly provides both, adding a twist to the corner of Hotel and Smith streets. Hotel Street has long boasted a high concentration of dive bars and taverns, but the growth of the Chinatown art scene has improved the prospects for the neighborhood and the dining options.
In Lucky Belly, the original Chinatown brick melds with fresh stained wood, and naked bulbs hang from the ceiling. The service is excellent from arrival to departure. Glasses of water never dip below the halfway mark, and servers operate interdependently and seamlessly to provide the quickest and most attentive service possible. The manager assisted in the service and took a personal interest in how my date and I had heard about the restaurant.
Prices are reasonable, and portions are fair. For a two-person dinner, you can probably get by with a shared appetizer and a bowl of ramen each. We ordered the pork belly bao, a creative reinterpretation of the Chinese dish with sake hoisin sauce and pickled cucumbers.
After the appetizer, my dining partner and I ordered the Belly Bowl and the Lucky Bowl. The ramen is pork-based: oily and hearty but not thick. It is served in large white bowls that are shaped like bisected eggs. Each bowl comes with a soft steamed egg, bean sprouts, wakame, sesame seeds, green onion and ginger. The server offers you chili water, so you can season the broth to your spice preference. The Belly Bowl won my stomach with the inclusion of smoky pork belly, bacon and sausage. The Lucky Bowl is a lighter option: just ramen and the default fixings, with no meat, so if you’re carnivorous, you should try the Belly Bowl.
The cost was $20 per person, but if you’re planning on adding drinks from a well-stocked bar, you may want to allocate more funds. The bar boasts more than a dozen choices of sake, an abundance of creative cocktails and a selection of white, rose and red wines. I drank the “Corpse Reviver #2,” a combination of gin, cointreau, fresh lime-juice, absinthe and lillet blanc. You won’t regret coming here with a date or with a group of friends before a night out.
The food is filling while leaving you light enough to dance, and the drinks complement the food while paying homage to Hotel Street’s fine watering-hole tradition. The atmosphere is intimate but responsive to the surrounding Chinatown, which is slowly but surely changing into something different but delicious.
Address: 50 N. Hotel St.
Hours: Lunch: Mon .-Sat . 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Dinner: Mon .-Sat . 5 p.m.-12 a.m.
Contact: 808 531-1888