No doubt about it, gambling is hungry work. All of that handle pulling and bank-account-draining anxiety really works up an appetite, which is why most casinos have decent, affordable food options.
Milwaukee’s Potowatami Bingo Casino, 1721 W. Canal St., is no exception. It’s home to a variety of eateries, including Dream Dance Steak, The Buffet, The Fire Pit Sports Bar and Grill and RuYi, a moderately priced Asian restaurant that opened in June 2008.
RuYi -- which means "As You Wish" -- features Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Hmong menu items. Richard Ojeda is the general manager at Ru Yi, and he says that although they tend to have an "Americanized crowd of diners" that they strive to serve authentic Asian cuisine.
The chef, Tony Ho, created the menu. Ho, who is Chinese and Japanese, grew up in Hong Kong and worked at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo.
"I created a menu that is basic and simple," says Ho. "There’s a little bit of everything."
Appetizers range in price between $5 and $7 and include fresh or crispy spring rolls, chicken lettuce wraps, edamame, pot stickers and hot and sour soup. We tried the edamame and although it’s an easy dish to prepare, we found it perfectly steamed with a hint of salt.
Salads range from a Korean kimchee -- cabbage marinated in spicy Korean chili, ginger, garlic, sesame seed, green onions and carrots -- to a Thai green papaya and chicken salad. Salads range from $4 to $9.
The spicy eggplant costs $7 and is a high point on the vegetable portion of the menu. There’s plenty for two people, and it truly melts in your mouth. Also, it was deliciously dressed with a homemade sweet and sour sauce. Other available vegetable sides include Szechuan green beans, and fried tofu with bok choy.
The main dishes are divided into four categories: Milwaukee favorites, wok noodles, specialties and signatures. They range in cost from $11 to $14, except the roast duck, which is served with pancakes and costs $29 for a half duck or $40 for a whole duck.
"This is the best dish on the menu," says Ho.
We ordered the Pad Thai which is a large portion and a lighter version of the dish than at other restaurants. It wasn’t greasy at all and featured a smooth peanut sauce. It also came without carrots, which is rare for this dish -- especially in Milwaukee -- but we appreciated it. The Pad Thai costs $12 or $15 with shrimp.
We also sampled the spicy salt and pepper shrimp which was $16 and phenomenal. It was by far the gem of our meal. The shrimp came in a light and spicy breading and was served over steamed rice.
Next time, we might try the udon, a Japanese dish with Shitake mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini, onion, bean sprouts and chicken or beef, or the bulgolgi, marinated boneless beef short ribs in a sweet sesame soy sauce, tomato, cucumber, green onion, cilantro and sesame seeds.
The only glaring omission on the menu is sushi -- there is not a sushi bar at RuYi or a sushi sampler on the menu -- but Ojeda says he hopes someday RuYi will add it. "We get requests for it," he says.
All in all, we found the food at RuYi to be very good. At first, we thought an Asian restaurant in a casino seemed like a strange fit, but the restaurant offers well-prepared, filling meals and makes good use of the space that's merely yards from the slots and tables.
The decor is Asian contemporary and cheerful, with soft lighting and lots of bamboo plants. A large Buddha statue was perched next to our table, and like diners before us, we dropped coins at his feet and rubbed his belly. We were, after all, planning to gamble after our meal and could use the good luck.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.