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 started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.