New York City's Best Chinese Restaurants

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New York City's Best Chinese Restaurants

 

For a place like New York City that prides itself on its culinary diversity, it’s amazing to see how far the offerings have come in the last few years. Long gone are the days when Chinese food meant greasy egg rolls, bland lo mein, and fried rice studded with unidentifiable meat. A wave of young restaurateurs like Danny Bowien, Jason Wang, and Wilson Tang are showing the vast range of Chinese cuisine, cooking regional specialties from across the country’s twenty-two provinces. Today you can find traditional Cantonese dim sum, fiery Sichuan delicacies, and creative cooking that defies all expectations—if you know where to look.

Traditionally, visitors would head straight to the historic nexus of Chinatown in Lower Manhattan—an area still dominated by Chinese-American restaurants and shops, where the Chinese writing on many signs is still larger than the English translations. Get off the subway at Canal or Grand Street and you’ll find yourself smack dab in the middle of it all—butcher shops with whole chickens dangling in the windows, brightly colored bubble tea shops, grocery stores selling exotic herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. While the sights and sounds can be thrilling, it’s not exactly easy to navigate the maze of streets or know which place to go. Besides, it’s not the city’s only place to find good Chinese food. There are large Asian populations and many great dining options in Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, too.

These days you don’t even need to go to Manhattan’s Chinatown to find authentic food—in fact, some of the city’s best Chinese restaurants are in neighborhoods like Midtown, Greenwich Village, and Williamsburg. All over the city, there are options for every taste and budget, from cheap and filling street food-style eats to upscale restaurants with tasting menus, and everything in between. Get ready to bust out some chopsticks because these four restaurants are true standouts that will satisfy your cravings and surprise you with their innovative cooking.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Photo: tandl.com

Opened in 1920, Nom Wah Tea Parlor is Chinatown's oldest continually operating dim sum restaurant and it’s still going strong. Located in the crux of Doyers Street—once called the Bloody Angle because it was the heart of 19th-century gang territory as depicted in Gangs of New York—this old school spot moved to its current address in 1968 and still looks much the same as it did then, with red vinyl booths, a lucky cat in the window, and faded sign on the façade. Wilson Tang, nephew of the owner since the 1970s, took it over in 2011 and eliminated the traditional dim sum carts. Now everything is made to order and arrives at your table hot and delicious—don’t leave without trying the shrimp and snow-pea-leaf dumplings and the crispy egg rolls.

Xi’An Famous Foods

 

Photo: tandl.com

What started as a tiny food stall in the Golden Mall—a maze of Chinese food vendors in Flushing, Queens—has since become a mini-empire of fast casual spots with a cult following. Anthony Bourdain made Xi'An famous on No Reservations, when he declared that the lamb burger was unlike anything he'd ever had at a Chinese place before. Jason Wang, who took over his father's food stand after studying business, is responsible for the spot's wild success. You can thank him for making the insanely spicy dishes of China's northern province of Xi'An widely available all across New York City. Order a plate of the hand-pulled noodles with hot chili oil and go to town.

Yunnan BBQ

 

Photo: tandl.com

Focusing on the cuisine of China's Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, this hip Lower East Side spot serves Chinese barbecue with meat sourced from local farms. There are large dishes like pork ribs, a plate of assorted meat skewers (beef short rib, cumin-crusted lamb, pork belly, curry fish balls), and crisp whole prawns with kaffir lime leaf, but some of the small plates are equally good if not better. The citrusy pomelo salad and the chewy, flavorful market rice cakes with kabocha squash, shiitake mushrooms, and greens are two unexpected standouts so good they'll have you wondering why you've never seen them on a menu before.

Kings County Imperial

 

Photo: tandl.com

Newcomer Kings County Imperial showcases the rich flavors and textures of the cuisine of central China, especially Sichuan province. Co-owners Josh Grinker and Tracy Young met while working at Vermont's celebrated Chinese restaurant A Single Pebble and traveled around China together extensively. Dissatisfied with Williamsburg's lack of truly good Chinese food, they opened this spot, where they whip up dishes like hearty soup dumplings, intensely flavorful mock eel made of shitake mushrooms, amazingly light fried rice, and spicy mapo tofu. Unlike most Chinese restaurants, this place has an excellent bar program of tiki-inspired cocktails and an atmosphere reminiscent of old world China, with a reclaimed mahogany bar, vintage metal chairs, and antique light boxes. Oh, and they grow their own Szechuan peppercorns and herbs in the gardens and have soy sauce from a producer in the farmlands of southern China on tap.

Curated by Jesse Delgrosse
Originally posted on tandl.com
Follow Jesse' adventures @jdelgrosse and @gringosontherun