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The Chinese food challenge

Okay, I am desperate for help. I have tried a lot of places, some expensive, some cheap; some uptown, some in China town... and I still can't find a place where I can get what I consider to be "good" Chinese food.

I grew up in China (Beijing and Shanghai) and Hong Kong, so my taste is quite authentic, but authenticity is not the only thing that matters. I just want Chinese food, whatever version / cuisine, well done.

So here is the challenge: suggest restaurants, in Manhattan, that has "good" Chinese food. Cuisine / type of Chinese food doesn't matter, as long as it is Chinese food. Price and location also doesn't matter. I am willing to try everything.

Thanks!!!

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  1. i grew up in HK. have u tried oriental garden for their seafood?
    i also like congee bowery. Hong Kong noodle is also supposedly pretty authentic but I haven't tried it yet.

    1. Singar, perhaps what you're looking for simply doesn't exist, because you're not in China or HK. There are different ingredients and techniques of cooking and even sociocultural factors to consider. I was in China for a month and ordered noodle soup (a favorite) everywhere I went, and I was amazed not only by the differences between different regions, let alone between what we have in the U.S. vs. China! I'm sure that fellow CHs will be up to your challenge, but I settle for what we have here (and in NY, we have a lot, so we're lucky), keeping in mind that our options here will never duplicate anything I've had in China, Spain, India, France, etc., etc.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gloriousfood

        "but authenticity is not the only thing that matters. I just want Chinese food, whatever version / cuisine, well done."

      2. If you're talking Manhattan you're best bet is Chinatown since that's where the Chinese restaurants are both in numbers and authenticity. Unfortunately, New York Chinatown, just like San Francisco Chinatown and Los Angeles Chinatown, has no destination Chinese restaurant. We have the type of Chinese food you're looking for in California, and you might find it in Flushing, but it's not in Chinatown. Consequently the best you can hope for in Manhattan is good, not great Chinese food. So far the best I have found in Manhattan Chinatown are Cantoon Garden on Elizabeth and East Sea on Bayard. Have you tried these, or the string of Chinese seafood restaurants on Division St.? If you have and these aren't good enough, I don't think you can do any better.

        1. Singar, I've visited Beijing and Shanghai just once each, and Hong Kong twice, so I have nowhere near your depth of experience to draw on, but I've eaten a fair amount here in New York. I enjoyed the salt-baked seafood combo on my most recent visit to Great N.Y. Noodletown (http://www.eatingintranslation.com/20...), and even now I lust after the crispy lamb with cumin and pepper at Waterfront International (http://www.eatingintranslation.com/20...).

          1. wasn't there something in the times last week about a new chinese restaurant opening in the gramercy park hotel with a japanese chef? sounded promising.
            as for good chinese food in NY, i think it's the kind of thing where you can find well executed dishes here and there...but am i mistaken to think that there's such a breadth to the cuisine that you would be mitaken to look for it as a something that can be found?
            i would approach your search by trying to recall one or two dishes you enjoyed from china--in particular something that might not find it's way onto every chinese menu in the united states, seeing if anyone prepares it and then going from there.

            1. Hi Singar,

              How about you tell us what you consider as bad version of the food that you are looking for, and we may be able to give you better suggestions.

              For instance, while Joe's Shanghai is considered to have the best soup dumplings in Manhattan, they are definitely below average when compared to the ones in Hong Kong. There are indeed no "good" version of soup dumplings in the city that can compare to the ones in Hong Kong or Taiwan. Same story for Cantonese shrimp wonton, the ones at NY Noodletown is not authentic and IMO quite awful (I think I am going to get objections right away...)

              3 Replies
              1. re: kobetobiko

                thats not really true. i found the annual flushing taiwanese DIN TAI FUNG soup dumplings lacking vs NGB, EVERGREEN etc.

                1. re: mrnyc

                  agreed; not impressed with that sheraton din tai fung meal but obviously, they had to transport an entire restaurant overseas, which is probably why it wasn't that good.

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    I haven't been to the Ding Tai Fung in Flushing, but have been to the original one in Taiwan and the branch in Hong Kong. I wasn't impressed by either. Definitely will not be in the top 5 soup dumpling places on my list.

              2. I heard The Nice Restaurant on E. Bway has good food though I haven't tried it yet. My favorite meal is wanton soup noodles at Wanton Garden on Mott. I've given up on dim sum altogether. I totally agree—having grown up in HK—that authentic Chinese food is almost non-existant in NYC. As a matter of fact, the quality of food in C-town has gone down over the years. You might have to go to Vancouver....

                2 Replies
                1. re: pinkylechat

                  "I heard The Nice Restaurant on E. Bway has good food though I haven't tried it yet."

                  Too late! Out of business!

                  1. re: Pan

                    Nice Restaurant closed?? It's been there for ages!! I did a work event there last year (don't ask). So sad, I really liked the place (for the food - not to do events there)!!!

                    I'm a fan of Oriental Garden - but have only been there for dim sum. Another place I have been to that I liked was Joe's Ginger.

                2. Stick to regional places. There is a Fu Zhou (excuse my poor transliteration) place on Bayard just west of Mott Street. Zero atmosphere, but very tasty food and very few non-Chinese customers.

                  1. There are just so many places, and I'm sure you haven't tried them all. Have a look at some of these neglected ones... all serve what I'd consider "good" -- though not necessarily great -- Chinese food.

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/323879

                    1. Never having been to China it's hard to say. However, for American-style Chinese food in Chinatown, my pick has always been the dependable 69 Chinese Restaurant over on 69 Bayard St. The best Chinese place for both authentic and not I have been to though is most certainly Grand Sichuan St Mark's over on St. Mark's Pl. Big menu so hit or miss on some of the dishes, but the right thing is divine. (Recommended: Chong Qing Dry and Spicy Chicken. It's HOT)

                      1. I agree. Grand Sichuan is one of my fave rest. From the ones I've tried thought (midtown, st.marks, chelsea) the one on 24th & 9th is by far the best. Best known for its spicy dishes, typical of Szechuan dishes, some good dishes are the: Auzhou Chicken (not spicy), Chong Qing Chicken (chicken with tons of red peppers looks spicier than it tastes), the Sui Zhu Beef (comes as fish also) <--- spicy, literal translation is "water boiled", the tripe as an appetizer (Fu ji fei pian), and the string beans never disappoint either. There's a lot of good stuff on the menu.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: jxfx

                          Guizhou/Aui Zhou Chicken is "not spicy" to you? I like spicy food, and I have to disagree with you! It IS spicy!

                          1. re: jxfx

                            I also love the fu ji fei pian. I always ask for extra chili and Szechwan peppers in mine as I find their preparation wildly inconsistent. Even with the Guizhou chicken or the Chongqing which is supposed to be spicier than Szechwan food, I find that they can sometimes be very tame.

                          2. unfortunately in manhattan you're not going to find great chinese food...lived in asia for short period of time and been to taiwan, HK and china enough to know what it supposed to taste like, but here's a couple of places that are pretty decent
                            - XO Kitchen (go to the one on hester, its better) - sort of HK style chinese / western diner place with pretty decent food (get their pork chop casserole, zha liang, those fried mantou wiht condesned milk, luo buo gao, and xifan)
                            - Szechuan Gourmet (39th bet 5th and 6th) - pretty reasonable sichuan restaurant (really like their crispy lamb and cold cumcumber dish)
                            - Super Taste (canal and eldridge, south of canal) - fujian run place that makes lan zhou hand pulled noodles, i like the spicy broth one (no english sign, i think it says la wei niu rou la mian on the menu on the wall)
                            - Dumpling House (on eldrige, a few blocks north of canal, can't remember cross st) - pretty good guo tie
                            - Amazing 66 (canal and mott, south of canal) - generally has pretty decent cantonese fare
                            - Congee Bowery (bowery & spring) - decent cantonese fare though can vary depending on what you order
                            - Yummy Noodle House (at the end of the hallway on elizabeth) - very good bo zai fan
                            - Mei Lai Wah - good cha siu bao
                            - Moon House - has some good shanghaiese appetizers, sheng jian bao are pretty good, cong you bing are decent albeit a bit greasy and the cold noodles with sesame sauce with cold tofu are good (owner is shanghainese and she makes the apps herself that's why they stay pretty good quality)...main course dishes are so so
                            - Street vendors serving dou hua (dou fu fa, dou fu nao) - can't always find them, but some of them have a pretty reasonable version...sometimes there is a girl by the subway on centre and i randomly find other street vendors on the east part of ctown serving it (though not nearly as good as HK, there is this random old lady in mid levels who has the best version ever)

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: Lau

                              I am curious as to your opinion of Shun Lee across from Lincoln Center near 65th & Broadway.

                              1. re: idia

                                you know i've tried shun lee (although its the one in the 50s, not the one at lincoln center) and i'm not impressed...i mean the service was good and the restaurant looked decent (light years nicer than anything in ctown), but i thought the food was pretty blehh, it's definately catering to a different clientele. I think its catered toward an american taste and also to a somewhat higher end customer. I know alot of people that i work with really like Mr. Chow's and Shun Lee etc.

                                I'm guess i shouldn't knock it b/c its simply a different taste than mine as i'm not particularily a fan of americanized chinese food though i'd say these are restaurants that serve a high end version americanized chinese food that is much better than your avg americanized chinese food joint. If you're looking for authentic chinese food than this is not it, but if you're looking for high end americanized chinese food then this is one of the places you're looking for (there is nothing wrong with that and there definately a demand for it...i think restaurants like this get crushed on chowhound bc generally people are looking for authentic food and this is just different).

                                1. re: Lau

                                  yes of course its americanized chinese food, but considering that the westside menu is much more adventerous and the whole experience is much more pleasant than the east side version. fine if you want that and dont want to go downtown, although i'd prefer any GS location myself.

                                  1. re: mrnyc

                                    not sure what u mean? im not comparing it to any of the grand sichuan location and as i said ive never been to the shun lee by lincoln center

                              2. re: Lau

                                had mostly misses at XO kitchen (both locations); totally enjoy amazing 66 for a proper restaurant experience vs some of the more storefront places, e.g. super taste, and other vendor types.

                                1. re: bigjeff

                                  problem with XO is that it really depends on what dishes you order (I've had horrible dishes there) and it also depends on the branch (I find the one off lafayette is horribly inconsistent); that said i think they make a couple of things pretty well (outlined above)

                                  1. re: Lau

                                    I completely agree. I go to XO for the chinese desserts, namely the steamed egg custard and double boiled milk dessert and they are great. But last week I was there with a fried who order the fried ice cream that was insipidly sweet, smelt of rank oil and inexplicably garnished with a slice of tomato, cucumber and coleslaw!!

                                    1. re: xigua

                                      from my memory of XO, it's the xifan (imitation American) dishes that are horrible. I wonder if there is any xifan food that is good.

                                      1. re: Brian S

                                        to clarify when i said xifan i meant congee (zhou or juk) not western food

                                        1. re: Lau

                                          Oh I didnt even notice your reference. I havent been in a few years but as I recall XO did serve a lot of western xifan dishes like fish baked wiht cheese, etc.

                                          1. re: Brian S

                                            yeah they do...actually their pork chop casserole is one of those dishes, but its really good actually i think it might be the best thing there

                                  2. re: bigjeff

                                    I have heard that the chef and staff at Amazing 66 are all from Danny Ng which is now closed.

                                2. i really like ny noodletown at 28 1/2 bowery. no ambience and gruff service, but the food is great and inexpensive.
                                  also, if you really want GREAT chinese and are willing to cross into the dark side, nj, i highly suggest you try Pettie Soo Chow in Cliffside Park. you will not regret you made the trip. if you go you MUST try the steamed buns, aka soup dumplings. they blow away anything i've ever had in nyc!!!

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: newmana

                                    Shun Lee is very good. Another great inexpensive chinese restaurant is called the Cottage. The service is horrid but the food is excellent and inexpensive.
                                    Long waits and bad free wine come gratis.
                                    http://www.corinescorner.com.

                                    1. re: Corinescorner

                                      i like our place on 55th & lex, a staple delivery choice when i used to work late nights in the area.

                                      1. re: Corinescorner

                                        Man oh man, the place on Irving Place? I haven't been in a few years, so conceivably it's improved, but (sorry for being blunt) I always thought it sucked. What's excellent there?

                                        1. re: Pan

                                          not sure if you are addressing "our place" - it's on 55th & lex, as i posted - not irving place.

                                          1. re: Linda

                                            I was replying to Corinescorner, not you.

                                        2. re: Corinescorner

                                          I order frm the Cottage now and again, it's in the neighborhood (UWS), but I really don't think it belongs on this list. It's americanized chinese food not really brought to the level of Shun Lee. Don't get me wrong, when I'm in the mood for sesame chicken that's who I call, and their hot and sour soup is pretty good, but it's distinctly average. I'm suprised Wu Liang Ye hasn't been mentioned yet, it's on par with Grand Sichuan.

                                        1. Never in my life have I seen a bigger gap between the best a restaurant can do and the food you will be served as in Manhattan Chinatown. Yes, I have had so m any dishes so good it brought tears to my eyes... but if you haven't here's a scenario showing why not.

                                          You've done your research, you go to the Chinatown restaurant which has the best chef. But unknown to you, the best chef quit last week. This happens a lot. Let's say the chef is still there. But he is working on preparing elaborate banquet dishes for a wedding, and your dish is prepared by a waiter hurredly pulled in from the front of the house. Okay, to avoid that, you decide to arrange a banquet. Then you must negotiate with the owner. His job is to try to get you to settle for ho-hum dishes... maybe even leftover dim sum from lunch... and pay a lot for them. He will use every trick to get you to settle for a lot tess than the restaurant can do.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Brian S

                                            you hit the nail on the head, brian s. i'm beginning to realize this is apparently the case across all cuisines, i think, and primarily explains the inconsistent ratings we all read here.

                                            1. re: nativeNYer

                                              Still, there are rewards too. I was walking around Chinatown tonight trying to decide where to eat, and I walked past the place on the corner of Elizabeth and Bayard (New Big Wang, I think) The owner saw me, remembered me from last year, came out, brought me in.He found me a place in front. The place was packed!!!

                                              I''ve been gone since December, I said. You must have missed the casseroles very much, he said. I usually order casseroles there. Oh I did! I said, and meant it. I had a fish head casserole and it was excellent. Even better than last year, they've tweaked the presentation slightly and put a bit more ginger in the broth. It's moments like this that keep me coming back.

                                          2. boy, it'll be hard to come up with a list that even comes close to hong kong quality food, but these i think are pretty decent:

                                            congee village - especially their "house special chicken"
                                            spicy n tasty - well, this is actually in flushing, queens,but the sichuan food here is good
                                            ny noodle town - standard cantonese. decent stuff!

                                            1. NY doesn't really have the best Chinese food compared to places on the west coast and Vancouver. You probably only get about 1/4 of what you can get out in China.

                                              But as far as Chinese food goes. Shanghai Cafe does a good job with their food from the area and they serve the famous dishes of the region.

                                              Cantoon Garden's Chef on the weekend is pretty good. My taste buds tell me they use a different chef during the weekdays. He woks pretty well.

                                              Amazing 66 Chef is pretty good too.

                                              You should go with someone who is familar with Chinese food and they can talk to the Chef and order the dishes you want. The Chefs sometimes cook it for you if you ask them and you know what you want.

                                              1. Here's another approach: Call the Chinese delegation at the UN and ask someone there where they go for Chinese food.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: MobyRichard

                                                  easy - they all go to Flushing, when not perusing their mission chef or cooking at home!

                                                2. Singar seems to have lost interest in this two-month-old thread, but if he/she is still paying attention, I'd ask what New York restaurants have come closest to measuring up.

                                                  The original post didn't give a very clear direction as to what Singar was really after: "Cuisine / type of Chinese food doesn't matter, as long as it is Chinese food. Price and location also doesn't matter. I am willing to try everything."