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New to Chapel Hill, Chinese Please!

We just moved to the Chapel Hill area and I need some serious non-curry based, top-shelf Chinese food. Any suggestions?

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  1. You aren't going to find anything like that in Chapel Hill. There is The Lantern (http://lanternrestaurant.com/), but it is pan-Asian.

    Other posters have been talking about Super Wok in Cary as the place to go for Chinese in the Triangle - there are some other places, too, but none of them are in Chapel Hill.

    1 Reply
    1. re: romansperson

      If you are delving into pan-asian, don't forget Jujube on Hwy 54 in Glen Lennox Shopping center. I find it equal to Lantern, although Lantern has received more press.

    2. Super wok in Cary is the go to spot for authentic Chinese. It's in Chatham Square and I have driven an hour and fifteen minutes on numerous occasions for a fix

      1. Here is the best of what we have found in the area--

        We enjoy the special Chinese menu at Red Lotus (http://www.redlotusasiankitchen.com/ ) in Chapel Hill. The regualr menu seems to be pretty standard stuff, but the Chinese menu, while not inexpensive, is very tasty. Here is a link to the menu--note: we always have to ask for it at the restuarant. http://www.redlotusasiankitchen.com/f... The exciting news is they have another whole page of items which is in the process of being translated so more dishes to try. Yeh!

        I enjoyed Super Wok for the experience of trying their Schezuan dishes though it is a much oilier style of cooking than the Shanghai-style at Red Lotus. Still, the dishes with Schezuan peppercorns were rather addictive. Here is a link to the Chinese menu. http://superwok.wikidot.com/chinese-s... The only disappointment was the Kung Pao Chicken which tasted pretty much like every other one I've ever had. Maybe it was because it was on the regular lunch menu and they made it for the non-adventurous crowd.

        Another place to try is China Palace http://www.mychinapalace.com/index.html on Garret Road in Durham. I wouldn't order from their regular menu--I was tempted by the inexpensive price for the lunch specials a couple of days ago--but to me was just standard fare. In fact, my husband really disliked his dish. I have ordered many times off their special Chinese menu and have had some very good dishes, such as lamb stew and shredded pork with preserved cabbage. I read a little buzz that the special menu isn't as good as it used to be, but can't confirm that. We were disappointed when we special ordered in advance the Szechwan-style whole fish when my daughter was in from Texas. The sauce was way too sweet and sticky. She said it was nothing like what she was used to having. I will have to make a trip to Super Wok and try it there. On Saturday and Sunday China Palace offers a special weekend menu. The last time we went on a Sunday for lunch we were one of four non-Asians in the place so they must be doing something right.

        The dim sum at Hong Kong Chinese restaurant (3003Guess Road) in Durham is good on the weekends. They come around with the carts and I have always enjoyed it. Go early--we try to get there at 11 a.m., or be prepared for a wait. Also, when we came late, we got stuck in the little side porch room, and the carts seemed to pass us b. It took forever to even get the basic dumplings.

        For basic but fresh tasting, non-greasy Chinese we enjoy Peony Asian Bistro (3515 Witherspoon Blvd., Durham). Staff is nice, food comes quickly, the sushi special at lunch is a good deal, and it is walking distance from our house. Standard fare, but nicely done standard fare.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Panski

          Terrific post, Panski, thanks so much. By the way, I live about 1/4 mile from China Palace in Durham, and I order takeout from them very frequently (at least a couple of times per month). Their food is inconsistent: sometimes it's delicious, sometimes it is so-so or even bad. A few times, the meat has tasted rancid and inedible. I continue to order from them because (1) they deliver to my doorstep, and (2) about half the time, it's really excellent. I've tried talking to them about it, and they haven't given me any impression that they understand how variable the quality of their food is. So the long and short of it is that they are worth trying, especially if you are in the neighborhood. But just know going into it that they are extremely hit or miss.

          1. re: durhamois

            Thanks, durhamois. That was very interesting information. I knew I had some very good meals there--I thought maybe my taste buds had changed.
            And, too be fair, I had the leftover lunch for dinner last night and it hit the spot. We will keep trying because the hits are so good.

          2. re: Panski

            Panski, thanks for this. I've never even met you and feel a deep need to buy you a beer - I grew up in the Triangle but haven't lived here since the early 1990s; my wife and I relocated to Chapel Hill this spring.

          3. My husband insisted I add an addendum to my suggestions. In the RTP area of Durham, China Express (http://rtp-chinaexpress.com/) is located in the Park Terrace Shopping Center at 2223 Highway 54.

            We go for one dish, and one dish only, Jan Pong, described on the menu as “noodles with sautéed shrimp, pork, scallops, squid, and vegetables in a hot, spicy soup. The soup is available in two styles—Korean or Chinese. The Korean is the spicier of the two. The bowl comes in two sizes—medium for $6.50 and the large for $7.99. And large is very large. The noodles are made in house, and you can up the spice level if you like things extra hot. I have had the stewed beef noodle soup one time. It was good, but Jan Pong is still my favorite.

            Here is a link to a write up which pretty much says it all. http://durham.citysearch.com/review/6...

            By the way—I order it medium and spend most of the lunch blowing my nose.

            There was a recent discussion on the board about Chinese Food in the triangle-- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/593690

            1. If you travel near downtown Raleigh, I LOVE Five Star. Semi-upscale, trendy restaurant with GREAT crispy beef!

              1. If you can drive to Morrisville, there is an Indian-Chinese restaurant that is fabulous. I live out of state but when I return home to NC, I love to go here. Order the hakka noodles and the Chili chicken dry. You won't be disappointed. It is called InChin Bamboo Garden and the menu is posted online. You should really try it for a unique dining experience. Fabulous

                1. When you say "Chapel Hill area" that could cover an expansive area...

                  however, if you leave CH take 15-501 South toward Pittsboro. When you get to the Cole Park Plaza, about 4 miles outside of CH, the Panda Garden is located in the shopping center with Lowes Foods as the anchor. The restaurant (along with other businesses) is between Lowes Foods and the unc health care office.

                  Their food is outstanding, and their sanitation scores always seem to be very high 90's. Last time I was there I believe it was 101.

                  We are quite particular about where we eat Chinese from, and this place is among the best in the area.

                  Now, if you care to drive a little ways, head up to Graham and eat at Golden China. Get the "crispy ribeye" that they only serve at dinner...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: goodeatsinadive

                    goodeats -- I'm just a few miles from Panda Garden, but for nearly ten years I've given them scant attention. What dishes do you recommend?

                    1. re: peetoteeto

                      There's not anything there so far that we haven't liked, and we've lived in the area for the past seven years. The "usual suspects" on the menu that one would find at any Chinese restaurant, are quite good. It will take several visits probably for you to determine what you like best. Hate you haven't been there, you've missed a hidden gem. Enjoy!

                  2. The only place to get good chinese in the RTP is in Cary at Chinese 35. Do not get the buffet here, or even order off the menu, but ask them for their special Chinese menu. I think it has English printed on it too, but you can always be really nice to your waiter and ask for recommendations / translations.
                    Great, great Szechuan food. I'm in Toronto for the summer and I haven't had as good Szechuan here as I have at Chinese 35.

                    This is the one in /Cary/, not the one in Chapel Hill.

                    I do have to second the Jan Pong at China Express in the RTP. Man, that is good stuff. Handmade noodles, chock full of veggies and seafood/meat with a tasty broth. Get it hot!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: zmagg

                      Living far away from Cary, I don't get to check out as many places as I like. That being said, Superwok's Chinese (not American) menu is fantastic. I can't imagine Chinese 35 being that much better, but let me know if I'm missing out on something special. A few things I've had at Superwok can't be topped, because they reached perfection (Pea Shoots, Chicken with Chinese Peppers, Eggplant Custard).

                      1. re: veganhater

                        i asked this on a previous superwok thread, but no response:

                        has anyone had a dish at superwok (or, for that matter, 35) that actually has sichuan peppercorns - the ones that make your mouth go numb?
                        when we went to superwok, none of the dishes we ordered (twice cooked pork, ma po tofu, string beans, dan dan noodles) had sichuan peppercorns.

                        1. re: cervisiam

                          I think the Chicken with three peppers had sichuan peppers (not peppercorns), but I could be wrong. There was one little pepper that lit me up.

                          1. re: cervisiam

                            Dan dan noodles w/o szechuan peppercorns? that's surprising! I've been wanting to go to super wok because I hear it's quite authentic. Until a few years ago it was actually illegal to import szechuan peppercorns to the U.S. because they carried some sort of bacteria which affected citrus trees. Perhaps that is why they're not used much in Szechuan restaurants in the U.S.

                            1. re: suse

                              I believe that ban was lifted.

                              1. re: chazzer

                                Oh, I know for sure it was lifted a couple of years ago. Sorry if my post was too ambiguous on that point. What I meant is that because they used to be banned, they were just not in the habit here of using them.

                            2. re: cervisiam

                              Sorry for the delay in response.

                              Anything on the Chinese 35 menu with the hot pepper next to it should have Szechuan peppercorns. You can always ask the waitstaff, too, and they'll point you towards a bunch of dishes with them.

                              1. re: zmagg

                                should have the peppercorns, but unfortunately for me, did not. zmagg, did you have dishes with the peppercorns?

                                1. re: zmagg

                                  Usually the hot pepper indicates hot chili peppers, right? Usually the little dried kind that look like baby cayenne. The szechuan pepper corns are an entirely different little beastie.

                          2. My goodness, people! I cannot believe a Chapel Hill Chinese discussion is going on with no mention of either China Chef (Eastgate) or Jade Palace (Carrboro). We're in Raleigh and would give anything for a Chinese restaurant as good as either of those two.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: gogoraleigh

                              Uh, really? What are your favorite things to order at China Chef or Jade Palace? I've been to them both, and while they are serviceable, I would say a place like Neo-China on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh would be better, especially for veggie dishes...

                              1. re: gogoraleigh

                                I've avoided Jade Palace like the plague since we moved here almost 5 years ago. Have I been missing out? The smell of old oil kept me away in the beginning, and then never hearing any good about it hasn't made me decide it was worth trying. It is very convenient for me, so if there is good food there, I'd love to know about it.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  It was previously reported on Chowhound that a second location of Twisted Noodle (Thai) is going into the location where China Chef used to be at Eastgate. So China Chef couldn't have been that good.


                                  As for Jade Palace, we went there after I read Sinophile report that a family member of the folks who run Superwok bought Jade Palace. I was hoping the food would be of similar quality but suffice it it say, it's worth the drive to Cary to eat at Superwok instead.

                                  1. re: bbqme

                                    Thanks for letting me know bbqme; I trust your opinion.