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Best restaurants in Chinatown?

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We recently followed a thread from the NYC board (comparing Philly and NY Chinatowns) to Shiao Lan Kung, where we had a really disappointing meal. Turns out the thread was old and the chef at SLK recently passed away, leaving the restaurant in the hands of new owners.*

So now I'm left wanting great Chinese food and wondering where to get it. I'm not an expert on authentic Chinese cooking, but for the most part I'm craving things that you don't find at the average takeout place. We moved from NYC five years ago and still miss things like soup dumplings and sauteed pea shoots from Joe's Shanghai, or truly spicy Szechuan cooking. But we wouldn't be sorry to find eye-opening versions of familiar dishes, either.

What are people's favorite places and dishes in Chinatown?

* I should say that they were extremely nice to us and our 3-year-old son. So the food was completely ordinary but it's a great place to take your family for ordinary Americanish Chinese food, if you have young kids.

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  1. It isn't in Chinatown, but Han Dynasty is the best Chinese in town.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead

      Thanks, Buckethead. I almost wrote, but left off, a caveat that the actual neighborhood is not the important thing.

      Any dish recs?

      1. re: GDSwamp

        Many! I especially love the spicy crispy cucumbers, the Dan Dan noodles, the lamb cumin-style, the ma po tofu, and the dry pepper style.

        http://handynasty.net/philly_menu

    2. For Szhechuan food, I've also heard many good things about Han Dynasty so I've been planning to go there myself. Friends from from China tell me that their food is very good (although pricey).

      In general, though, I think that it depends on what you're looking for. Whenever I go out to a Chinese restaurant, my friends and I always order our usual, which might include any of the following: fried tofu, shrimp with walnuts, soft-shelled crab, Peking-style pork chops, sizzling beef in black bean pepper sauce (with the bones on), snow pea leaves with garlic, soft-shelled crab, or seafood tofu soup. We would usually go to Tai Lake or Jade Harbor for these dishes.

      If you're talking about dim sum, definitely go to Imperial Inn. My family and I have been going there pretty much since I was born. Their non-dim-sum food is still pretty good as well. For duck and roast pig, I'd definitely go to Sang Kee. If you have a larger party of some sort, Joy Tsin Lau has a pretty good pre-set menu. If you want noodles, a lot of people I know rave about Nanzhou Hand-drawn Noodle House. I think the noodles are good, but the broth could be better. I'd just go for the noodles with pork sauce. For sweets, I'd go to Heung Fa Chun Sweet House. They make fresh soymilk, and they make fresh dessert tofu. Asia Bakery has good pastries, and I'd hit up Rising Tide or Green Harmony for your bubble tea fix.

      Hope this was helpful!

      1. I'm not a Chinese food expert but for soup dumplings go to Dim Sum Garden or Sakura Mandarin. Sakura's scallion pancakes are very good too and Dim Sum has good hand drawn noodles.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bigley9

          I second Dim Sum Garden. They have terrific dumplings, soup w dumplings and other delectable culinary. However, they serve no dim sum. Don't be fooled by the looks (yet very clean) of the place.

        2. Too bad to hear about SLK - one of my favorites, but I haven't been there for ages.
          Also like Sang Kee a lot, and, for soup dumplings, Sakura Mandarin.
          Han Dynasty is also very good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bob Loblaw

            I'm watching this thread eagerly. Spicy food is not handleable for me, so Han Dynasty is out.

            Chun Hing on Monument Road in the Pathmark Shopping Center is not a 'destionation restaurant' in the normal sense, but they do have some dishes that I can't find anywhere else that are wonderful. Their fried dumplings are unusually good, as is the pork/turnip soup, Shing Tau Shrimp with Watercress, any lobster dish will be special: consistent reliability is the watchward here.

          2. My husband and I love Sang Kee. He is Thai/Chinese and growing up his parents owned a Chinese restaurant and this is his favorite place to go when we visit my parents in Philadelphia - even his father loved it. We even did our rehearsal dinner there (full banquet style). We particularly love the Hong Kong style wonton soup.

            2 Replies
            1. re: momnivore

              Great suggestions so far, and I hope more to come. I've had amazing Chinese cooking in my life but never with enough regularity to become knowledgeable, so these kinds of recs - restaurants plus the dishes to look for - are exciting. I'll do my best to try some of these and report back to the Board on any new discoveries.

              momnivore, you have my favorite chowhound username to date.

              1. re: GDSwamp

                Thanks!

            2. Try Four Rivers on Race Street. Crystal Wontons are the best and all the food is authentic.

              1 Reply
              1. re: plogiudice

                I'll second Four Rivers, for lunch they are rarely busy and their Szechuan is great, it's my 2nd choice after Szechuan Tasty House.