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Mar 14, 2012 09:49 PM

The Four Best Chinese Restaurants In New York

Are all in Manhattan Chinatown? I don't think so. A nice listing of good authentic places, but certainly not the best of the best.

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  1. Is it even a good listing? I've never been to A-Wah, but based on what I've read of the posts of Lau and others, it's a has-been, really. Joe's Shanghai is nothing much, is it? I used to go there late at night and get dishes that sounded the most unusual, and they were fine, but nowadays, I just laugh at all the tourists on line there, while I have a good dinner right across the street at Famous Sichuan. Prosperity - now, that's a good dumpling place, for what it is. Which leaves Xian Famous Foods, which is in fact special. But not only is it ludicrous that no restaurant in Flushing was mentioned, but what about the fact that no Sichuan restaurant in the Five Boroughs was mentioned at all? Does that make sense?

    Joe's Shanghai
    9 Pell St, New York, NY 10013

    Prosperity Dumpling
    46 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

    Famous Sichuan
    10 Pell St, New York, NY 10013

    Xi'an Famous Foods
    88 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

    5 Catherine St, New York, NY 10038

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pan

      You're right, it is a bad list. If you read the comments section of the original article you'll see that a lot of people from all around the country say the same thing.

      The entire premise is fatally flawed because no one is in a position to survey the entire country and make a credible list. There are too many cities and too many restaurants.

      If a knowledgeable New York based writer wanted to take a shot at picking the 10 best Chinese restaurants in the 5 boroughs then we'd have something to talk about. Personally, if someone were going to make a list like that I'd prefer that they *didn't* try to rate them comparatively. Declaring a "best" restaurant in New York is a doomed effort. Some places excel at certain dishes, others excel at other dishes.

      People often declare a place "the best" because they do a great job on their 5 favorite dishes. Which is great if you happen to like those 5. Of course, you might prefer 5 other dishes and find that another place makes superior versions. Which is "best?" It depends on what you like.

      I'm a big believer in the Good Kitchen concept. It means that there are skilled people preparing the food and the overall quality level is high. Picking "best" restaurants is very subjective but I'll bet we'd get a high degree of consensus on Good Kitchen places.

      Lets try it out. The following list is in ALPHABETICAL order. (I'll stick to Sichuan places, the cuisine I know best.)

      Very Good*:
      Grand Sichuan House (Bay Ridge)
      Hot Kitchen
      Lan Sheng
      Little Pepper
      Spicy & Tasty
      Szechuan Gourmet

      Grand Sichuan International (multiple locations)**
      Great Sichuan in Chelsea (based on a limited sample)
      Legend (limited selection of Sichuan selections, some great dishes, some middling)

      * I haven't been to Famous Sichuan so I can't include it yet. I've heard very good things about it from people I trust.

      * * I've had some terrific meals at a number of GSI locations and then returned and had average meals. Then returned again and had another terrific meal. You roll the dice - they have a problem with consistency. I suspect they have a lot staff turnover in their kitchens.

      Szechuan Gourmet
      21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

      Grand Sichuan
      229 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

      Lan Sheng
      60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

      88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

      Hot Kitchen
      104 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

      1. re: Pan

        National listing parallel the New York ones. Thankfully, no Americanized restaurants or Mr. Chow listed, and you'll get a good meal at all of them. But by no means are these the "best".

      2. I find it quite absurd, pardon my expression, for the community of restaurants being compared are too many.

        Such a contest is quite impossible. What might be the measured aspects to consider in such? One word or two words dot this article "Huge portions". Is this a measure for good taste?

        Also phrases like "Heavily promoted by restaurant personality Anthony Bourdain" do nothing save for highlight the fact that Mr. Bourdain has visited the place and recommends it.

        A better place to begin for such a discovery would be articles concerning one location, or one item in one location such as dumplings in NYC, .

        I have scouted the best cafes and coffee sellers in New England. That is easy. Coffee is one item. It can be done.

        This is CNN though. What can we expect.

        Here is an interesting quote from one of the readers in the comment section: "Speaking as a chinese american, this "article" not only upsets but it hurts me down to my roots that this obvious display of bribery is published. Im not sure how this Clarissa Wei can look at herself in the mirror. I even doubt if Clarissa Wei is a real person. Clarissa Wei, you might as well add Panda Express to this list. I hear lines wrap up and down the food court!!! You are a joke as is this "article". "-Jean Luc

        and this one: "I am so glad my absolute favorite restaurant is not mentioned anywhere on the list. Nice writeup, although this entry level list is more for Asian Americans and non Chinese types who have not done so much traveling, but are a bit more in tune with half decent Chinese food that is deemed popular but not Panda Express American Chinese stuff. Surprised that the writer did not mention Mission Chinese Food... haha."-XY

        1 Reply
        1. re: jonkyo

          Clarissa Wei is a real person, and that's the problem, she's just one person. I think a truly accurate listing requires a collaboration. I've been to thousands of Chinese restaurants in the US, but I don't think I could write a "50 best" article since I am limited by my personal experiences. Plus to top it off, Clarissa is a college student from California going to school in New York. When I was her age I don't think I had even been to 50 different Chinese restaurants.

        2. this thing is garbage

          - A-Wah: fell off a cliff a while ago
          - Joe's Shanghai: pretty bad
          - Prosperity: decently tasty dumplings, but there are much better places in Flushing and if we're talking about all of US, Chandavkl you know how many better dumplings there are in LA alone
          - Xi'an: i actually like this place alot, so ill give them a pass here

          10 Replies
          1. re: Lau

            Might be more suited for the Outer Boroughs board, but what Flushing places do you think have better dumplings than Prosperity? So far, the only place I've been to in Flushing that matches Prosperity is the guo tie place on 41st near the LIRR station (I'm not including places like Nan Xiang - different type of dumpling).

            1. re: kdgchow

              Good point. Prosperity mainly specializes in Fried Dumplings. Many places in Flushing serve boiled or steamed types (Furun, Golden Palace, Henan Fengwei, Rural, Jiang Li, SN and Yilan to name a few). Furun and SN steamed versions seen below.

              1. re: kdgchow

                well you guys have some good points, so some addendums to my previous comment:
                1) to be clear, i think prosperity has gone downhill a bit over the years although i think its still decent on an absolute basis, but i dont think they make great dumplings
                2) scoopG's comment about alot of flushing's better dumpling spots having alot of boiled and steamed type dumplings is correct, so i guess its not totally apples to apples comparison; i prefer the dumplings at some of the places that scoopG added to the ones at prosperity and ill add white bear to the list as i like theirs the best
                3) just an a straight up absolute basis, prosperity's dumplings are ok, but like saying they are the best in america or top 50 or whatever is kind of silly b/c there are just alot of places that i think make good dumplings in america

              2. re: Lau

                I just chaperoned a school trip to Chinatown which the kids loved. We had lunch at Grand Harmony which I thought was quite good. The clientele looked all locals with no americans in the place but us. The kids all had standard dishes but the dim sum looked excellent. Any comments on this place?

                1. re: princeofpork3

                  i haven't been to grand harmony in many years, from what i remember its fairly typical of ny chinatown dim sum in that its very cheap, uses carts, its pretty old school and the quality is mediocre.

                  that said it's probably alot of fun for kids especially non-chinese kids as i'm sure its very different than what they're used to and its one of the bigger dim sum halls in the city and i think in particular kids (and adults) who aren't used to eating dim sum like carts as it helps show them what they might be ordering and its sort of fun.

                  however, in asia and other places with good cantonese food the cart has died in favor of order off the menu dim sum which is much fresher. also when i say its "old school" i mean its sort of greasy and heavy when u get dim sum in hong kong at any good place, its much lighter and fresher tasting

                  1. re: Lau

                    You hit the nail on the head completely. As I learned the hard way during my first trip to New York Chinatown over 25 years ago, a restaurant full of Chinese diners could indicate plentiful and inexpensive, and not necessarily outstanding, Chinese foods. Grand Harmony is sort of one of these places, though they also get a lot of civic events, too, so it's not like the food is bad.

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      yah thats def fair way to think about it.

                      i actually had this discussion with someone the other day and they were like with a sizable cantonese chinese population why is NY's cantonese food noticeably worse than other cities (vancouver, toronto, LA, SF). I dont have a good answer, but i thought it could be either:
                      a) there aren't as many, which i believe is true
                      b) it could be the composition of who they are. it seems like most cantonese in NY chinatown are basically originally very poor immigrants from the toison region who came here quite a while ago, whereas if u go to canada for instance you find alot more middle to upper class cantonese from HK who came here more recently, so the food they grew up with markedly different than the food the NY immigrants grew up on. its kind of like if you teleported someone from the 60s and had them make what is "american food" vs someone who grew up more recently.

                      i can't substantiate any of this, but it was my guess as to why

                      1. re: Lau

                        Somebody on this board came up with a very plausible explanation a couple of years ago. Hong Kong is really where the innovation in Chinese food occurs, and migration from Hong Kong to LA, SF, Vancouver and Toronto has driven the upgrade in Cantonese food in those locales. The poster indicated that there has not been the same migration of chefs from Hong Kong to New York. Also, my sense is that in New York, more and more of the Cantonese restaurants are being operated by Fujianese, who can put together good, but not great Cantonese food. I know that Fujianese operate many of the Hong Kong style seafood restaurants in cities having a significant Chinese population, but not a Cantonese element to that population (e.g., Atlanta, St. Louis), so the same thing may be happening in New York.

                        1. re: Chandavkl

                          I think it really started in Hongkong in the years before the 1997 handover to the PRC. Many Hongkongers looked to emigrate - at least long enough to nab a second passport. The UK was not going to allow Hongkongers in and US immigration works through national quotas and a family reunification policy.

                          Canada (and Australia) proved popular destinations for emigrants of financial means. The education systems were similar so that was another draw. Chefs soon followed.

                          Immigrants today from Hongkong (and Taiwan) are mature and well educated: they are attending graduate or post-graduate school or opening a small business perhaps – but not another Chinese restaurant. They are moving to the suburbs or exurbs, not Chinatown.

                          1. re: scoopG

                            yah it seems like we all came to similar conclusions.

                            one of the guys is from hk was like i wanted just hire someone from hk to come here and open a real deal cantonese place with a proper HK chef, but his dad kiboshed the idea b/c the restaurant biz is such a hard biz...too bad