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Did you know New York has three Chinatowns? The one most people are aware of is in Manhattan, but there are two more; one in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and another in Flushing, Queens. So, it’s understood we get some of the best Chinese food here. Of course, not all the good Chinese food is found in Chinatown, there are plenty great places in other neighborhoods too. Of those, here are my top five places to go.
Mission Chinese: Last year, Danny Bowien opened up the second branch of his popular San Francisco restaurant in New York, on the Lower East Side. The lines are long but it’s worth it to sit in his low-lit, cramped den of Chinese-fusion delights. My favorite dish is the wonderfully spicy mapo tofu, which is laced with mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorns. He also does a fun Kung-po Pastrami dish that tips the hat to NYC, and spicy peanut noodles with braised lamb neck.
Yunnan Kitchen: Focusing on foods from the Yunnan province in China, chef Travis Post has wowed diners with his grasp on this cuisine. At the charming Lower East Side restaurant, try the crispy chicken shao kao, fried pork belly with Yunnan spices, or the striking chrysanthemum salad with soy-chili vinaigrette. Follow that with a pot of pu’erh tea, and get to know these bold flavors.
Num Wah Tea Parlor: This is my favorite place to get dim sum, and it’s the oldest dim sum parlor in the whole city. You can still see traces of the original set up, the mirrors are vintage, the booths look ancient, and there is a strong historical vibe in every nook and cranny. The space is airy and not as hectic as some of the major dim sum palaces nearby, which is another reason to go.
Café China: Head to this Midtown Chinese restaurant for their spicy dan dan noodles, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Here, they specialize in classic dishes, including tea-smoked duck, double-cooked pork with smoked tofu and leek, and sautéed lotus root. The setting is comfortable and charming, with a 1930s vibe.
Xi’an Famous Foods: For a completely surprising entry into Chinese food, this tiny shop in the East Village (they have one in Chinatown too) raises the bar. First, their food stems from the ancient Xi’an region, which is considered the first capital of China. The flavors that they display include rich cumin lamb “burgers,” tingly beef tossed with hand-ripped noodles, and their specialty, spicy and tingly lamb face salad. The food is cheap, spicy, and perfect for a nosh while gallivanting around.