New York City is known for its Chinese food scene, from spots serving regional classics to others giving the cuisine a 21st-century makeover. Here are 15 essential Chinese eateries around town.
-Patty Lee and Georgia Kral
The Backstory: In 2014, Han Chiang expanded his empire of Sichuan restaurants to New York City, rolling out an outpost of the Philly cult favorite in the East Village. There are now multiple locations in NYC.
The Look: The cheery yellow room is sparsely decorated with a handful of Chinese oil paintings and polished dark-wood tables and chairs.
The Specialties of the House: Chiang stays true to the fiery nature of Sichuan cuisine, dishing out standbys like dan dan noodles (here, they’re tossed tableside with flourish), wontons doused in his housemade chile oil and deep-fried dry pepper chicken wings.
90 Third Ave.; 212-390-8685
The Backstory: This much loved Chinese dim sum chain from Hong Kong opened in NYC this past spring to lines out the door on day one.
The Look: Set a few steps down from street level, Tim Ho Wan is bright and comfortable. The restaurant is small but doesn't feel cramped.
The Specialties of the House: The barbecue pork buns (or bao), a staple on dim sum menus everywhere, are a bit different, arriving in a less spongy and more crispy, even biscuit-like shell. Another can't miss: spare ribs in black bean sauce.
85 4th Avenue; 212-228-2800
The Backstory: Nom Wah Tea Parlor is one of the oldest restaurants in New York City and certainly the oldest in Chinatown. Specializing in dim sum, Nom Wah is well loved for its history in addition to its food. The owners opened a second outpost with an abbreviated menu in 2016 in Nolita and a stall at the Canal Street Market in 2017.
The Look: Sparse, like most restaurants in Chinatown, but with almost the feel of a diner (check out the red vinyl booths.) Orders are filled out on sheets of paper printed with the menu. Want shrimp or soup dumplings? Just check the box.
The Specialties of the House: When it comes to dim sum, order your favorites, but the shrimp and snow pea leaf dumplings are clean and herbaceous and the roast pork buns are pillowy and complex.
The Backstory: As a follow-up to their beloved locavore parlor, RedFarm, Ed Schoenfeld and dumpling maestro Joe Ng opened a Peking-duck-centric bar in the basement of their West Village flagship in 2014.
The Look: The subterranean den is outfitted with duck-hunting decoys, a rustic communal table and a wooden bar.
The Specialties of the House: Decoy serves only full-sized Peking ducks along with a variety of side dishes and appetizers to the tune of $68.50 per person. It's worth it. The duck has crackly skin and a juicy exterior and RedFarm standbys (Katz’s Pastrami Egg Rolls) come with the dinner. An a la carte menu is available at the bar.
529 ½ Hudson St.; 212-792-9700
The Backstory: Midtown has many delicious Szechuan restaurants, but we are partial to Szechuan Gourmet, open for about 10 years, because the cooks do justice to Sichuan cuisine’s spicy flavor profile. The dishes don’t go easy on the Szechuan peppercorns.
The Look: There’s not much to look at here, but that’s okay. Concentrate on your food, which is bathed in a faint red glow thanks to paper lanterns that line the ceiling.
The Specialties of the House: Skip the generic Americanized dishes (like chicken and broccoli) and go for the specialties of the house. Double-cooked stir fried pork belly with leeks and chili hits all the right allium-influenced notes and if you want something less spicy, try the nicely textured crispy cumin lamb.
21 W. 39th St.; 212-921-0233
The Backstory: Sichuanese impresario behind restaurant chains in China touches down in the West Village with this eatery serving dishes drawing from different Chinese regions, a number of which incorporate housemade noodles and seasonal ingredients.
The Look: The restaurant occupies a cavernous space decorated with plants and white tables and accented by mood lighting.
The Specialties of the House: The menu here features dishes from various regions of China, including Beijing and Shanghai. Try the clams with Chinese chives for an inspired take on the dish and don't skip the spicy and sour fish stew.
401 Sixth Ave.; 212-633-8900
The Backstory: Dongbei cuisine from northeastern China, with its fermented and vinegar-laced flavors, can be found at this Flushing restaurant where there’s often a wait for a table.
The Look: The small space is packed with tables, which might help you with your ordering because you’ll see dishes getting devoured just inches away. The wall facing the street is all glass, so the space gets good light and lets passersby see what they’re missing.
The Specialties of the House: Muslim lamb chops come heaped with whole cumin seeds (don’t miss it!) and tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. For something a little different and to cleanse the palate, try the tiger vegetable salad with cilantro, scallions, green pepper, celery and chilies.
40-09 Prince St., Flushing; 718-321-1363
The Backstory: This self-described Taiwanese-American restaurant opened in 2016 in E. Williamsburg after the owners first hosted a series of pop-ups.
The Look: The exterior looks like a bodega thanks to its signage, but the inside is simple and basic with a white wall and a brick wall flanking lines of sturdy tables.
The Specialties of the House: The oyster and pork omelette with herbs (o-a jian) is funky and different and so is the "nutritious sandwich," with shrimp cake and pickled pineapple in fried sweet dough.
159 Graham Ave., East Williamsburg; 347-457-6010
The Backstory: This Sichuanese eatery that opened this year in Williamsburg comes from the husband and wife team behind the Michelin-starred Cafe China in Midtown and their second restaurant in TriBeCa, China Blue.
The Look: The interior is homey thanks to light-colored wooden table tops and a long communal table down the middle of the room.
The Specialties of the House: Heat and spice, as is the thing in Sichuan cooking, is an almost challenge to diners at Birds. Don't shy away. Try the Chongqing chicken or the mung bean noodles in chili oil.
119 Grand St., Williamsburg; 718-969-6800
The Backstory: Contemporary Chinese cooking is celebrated at this two-story locale set inside a former Chinatown opera house, offering both large and small plates including charcuterie, housemade noodles, bone-in steak and both spicy pork and vegan dumplings.
The Look: The sexy space features drippy candles, tall columns, lush plants and high ceilings.
The Specialties of the House: The menu here features interesting and modern takes on traditional dishes. For example, try the "ravioli" with shiitakes and jicama or the salt and pepper shrimp with cilantro and lime.
5 Doyers St.; 646-895-9301
The Backstory: The owners of Park Slope's Stone Park Cafe set their locavore focus on pan-regional Chinese dishes when they opened this spot back in 2015 in Williamsburg.
The Look: Dark and moody, this small restaurant has two dining rooms, a smaller one in the front that feels almost like a railroad car and a narrow hallway in the back leading to a garden.
The Specialties of the House: The mock eel dish, made with long strands of shiitake mushrooms made to look like eels come fried and slicked in a delicious and funky barbecue sauce. Also try the crispy garlic chicken.
20 Skillman Ave., Brooklyn; 718-610-2000
The Backstory: Chef Danny Bowien brought his San Francisco restaurant to the Lower East Side back in 2012 and after trouble with the Department of Health moved to a much larger space on East Broadway in 2014.
The Look: Large and atmospheric, the room evokes the lush, Chinatown buffets of years past. Red banquette tables line the walls and fanned pink cloth napkins adorn tabletops. Don't miss the long mirrored hallway to the bathroom downstairs (where an episode of Master of None was shot), and the framed Laura Palmer photograph (a Twin Peaks reference) on the bathroom door.
The Specialties of the House: Try the Greatest Hits (Chongqing chicken wings, thrice-cooked bacon and rice cakes, King Pao pastrami) and the new-fangled family-style dishes from executive chef Angela Dimayuga (Beggar's Duck cooked in a lotus leaf and clay and cracked table side).
171 E. Broadway; no phone
The Backstory: All dumplings, all the time, can be found at this restaurant in a mall in Flushing. Helen You opened the restaurant in 2014 after operating a much smaller dumpling spot in the neighborhood.
The Look: Clean and mall-like, the restaurant offers tables and booths that are set a step up from the main restaurant with televisions broadcasting the 100 different dumpling varietals.
The Specialties of the House: Classics are great, but with so many different types, go for something different. Lamb and cilantro are delicious and funky and the hot and spicy beef are another favorite.
42-35 Main St., Flushing; 212-518-3265
The Backstory: This mini-chain (that just keeps growing; there are now 12 locations in NYC) features dishes from Northwest China. Co-owner and CEO Jason Wang opened the first spot at a mall in Flushing.
The Look: Fast casual. Order at the counter and take-out, or pull up a stool.
The Specialties of the House: Cumin, lamb and noodles -- both cold and hot and in soup -- all play big here. Go for the spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles or the cumin lamb burger and definitely don't skip the spicy and sour lamb dumplings.