Xiaotu “John” Zhang may not rank among New York’s superstar restaurateurs, but his expanding Chinese chain has a cult following nonetheless. Zhang brought real-deal Szechuan food to Chelsea when he opened a branch there in 1998. His menu passionately describes the history and cooking process behind each dish, providing diners a comprehensive primer on the feast to come. Start with a sinus-clearing bowl of dandan noodles, loaded with dried peppercorns, or opt for the addictive gui zhou chicken, which combines dry-fried hot chilies and tongue-tingling Szechuan peppercorns, without a drop of gloopy sauce. If you’re looking for something milder, order a basket of eight succulent pork soup dumplings. Just don’t be afraid to experiment: Gems abound on the menu, and you have nothing to lose but your fear of fire.Read more
Although this UES Szechuan joint doesn’t pack the same heat or boast the gargantuan menus available at outer-borough institutions, it does offer many of the gastro thrills found along the 7 train. Break from your General Tso’s rut with bona fide renditions of chilled sesame noodles, spicy ma po tofu (bean curd in a chili-and-bean sauce) or the scallion-pesto razor clams, handsomely arranged like peacock feathers behind a daikon radish that’s carved to look like the bird’s body.
This Lincoln Center outpost of midtown’s venerable Shun Lee has become a classic in its own right, drawing precurtain regulars since its 1981 opening. The expansive, opulent restaurant is dramatically outfitted in black banquettes, pink-clothed tables and illuminated, golden dragons that wrap around the perimeter of the dining room. Chef-owner Michael Tong’s menu offers signature wonders such as Lily in the Woods (Chinese cabbage hearts simmered in broth and served with black wood mushrooms); Beijing duck (a young duckling roasted until crispy and golden); and Neptune’s Net, a potato nest bursting with scallops, shrimp, lobster and sea bass. The experience doesn’t come cheap, but for top-notch regional cuisine and gracious service, it can’t be beatRead more
Is midtown the new Flushing? This newest addition to the ’hood’s roster of superior Szechuan eats holds its own next to stalwarts Szechuan Gourmet and Wu Liang Ye. Lan Sheng delivers on spice and complex seasoning in dishes like toothsome dandan noodles topped with wilted spinach and a savory crumbling of pork and Szechuan peppercorns. The sautéed green beans with minced pork are tender inside, with blistered, crunchy exteriors, and sliced lamb with Szechuan pickles and celery is a fiery, fatty pleasure.
Your waiter parades the roasted duck past your party before placing it on the center show table. A chef brandishes his knives dramatically, then slices the aromatic, crisp-skinned, succulent meat with flair. Folks at other tables drool with envy. (Don’t they know that this establishment doesn’t require you to order the specialty in advance? Pity.) Select the “three-way,” and your duck will yield the main course (complete with pancakes and plum sauce for rolling up the goods), a vegetable stir-fry with leftover bits of meat and a cabbage soup made with the remaining bone.Read more
Chinese-food fanatics rejoiced when this Flushing chainlet opened this Manhattan branch. As at its Queens counterparts, this tiny East Village shop offers the cuisine of Xi’an, an ancient city in North Central China that was once a vital part of the Silk Road trade routes. The cumin-spiked “lamb burgers,” tangy liang pi cold noodles and warm tofu submerged in crimson chili oil are all must-haves.Read more
The crabs waving their claws in the front-window tank of this austere Chinatown joint hint at the meal to come. Fresh, Cantonese-style seafood is the focus here, and the lengthy menu offers countless gems. Use the tank as inspiration and enlist the guidance of a manager, who might steer you toward simple steamed whole fish, glazed prawns with broccoli, clams with bean sauce or one of the copious dim sum options.Read more
Star chefs like David Chang and David Bouley call this Hong Kong–style institution a favorite for its late-night hours and consistently good eats. Do as Chang does and order the ginger scallion lo mein, or choose from dozens of noodle variations—available panfried or in broth with add-ons like shrimp dumplings, pig’s feet and beef balls. Don’t overlook the rest of the menu: One signature stir-fry features Chinese flowering chives sautéed with your choice of duck, scallops, fish or squid.Read more
Any serious Flushing food excursion should begin at this cultish Szechuan eatery, specializing in the region’s volcanically spicy food. Revered by in-the-know regulars, the brightly lit spot serves plates of peppercorn-laden pork and lamb swimming in a chili sauce that could set even the most experienced palate aflame. Temper the heat with cold-bar options like zesty sesame noodles, crunchy chopped cucumbers and smooth, delicate tofu. Service is speedy and mercifully attentive to water requests.Read more
This 450-seat Sunset Park palace is one of our favorite spots in the city for dim sum. Everything is made to order in the open kitchen, like jumbo pork and shrimp shumai, intoxicating crab soup dumplings and crispy suckling pig. The Hong Kong-style menu also includes exotica—like soy-sauced duck tongues—among the usual repertoire, making a group jaunt to Brooklyn’s Chinatown well worth the ride on the R train.Read more