With the third largest Chinatown in the country, it stands to reason Downtown Boston yields plenty of authentic Chinese food and cult hole-in-the-wall dumpling spots. But there are also exceptional eateries serving top-notch noodles, dim sum and diverse regional fare all over Boston, Cambridge and suburban areas. Chinese restaurants are a great late-night dining option in a city that shuts down early—and some of them even double as nightclubs!
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Best Chinese food in Boston
By day, it’s a serene temple to freshly prepared American-Chinese cuisine with an award-winning wine list. But this Brookline institution also moonlights as a nightclub. After 9:30pm from Thursday to Saturday, a DJ spins Top 40 hits in the E Room bar. Take your time perusing the extensive menu—the owners pride themselves on using high-quality ingredients and hormone-free meat for specialties like Golden Temple ribs and crispy orange beef. End the night with a sake bomb and a boogie under the E Room’s glowing barrel-vaulted ceiling.
Even if you don’t live in the area, this consistently packed Greater Boston gem is worth the trek for its freshly prepared, authentic Taiwanese eats served in a relaxed, contemporary setting (slate floor, dark, Asian-style woodwork). Attentive staff start you off with complimentary pickled veggies and hot tea. Progress to handmade dumplings and stellar savories such as cuttlefish with scallion and ginger, and stir-fried Chinese watercress with minced garlic. Though you may pay a little more for a meal here, the quality of the cuisine more than compensates.
Asian art, sleek banquettes and a prominently positioned full bar dispensing exotic cocktails in retro tiki glasses give Changsho’s contemporary dining room an upscale feel. The impression is reinforced by highly professional service—the affable waitstaff will guide you through the menu of Hunan and Szechuan specialties. From delicate steamed edamame dumplings and sumptuous lobster with ginger scallions to northern Chinese classics like Kung Pao Chicken, the food is outstanding.
Good luck snagging a lunchtime seat at this scruffy, 20-seat cash-only noodle house. Office workers in shirtsleeves rub elbows with hoodie-clad students as they tuck into steaming bowls of spicy soup and dishes starring hand-pulled flour noodles smacked into shape on the premises. Carnivores have plenty of choices, such as the stellar cumin-lamb noodles and the namesake pork or beef flatbread sandwiches, a staple food in the owner’s Western Chinese region of Xi’an; there are limited options for vegetarians beyond a Saturday-only special of chilled noodles with cilantro and bean sprouts. Though a wait is inevitable, take heart: The line tends to go at a clip since most people take out.
Take a tip from top toques including Ken Oringer, Jeremy Sewall and Patricia Yeo—this bare-bones, 24-seat Chinatown outpost gets chefly shout-outs for its dumplings and other dishes. Steamed or pan-fried, the doughy purses are filled with chicken and cabbage, pork and cabbage, and fish and shrimp, to name a few of the half-dozen options. The Szechuan-leaning menu also tantalizes with dishes such as chilled spicy pork ears and spicy salt and pepper shrimp.
Owned by a Taiwanese couple, this tastefully understated Huron Village spot is a cut above a standard-issue neighborhood joint. With a menu that spans Szechuan, Taiwanese and Mandarin fare, everything is cooked fresh to order. This translates to noticeably fresher, lighter flavors, in everything from the Taiwanese spicy mushroom salad to the fiery volcano chicken, which is marinated, fried and then stir-fried with five spices to create a succulent dish.
Even during its regular dinner service, the New Shanghai makes dim sum–style dining an option—and a delight. Its panoply of steamed or fried dumplings and buns filled with chives, soupy ground pork, bean paste and the like counts among the area’s best, while an array of cold appetizers—pickled, salted and smoked—beckons the bold of palate. Other intriguing options include giant-sized lion’s head meatballs (juicy ground pork in a fine gravy) and sweet-and-spicy garlic pork, served in spongy rice-flour “pockets.”
If the name conjures up bucolic landscapes, Peach Farm’s dowdy basement digs promptly erase them. Happily, the Hong Kong-style seafood soon makes amends. Spiced dry-fried eel, enormous steamed oysters in black bean sauce, and lobster stir-fried with ginger and scallions are all superlative.
Down a side street and up a flight of stairs, Taiwan Café is hard to find—but once you have, you’ll soon be back. Though seafood figures prominently and wonderfully, as in salt-and-pepper-fried squid, the kitchen has range: Choice examples include julienned beef sautéed with longhorn peppers and tangy, sweet braised eggplant with basil.
This old-school standby is as popular with daytime dim sum aficionados as it is with the post-clubbing crowd; after midnight the tablecloths come off, but the reasonably priced Cantonese and Chinese-American cuisine is served into the wee hours. Regulars find reason to return, especially for the seafood specialties that include traditional Cantonese lobster with pork and hoisin sauce, or steamed striped bass with ginger and soy sauce.