Best Chinatown restaurants
The chef at this ornate dinner-and-dim sum spot, Xi Xin Lin, has a mystical way with creamy egg-yolk buns, delicate free-form dumplings stuffed with shrimp and dried scallop, and steamed rice-noodle crêpes paired with crunchy bits of celery. This is classed-up dim sum at its most traditional, mirrored by the over-the-top, glitzy, gilded look of the second-story restaurant, making it a favorite pick for Chinese wedding banquets.
This dumplings spot started as a walk-up stand in the basement of the Richland Center and moved to a full-service location. The menu offers a variety of dumplings, from broth-filled xiao long bao to lamb and coriander. There's a small handful of barbecue dishes available too, but pick three dumplings that stand out to you and you'll be set.
The Chinatown restaurant, which is tucked down a side street, fuses multiple Chinese cuisines together to yield dishes like the chili crab—huge Dungeness crabs cooks with curry, onions, ketchup and other ingredients for a spicy, messy, delicious meal. There are the usual suspects, like ma po tofu, but you're definitely rewarded when you try something new.
Heat-seekers, rejoice. This is the spot for you. Plenty of Szechuan pepper, dried chilies, garlic and ginger create flavors that are incredibly addictive. Our favorites are Chengdu dumplings, crispy Chinese eggplant with ground pork, twice-cooked pork, mapo tofu, Szechuan prawns and “chef’s special” dry chili chicken. Or choose at random—you won’t be disappointed.
The crackly skin attached to a juicy barbecue duck and a slab of “Macau” pork belly is like a primal call to fans of Cantonese-style roasted meats, and we’d recommend both, along with the perfectly cooked beans in the string bean “casserole” and the chubby rice noodles pan-fried in a lightly spicy XO sauce. But with extensive seafood offerings and an interesting dim sum lineup offered from early in the day to late in the evening, what we really recommend is going to the slick, contemporary dining room and choosing your own favorites.
Nine-to-fivers will have to skip work to avoid the crowds at this dim sum stalwart, but it’s worth it to bypass the weekend frenzy. What’s the fuss? Hangover cures in the form of fried or steamed dough stuffed with savory, sometimes spicy pork. The classic bao are proper pillowy buns, Malay steamed cake is soft and spongy, deep-fried red bean dumplings are sweet and greasy (this is not a bad thing), and crêpes are characteristically silky wraps for shrimp, beef or greens—try the pan-fried version of both for a bit of crispness. Save room for interesting options like tender baby octopus with a slight curry flavor and crispy eggplant stuffed with steamed squid.
Dim sum fans are accustomed to cart service and ordering cards, but the majority of the small dishes traditionally served originated in tea houses and bakeries in southern China. Chinese bakery Chi Quon has been making these delectable items for more than 25 years, attracting locals and visitors from around the city with dishes like fresh BBQ pork buns, sesame balls filled with bean paste and shrimp dumplings. Pop in for a snack or make a meal out of the various baked goods on display.
Strings sets itself apart from the influx of ramen slingers by making its own noodles in the basement on a Japanese machine, and they’re firm, with a nice bite. Get them in a variety of ramen bowls, like the tonkotsu, which has a deep, meaty broth filled with garlic, sesame, scallions and thick slabs of pork. Add an egg and it’ll come with a perfectly cooked yolk that spills into the broth. Finish it off with a sweet Japanese soda and you won’t miss dessert.
After more than a decade tucked away on a Chinatown side street, this late-night institution moved to the main drag, with a second-story view of the area’s action. The dinner hour brings a nonstop flurry of cooks plucking lobsters, sea bass and Dungeness crab from the seafood tanks, but after 10pm, it’s drunken dim sum time. All the fried classics are suitable stomach lining, but we say meet in the middle with the late-night menu of small-plate portions of garlicky peapod greens, salt-and-pepper pork chops and tender quail smothered in peppery black bean sauce.