In a metropolis as vast as New York City, there are multiple Chinatowns throughout the boroughs. One of the more widely known and easily accessible neighborhoods is located in Lower Manhattan near Little Italy. It is home to endless restaurant options specializing in all sorts of Chinese fare. If you're having trouble deciding which one to visit, here are the best of the lot.
What Our Inspectors Say: "This wildly popular joint is still packed to the gills most days, and for good reason: the Cantonese fare and dim sum served here is as good as the food you’ll find in those super-authentic places in far-flung Queens. Even better, they take reservations—and dim sum orders are taken by the staff, thereby ensuring that the food stays fresh. However, guests should avoid shared tables during the weekend rush as service can verge on chaotic. If the price seems a bit higher than its competitors, you'll find it's worth it for dishes like sweet shrimp, rolled in rice paper and laced with dark soy sauce. Plump snow pea leaf dumplings are spiked with vibrant ginger and garlic and may be tailed by rich duck dumplings or an irresistibly flaky roast pork pie."
What Our Inspectors Say: "This age-old dim sum parlor, spread over many floors in an office building, is one of the few Cantonese spots that actually has the space and volume to necessitate its parade of steaming carts brimming with treats. While Golden Unicorn’s system is very efficient and part of the spectacle, arrive early to nab a seat by the kitchen for better variety and hotter items. A helpful brigade of suited men and women roam the space to offer the likes of exquisitely soft roast pork buns, or congee with preserved egg and shredded pork. Buzzing with locals and visitors, it is also a favorite among families who appreciate the kid-friendly scene as much as the delectable, steamed pea shoot and shrimp dumplings, pork siu mai and rice rolls stuffed with shrimp."
What Our Inspectors Say: "When heading to Great N.Y. Noodletown, invite plenty of dining companions to share those heaping plates of roasted meats and rice and noodle soups served at this bargain favorite. Locals stream in until the 4:00 a.m. closing bell for their great Cantonese dishes—food is clearly the focus here, over the brusque service and unfussy atmosphere. Guests’ gazes quickly pass over the imitation wooden chairs to rest on the crispy skin of suckling pig and ducks hanging in the window. These dishes are huge, so forgo the rice and opt instead for deliciously chewy noodles and barbecue meats. Incredible shrimp wontons, for instance, are delicate and thin; and the complex homemade e-fu noodles demonstrate technique and quality to a standout level that is rarely rivaled."
What Our Inspectors Say: "After a 30 year hiatus, Hwa Yuan has reopened to give locals what is quite literally a taste of history. The famed cold noodle recipe dates back to 1968 and is as delicious as ever. Owned and operated by the same family since day one, today the restaurant is striving to regain its status as the neighborhood’s focal point. The tri-level space evokes Chinatown’s heyday, with gracious service and polished surroundings befit for a glamorous evening out. If Shorty himself is around, ask about the good old days and he might even break out the old photographs. Stick to the menu's familiar Sichuan dishes for a successful meal. Highlights include the 'must-try' dry sautéed tangy beef and crispy chicken, served as a half chicken with crispy, golden-lacquered skin."
What Our Inspectors Say: "When faced with the long, no-frills menu, there should read a caution sign to not miss out on the crab and pork soup dumplings. The plump, juicy filling and flavorful broth held in each delicate wrapper with soy-ginger seasoning explains the afternoon crowd lunching out of takeout boxes at the entrance. Large bamboo steamer baskets line most tables, and the seared pan-fried pork dumplings are not to miss either. Cold appetizers also shine, like dark soy- and sugar-cooked bamboo shoots with wheat gluten, or thinly sliced stir-fried eel with chives. There are larger, steaming hot plates to choose from like Shanghai rice cakes with beef. The 'Eight Jewel Rice' dessert matches a mound of sticky rice with red bean paste, dates and golden raisin 'jewels.'"
Photos courtesy of Golden Unicorn.