There’s no shortage of Chinese restaurants in New York City, but finding authentic Chinese food is a whole different ballgame. Real-deal Chinese is not what you find at the 24-hour joint on the corner. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the Chinese dishes we’re used to in the United States don’t even exist in China. There are more than a few viable options in the city, though, and Chinatown in Lower Manhattan is obviously a good place to start. Nowadays the good stuff is found as far as Flushing, Queens, and if you’re looking for the full Chinese experience, it’s well worth the journey.
Nice Green Bo, Chinatown
There has been a lot of competition for the title of best soup dumplings in New York City proper, but none compare to the tender xiao long bao of Nice Green Bo. Walking inside makes you feel like you’ve been transported to a Beijing alleyway—the neon sign above the door catches your eye as you enter the poorly-lit cafeteria, and the smell of the dumplings cooking makes your mouth water.
You can always recognize good soup dumplings by their shape—if you pick them up and they’re flat on the bottom, they weren’t made quite right. But the ones at Nice Green Bo are shaped like a perfect teardrop, which is exactly how they should be—assuming your chopstick skills are good enough to get them out of the steamer, that is!
Tasty Dumpling, Chinatown
Dumplings come in many shapes and forms, and there are more than a few Chinese restaurants that claim to have the best fried dumplings in Chinatown. Most of them dish out five for a dollar, and you’ll never so much as get eye contact from the staff. They’re too busy hustling behind the counter, flipping dumplings with aplomb, probably going through hundreds of them every hour. But the dumplings at Tasty Dumpling live up to their name.
Wa Jeal Sichuan Chili House, Upper East Side
The atmosphere at Wa Jeal is much more inviting than some of the city’s other Chinese restaurants—it’s dimly lit, coated in a beautiful shade of maroon, with cordial service. The menu, on the other hand, is straight from the Sichuan province of China, and the spice level is too. If you don’t like Sichuan chilies, steer clear. Their menu has options for eaters of all types—if you’re feeling adventurous, try the Smoked Wok Tossed Frogs, or if braised beef is a little more your style, you can always go that route, too.
Fu Run, Flushing, Queens
Another no-frills establishment, Fu Run in Flushing is the full Chinese dining experience. Fu Run serves food from the northern province of Dongbei, so the menu items are a little less traditional but no less delicious; this is the epitome of authentic Chinese food. As you enter the cozy yellow room, don’t let the bare tables and rickety chairs deter you—the food here could easily compete with some of the best restaurants in China. One savory bite of the crispy sliced fish with chili pepper and cumin and you’ll be hooked.
White Bear, Flushing, Queens
Dumplings may be simple, but there’s an art to making them, and White Bear has it figured out. Just two doors down from Fu Run, White Bear serves some of the best wontons you’ll ever try. They’re no secret, though, so prepare to stand in line. While the ambience isn’t much, it’s obvious that the decor here isn’t the focus. It’s the dumplings; and these alone may well be worth the long haul to Flushing.