Chinese immigrants began to arrive in New York in sizeable numbers during the 1870s, and what’s now known as Chinatown was established. The neighbourhood’s earliest eateries were small teahouses and rice shops that catered mostly to settlers. Larger establishments soon began to appear, aimed at Chinese and non-Chinese alike. New Yorkers have been fascinated with Chinese food since the first American Chinese restaurants started serving egg foo young, marking the dawn of the city’s go-to take-out cuisine. In recent years, a new generation of young chefs, from diverse cultural backgrounds, have been pushing the cuisine further, engaging diners in unexpected ways. Covering the city’s stalwarts and newcomers, Something Curated highlights ten of New York’s best Chinese restaurants.
Mission Chinese Food || Danny Bowien
Mission Chinese Food has garnered a reputation for its whimsical approach, fiery hot chicken wings, and it’s capacity to reinvent itself. Born in South Korea and adopted by a family in Oklahoma, Danny Bowien was already an adult living in San Francisco when he decided to learn how to cook Sichuanese fare. He opened the first Mission Chinese Food, a pop-up restaurant with a DIY ethos, in San Francisco’s Mission District. Bowien took that audacious ethos with him when he opened Mission Chinese in New York’s Lower East Side, which has now become an institution of sorts.
Xi’an Famous Foods || Jason Wang
Xi’an Famous Foods began as a 200 square foot basement stall in the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing in late 2005, bringing the then little-known cuisine of Xi’an to the United States, with signature hand-ripped noodles, secret spice mixes, and Xi’an “burgers” with house-made flatbread. Since then, they’ve expanded to nine locations in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn and two in Queens.
RedFarm || Ed Schoenfeld & Joe Ng
The brainchild of Ed Schoenfeld, Red Farm first opened six years ago on Hudson Street in a former townhouse in the West Village, a collaboration between Chinese food expert and restaurateur Ed and ‘dim sum master’ Joe Ng, championing a playful and inventive take on Chinese food. The modern Chinese restaurant secured a London site at the beginning of this year, their first location outside of New York.
MáLà Project || Amelie Kang
MáLà Project was founded by four friends in the East Village back in 2015, and the second location launched two years later in Bryant Park. Bringing unaltered Chinese dishes to New York, in a 90s China inspired ambiance, the eatery’s specialty, the MáLà Dry Pot, is a communal dish that features a collection of ingredients which guests can choose from. Wok-fried over high heat with twenty-four spices and Chinese medicines, and elevated with chilli peppers, the dish offers a unique flavour profile.
Chinese Tuxedo || Jeff Lam & Eddy Buckingham
Chinese Tuxedo is inspired in part by the cooking of the Chinese diaspora and, more specifically, Australia. The country has a thriving East Asian food culture, and it’s where Tuxedo co-owner Eddy Buckingham first connected with chef Paul Donnelly. There’s Sichuan fish-fragrant dressing on the beef tartare and “mapo lo mein” instead of the more popular mapo tofu. Singaporean curried chicken is in the spring rolls, and crisp-skinned squab is served whole.
Decoy || Ed Schoenfeld & Joe Ng
From the team behind RedFarm, Chef Joe Ng and Managing Partner Ed Schoenfeld introduce an inspired take on the traditional Peking Duck. Crispy-skinned Peking Ducks are served with paper-thin pancakes, and accompanied by appetizers such as cold sweet potato noodles topped with uni and octopus sashimi salad served in a teapot overflowing with clouds. For the interior, Brooklyn-based Crème Design created an intimate space featuring dark reclaimed wood and black marble.
Little Tong Noodle Shop || Simone Tong, Emmeline Zhao & Tracy Qiu
In 2016, Simone Tong embarked on a three-month culinary and research adventure through the Chinese province of Yunnan. Little Tong Noodle Shop pays homage to the beautiful region, offering savoury, flavourful dishes based on rice noodles called Mixian, as well as small plates showcasing local, seasonal ingredients, house-made pickles and specially crafted condiments and sauces inspired by the villages and multi-ethnic regions of southwest China.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor || Wilson Tang
Nom Wah opened as a tea parlour and bakery in 1920 at Doyers Street in the heart of Chinatown. Between the 50s and 80s, Nom Wah sold dim sum on the side, but their main forte was the bakery. And their specialty was mooncakes, a pastry filled with lotus paste and red bean filling that are staples of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Throughout the years, no matter the focus, Nom Wah always held a unique role as the social club for the network of dim sum chefs across the Chinatown neighbourhood.
The menu of Flushing’s recently opened upscale Sichuan restaurant is crammed with all sorts of regional fare. DaXi, cousin of a restaurant in the Sichuan capital Chengdu, is a vibrant room with plush banquettes and a blue colour scheme. Pork ribs are delivered in a bird cage, kung pao shrimp deconstructed, and the usual spicy cucumber salad is made crunchier by using only the skins.
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory || Seid Family
Despite being perceived as a Western treat, ice cream may have originated in China. Way back in the seventh century AD, King Tang of Shang was eating a food akin to ice cream, made of buffalo milk, flour, and camphor. So, in the scheme of things, plain vanilla may really be the more exotic flavour than, say, lychee ice cream. Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, opened in 1978, is known for celebrating flavours more common in China than the U.S., including lychee, black sesame, wasabi, ginger, taro, papaya, green tea, red bean and durian.
Feature image via Mission Chinese Food