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New York's Most Innovative Chinese Restaurants
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New York’s Most Innovative Chinese Restaurants

oYes, Chinese New Year is today (one last chance at resolutions!), but that’s only one incentive to pay a visit to the following, Far East-inspired restaurants.  Because while Chinese food has long been a beloved staple of New York, it isn’t until recently that it’s sloughed off its connotations as cheap, takeout fare.  But thanks to a stable of talented chefs at the very top of their game — from Per Se’s Jonathan Wu (Fung Tu) to Tuome’s Thomas Chen (Eleven Madison Park) and the incomparable Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese) — it’s finally getting the citywide respect it so deeply and utterly deserves.  So here’s a few awesome spots to celebrate the year of the monkey this week!

La Chine

La Chine
540 Lexington Ave
Midtown East,New York 10022
(212) 872-4913

Recently opened in the Waldorf Astoria, La Chine has pretty much cemented the ascension of Chinese food into New York’s elite, fine dining world.  In addition to an exotic raw bar of Oysters with Chinkiang vinegar granite and Yellowtail with Sichuan pepper oil (inspired by the seafood traditions of Zhejiang cuisine), the menu includes appetizers like Star Anise and Soy Foie Gras Cherries, soups such as Sea Whelk Consommé with tofu chrysanthemums, and main dishes including Short Ribs with kabocha squash — a far cry from egg rolls, wonton soup and beef with broccoli!  So if it’s sophisticated Chinese uptown you’re after, La Chine is your guy.

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Fung Tu

Fung Tu
22 Orchard St.
Chinatown,New York 10002
(212) 219-8785

Appropriately straddling a newly gentrified stretch of Orchard Street, essentially bisected by traditional Chinatown and the seriously hip Lower East Side, Fung Tu also has a foot in both worlds — being that former Per Se chef, Jonathan Wu, is in the kitchen, and it’s co-owned by Wilson Tang (whose family runs the seminal dim-sum restaurant, Nom Wah Tea Parlor).  That push and pull between old and new definitely carries over to the menu; with dishes like “Skatefin Soup” dotted with wood ear mushrooms and ham, Fried Rice with brisket, broccoli and pomegranate, and Whole Steamed Fish with fennel, fermented black beans and tangerine.

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Mission Chinese Food

Mission Chinese Food
171 East Broadway
Lower East Side,New York 10002
(212) 529-8800

After expanding to a significantly larger space this year, and adding cheese pizza and entire uni trays to the menu, can you still call Mission a Chinese restaurant?  Well, perhaps the kind you’re only lucky enough to find in New York, with specialties like Kung Pao Pastrami, Whole Smoked Hong Kong Pork Jowl, and Thrice Cooked Bacon with rice cakes.  (We have the very inspired chef and owner Danny Bowien to thank for that!)

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Tuome

Tuome
536 E 5th St
East Village,New York 10009
(646) 833-7811

Chef Thomas Chen brings his considerable experience at Eleven Madison Park to bear, at this contemporary Chinese restaurant in the East Village.  In addition to popular options like Crispy Deviled Eggs spiked with chili, Wagyu Beef Tartare with lemongrass, and a Berkshire Pork Pig Out for Two, paired with spicy peanut noodles, the pork xo-glazed Octopus Tentacle exemplifies Tuome’s high-end aesthetic, garnished at table with a swirl of fingerling potato foam.

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RedFarm

RedFarm
529 Hudson St.
West Village,New York 10014
(212) 792-9700

No matter that he’s a white, Jewish Brooklynite; Ed Schoenfeld is essentially the Don of elevated Chinese restaurants in New York — having begun his career at the game-changing Uncle Tai’s, and gone on to open RedFarm; a reliably inventive duo of eateries that’s on everyone’s best of dim sum and duck lists.  Schoenfeld’s obviously the driving force behind classics like Katz’s Pastrami Egg Rolls, but chef Joe Ng is the wizard behind the famed Pac Man Dumplings, not to mention a slew of other, delicate noodle packets, filled with shrimp and snow pea leaves, crispy duck and crab, and corn, shitake, chive, jicama and red pepper.

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Yunnan BBQ

Yunnan BBQ
79 Clinton St
Lower East Side,New York 10002
(212) 253-2527

This refined Chinese kitchen recently changed course, to focus instead on large format barbecue feasts.  Start with a selection of small plates, such as Market Rice Cakes with flowering shitakes, Duck Egg Fried Rice with pickled mustard greens and Pomelo Salad with wood ear mushrooms and poached shrimp, before moving on to meaty, shareable platters, such as the Shao Kao Shangri La; an assortment of Short Rib, Pork Belly, Lamb Meatballs, Tiger Prawns and Curried Fish Balls.

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East Wind Snack Shop

East Wind Snack Shop
471 16th St
Windsor Terrace,New York 11215
(929) 295-0188

Although he spent years working in top NYC kitchens (Jean-Georges, Nobu, Celadon, Ruby Foo’s), Chris Cheung’s self-owned East Wind Snack Shop — inspired by old Chinatown teahouses — is the closest to his heart.  You’ll always find him working the burners solo at his tiny Windsor Terrace space, turning out sophisticated takes of dumpling shop favorites, like Dry Aged Beef Potstickers, Pork Belly Gwa Bao “Gwacos,” and Hong Kong Hot Cakes sprinkled with lemon sugar for dessert.

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King’s County Imperial

King’s County Imperial
20 Skillman Ave
Williamsburg,New York 11211
(718) 610-2000

After the passage of 12 years, this was a surprise second act for the owners of Brooklyn’s venerable Stone Park Café; one of the original spots serving seasonal farm-to-table fare.  Because while King’s County still focuses on thoughtfully sourced ingredients, they’re incorporated into highly traditional Chinese dishes instead, such as Wok Seared Long Dumplings with Berkshire pork, Weeping Tiger Salad with dried baby shrimp, and handmade Mapo Tofu with Sichuan peppercorns.

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