The labyrinthine streetscape. The novel-length menus. The confusing storefronts. There are many reasons why local diners overlook the vibrant Chinatown scene, but it all starts with the fact that it can be difficult to simply figure the place out. Well, no more. Having consulted the experts and eaten our way across the area, we present Chinatown's hidden treasures.
Above, our Insider’s Guide to Chinatown. Click to view larger.
The iconic Chinatown Gate. (Photos by Mark Fleming)
From the owners of the old King Fung Garden comes this small, red-walled spot, which specializes in affordable three-course Peking duck feasts ($38 for four diners) featuring crackly-skinned meat with house-made pancakes; a stir-fry with vegetables; and a clear soup made from the carcass. Just be sure to order 24 hours in advance.
Donâ€™t miss:Â Shanghai chow mein noodles; sautĂ©ed pea-pod stems (available by request).
60 Beach St., 617-542-1763.
Come here to sample Taiwanese iterations of the classics: sumptuous scallion pancakes; home-style braised eggplant with basil; and gua bao stuffed with braised pork and peanuts.
Donâ€™t miss:Â Steamed sticky rice with pork and mushrooms; mustard greens with edamame and bean curd.
34 Oxford St., 617-426-8181, taiwancafeboston.com.
Roast meats are a specialty at Wai Wai.
Donâ€™t leave Wai Wai without a scoop of ice cream (we like the coconut and ginger flavors).
This ice cream shop/roast-meat haven more than makes up for its deficiencies in atmosphere with its white-cooked chicken, which is chopped to order and layered over rice with potent poaching liquid and a vibrant ginger-scallion sauce. Cash only.
Donâ€™t miss:Â Rice plates with crispy pork; ginger ice cream.
26 Oxford St., 617-338-9833.
Japanese-inspired hot dogs from Fei Fan Eatery.
Avana Loft Building
Walk past a cell-phone store and up a flight of stairs to find this mini food court, where vendors hawk everything from mammoth Japanese-style hot dogs (Fei Fan Eatery) and steamed-to-order dumplings (Dumpling King) to wafflelike Cantonese egg puffs (from the cart in the back).
Donâ€™t miss:Â The Fei Fan Eatery â€ścrazy dog,â€ťÂ topped with teriyaki sauce, mayo, and shredded nori.
42 Beach St.
Gourmet Dumpling House
Forgo the dumplings here in favor of the true star of the menu: â€śsliced fish Szechuan-style,â€ť a bowl of tender fish fillets and napa cabbage swimming in chili oil and chili flakes.
Donâ€™t miss:Â Garlic eggplant; fried buns with chive and egg.
52 Beach St., 617-338-6223, gourmetdumpling.com.
Ho Yuen Bakery
The best traditional Chinese bakery in the area, Ho Yuen specializes in dense moon cakes and all manner of filled buns. Cash only.
Donâ€™t miss:Â Coconut buns; steamed barbecue-pork buns; lotus-leaf-wrapped sticky rice.
54 Beach St. #1, 617-426-8320.
Sweet dreams courtesy of the Ho Yuen Bakery.
More assorted pastries and buns from traditional Cantonese bakery Ho Yuen.
For fluffier, modern-style Chinese pastries, head to Great Taste Bakery, which also offers bubble tea and dim sum.
Great Taste Bakery
Donâ€™t let â€śbakeryâ€ť fool you. In addition to the fluffy, â€śmodernâ€ť-style Chinese cakes in flavors like tiramisu and chestnut, thereâ€™s a full dim sum menu and a plethora of bubble teas.
Donâ€™t miss:Â Congee (rice porridge) with toppings like preserved duck eggs and fried dough.
63 Beach St., 617-426-6688, bostongreattastebakery.com.
Happy Family Seafood Market
This tiny shop offers a vast selection of fresh fish and seafood, such as razor clams and white and black eel.
Bonus Tip:Â Choose your fish, then bring it next door to Best Little Restaurant and theyâ€™ll prepare it for you.
11 Hudson St., 617-542-1488.
Best Little Restaurant
Ignore the dull dĂ©cor and give the crisp-crusted clay-pot-baked rice your full attention instead. ToÂ live like a local, ask for off-menu add-ons like Chinese bacon, black beans, and either lap cheong or duck-liver sausage.
Donâ€™t miss:Â Minced-pork-and-green-bean lettuce wraps; fried squab.
13A Hudson St., 617-338-4988.
A fiery wok at New Shanghai.
The menu is more Szechuan than Shanghai, as evidenced by spicy plates like the cumin lamb and chili wontons. But whoâ€™s complaining about a 1,200-mile culinary detour when the food is this good?
Donâ€™t miss:Â Tea-smoked duck; chilled green-bean noodles.
21 Hudson St., 617-388-6688, newshanghairestaurant.com.
New King Fung Garden
Thanks to a rare BYOB policy, you can enjoy your own bottle of wine with fantastic dishes like chow foon with beef brisket and sa cha beef chow mein.
Donâ€™t miss:Â Peking ravioli; scallion pancakes.
74 Kneeland St., 617-547-5262, newkingfunggarden.com.
The tanks at Jade Garden, where fish are scooped and cooked to order.
The loaded fish tanks highlight the seafood focus, but many diners come for the beef dishes, especially the house special prime rib (request it with string beans and black-pepper sauce) and the red wine oxtail stew.
Donâ€™t miss:Â The seafood, of course, like deep-fried flounder and shrimp with ginger and scallions.
18-20 Tyler St., 617-423-3288.
One of the newest additions to the neighborhood, Shojo is also the hippest, with snacks like suckling-pig bao and shrimp toast, not to mention a list of well-crafted cocktails (like the cheekily named â€śCold Teaâ€ť).
Donâ€™t miss:Â Char siu pulled-pork ravioli; shrimp cappellini egg nest.
9A Tyler St., 617-423-7888, shojoboston.com.
The newest kid on the block is Shojo, from the co-owners of China Pearl.
A bartender pours a flip at Shojo.
Itâ€™s all about the seafood at this subterranean spotâ€”head-on, salt-and-pepper shrimp that are plucked from a tank and deep-fried to order; clams with black-bean sauce; and lobster stir-fried with ginger and scallions.
Donâ€™t miss:Â The sizzling flounder; the spicy salt shrimp, pork chop, and squid platter.
4 Tyler St., 617-482-3332, peachfarmboston.com.
The eateries lining Harrison Avenue.
New Dong Khanh
Known for bubble teas and milkshakes in flavors like avocado and coconutâ€“red bean, this place also serves a bevy of classic Vietnamese dishes, such as summer rolls, pho, and rice plates. Cash only.
Donâ€™t miss: Com ga nuong xa ot, a lemongrass-chicken rice plate.Â (Swap fried rice for steamed, and request a fried egg on top.)
81 Harrison Ave., 617-426-9410.
Hong Kong Eatery
Your best bet for traditional Cantonese barbecue, this place offers specialties like char siu pork, and roast duck and chicken (try them in a combo rice plate).
Donâ€™t miss:Â More-adventerous items, like fried tripe and duck tongue with XO sauce; clay-pot casseroles with fillings like lap cheong sausage and smoked pork.
79 Harrison Ave., 617-423-0838, hongkongeatery.com.
Juicy Cantonese-style bbq meats hang in the window at Hong Kong Eatery.
Items like Roast duck and bbq pork are chopped to order at Hong Kong Eatery.
Nam Bac Hong
Headache? Cold? Acne? Visit the in-house herbalist here, who will prescribe a cure for whatever ails you. The various components are weighed out on the front counter and brewed like oolong.
Donâ€™t miss:Â The large variety of essential oils and teas.
75 Harrison Ave., 617-426-8227, nambachong.com.
An herbalist at Nam Bac Hong.
Essential oils and teas line the shelves at Nam Bac Hong.
Despite the fancier environs here, the steaming shabu-style hot pots, featuring flavor-packed broths like spicy ma la and rich black-bone chicken, are a steal.
Donâ€™t miss:Â The sake-spiked â€śShanghai Muleâ€ť cocktail.
660 Washington St., 857-350-8968, thequsa.com.
Bubbling hot pots at Q Restaurant.
Hot-pot style dining at Q Restaurant feels swanky, but itâ€™s actually a steal.
If youâ€™re big on spice, the Ma La broth at Q is not to be missed.
New Saigon Sandwich
Blink and youâ€™ll miss the speedy assembly of your $3 sandwich. The women behind the counter layer crusty rolls with ingredients like pĂ˘tĂ©, cold cuts (or pork or beef), cilantro, cucumbers,Â jalapeĂ±os, and pickled daikon and carrots. Cash only.
Donâ€™t miss:Â The packaged to-go containers of fried rice.
696 Washington St., 617-542-6296.
At New Saigon Sandwich,Â banh miÂ sandwiches are crafted with astonishing speed.
New Saigon on Washington St.
The best xiao long bao can be found here, with ultra-thin skins and plenty of hot broth in each parcel.
Donâ€™t miss:Â Pan-fried rice cakes with shredded pork and cabbage; three-cup chicken.
695 Washington St., 617-338-8859, dumplingcafe.com.
Whereâ€™s the dim sum, you ask? Right here.
For more on Asian cuisine in Boston, check out our complete guide:Â Umami Rising.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2013/01/asian-dining-restaurant-guide-boston-chinatown/