Best Chinese Restaurant 2012 | Chou's Kitchen | Food & Drink | Phoenix

When it comes to Dongbei cai, the food of northeastern China, this humble eatery in Chandler may be the only one of its kind in the Valley. Originally from the province of Liaoning, owners Tong Rizzo and Ping Chou serve a menu of unique and comforting dishes from a selection-packed, near-descriptionless menu. Given the language barrier here, the menu may be tough to navigate, but the welcoming service and wallet-friendly prices make it a culinary journey worth taking. Like dough? It's homemade here, from behind a glass window, and comes in the form of plump filled dumplings, fried buns, and tasty meat pies, which Rizzo calls "Chinese hamburgers." Don't miss cold items like spicy noodles and the cryptic "green bean jelly with vegetables" (the northeastern Chinese version of a Cobb salad), and warm and rustic creations like the eggplant, potato, and pepper stir-fry and chicken, wild mushroom, and potato warm pot.

It's late and you're hungry. Do you really want another gut bomb like pizza and burgers at 11 p.m.? No, you want something a tad more healthful, like, say the Korean food at this late-night gem in the West Vally. By day, the restaurant is a quiet nook — complete with three enclosed privacy-friendly booths — serving fresh, delicious, and affordable traditional Korean cuisine (and a few Chinese-based dishes with a Korean twist). But after 10 p.m., the restaurant feels more like a Koreatown bar, serving karaoke and soju along with the eats until 2 a.m. every night but Sunday. We love the housemade noodles and signature dishes, as well as such Korean favorites as duk boki (seafood pancakes), Korean fried chicken, the stir-fry dish jap chae, or a variety of soups and stews, like the spicy and seafood-heavy cham pong, a boiling pot of Korean stew with tofu called haemul soon du bu, or the cold noodle dish naeng myun. This place truly is one of our favorites in the West Valley, no matter if it's the sun or moon you see in the sky.

What's better than dinner and a movie? Thai food at Yupha's and a cheap flick at Pollack Tempe Cinemas. Thanks to owner and Bangkok native Yupha Dequenne, we can score tasty Thai dishes pre- or post-show time at her easygoing restaurant right next door to the cinema. We're partial to the kanom jeeb (potstickers), drunken noodles served up Thai hot, and Yupha's stellar red curry made with bamboo shoots, eggplant, bell pepper, string beans, and Thai basil. Plus, there's fried bananas with ice cream for dessert. Our one regret: We still haven't found a way to sneak our Thai iced tea into the theater.

Like its moniker, this little gem of unique Vietnamese fare hidden in the food court of Mesa's Mekong Plaza focuses on the distinctive cuisine of Hue, the capital city of Thua Thien, in the Hue province of Vietnam. Translation: This humble food court stall is serving up dishes that even the most pho-faithful in the Valley most likely haven't seen on a Vietnamese menu before. Check out items like bun bo hue (spicy red soup); rice cakes topped with dried, ground shrimp, and fried pork skin; bánh khot (miniature fried pancakes); nem chua hue (cured meat wrapped in banana leaves); and pâté chauds (Vietnamese puff pastries with a meat filling). The best part? Thanks to its wallet-friendly prices, Hue allows diners to feast on the unfamiliar, find some new favorite dishes, or both, for around 10 bucks.

The accolades heaped upon chef-owner Nobuo Fukuda — a James Beard Award and "Best New Chef" from Food + Wine — really are all you need to know about the man running this transformed turn-of-the-century bungalow in downtown Phoenix's Heritage Square. He truly is one of the best things going in the Valley's culinary scene. Fukuda's ever-evolving menu of seasonally appropriate Japanese dishes is one aspect that keeps this restaurant interesting. The other thing simply is food — fresh, inventive, and always delicious. There's a wonderful soft-shell crab salad, tempting sake-steamed clams, yellow tail ceviche, and washyugyu short rib, among many other small plates and cold and hot dishes. But perhaps the best way to go is omakase-style, meaning you, the diner, let Fukuda decide what you'll eat, courtesy of a coursed-out tasting menu. For that, you'll want to give the master 24 hours' notice, as he dreams up what invariably is a Japanese meal you won't soon forget.

Jackie Mercandetti

Situated a couple of blocks west of the fire station at Dorsey Lane and Apache Boulevard in Tempe, this family-owned eatery recently expanded and serves up bursting-with-flavor Indian and Pakistani food courtesy of chef and matriarch Farah Khalid. Her homespun recipes (many vegetarian) are across-the-board dynamite, including chapli kebab (spicy ground-beef patty), goat karahi (garlicky and tender goat served on a bed of tomatoes and onions), and palek paneer (creamy, dark green spinach and Indian cottage cheese). And with its crazy-affordable prices, it's easy to grab a few friends and order several dishes to share.


Phoenix's only Ethiopian restaurant was a speakeasy of sorts, located behind a curtain in the back of a strip-mall convenience store. But now it's got its own digs, and the food still is just as flavorful, thanks to Abebech Ejersa, an Ethiopian immigrant who arrived in the Valley a few years ago. Traditional wat platters are the go-to dish, but hot bowls of fragrant yebeg tibs (lamb marinated in garlic and rosemary) and kaywot yesiga (cubed beef with a slightly Southwestern flavor) also are excellent. Make sure to stick around for Ejersa's traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, as important to the dining experience as the meal itself.

Diana Martinez

This friendly, family-owned strip-mall eatery near Paradise Valley just may have some of the best baba ganoush in the Valley — hellooo, grilled eggplant — and that includes the stuff our Syrian uncle used to make for us whenever we'd visit him. Made from family recipes, the flavorful Middle Eastern fare is served in portions aplenty and includes several vegetarian selections as well as perfectly prepared meats including juicy beef, tender lamb, and high-quality chicken, featured in numerous kebab platters. Most dishes include a generous side of delectable saffron basmati with bright golden raisins and slivers of almonds. And that old Mediterranean standby, the gyro, gets high marks as well, served with warm and pillowy housemade pita bread and a lightly seasoned lamb mixture.

Lauren Cusimano

In business for more than four decades, this longtime favorite of the Phoenix dining scene knows a thing or two about boldly flavored Greek cuisine. Thanks to its affable owner George Vassilou, the fine-tuned menu, along with a host of daily specials, is based on recipes from his grandmother, who originally ran the restaurant, and they stand up to this day. From top-notch starters such as lightly breaded calamari and meaty dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) to wonderfully flavorful entrees such as pasticio (think Greek lasagna, featuring creamy béchamel instead of ricotta) and tomatoey lamb with orzo to desserts (including a sinful, Mt. Olympus-size baklava/cheesecake concoction), everything is textured, colorful, and well prepared. Add a selection of Greek beers, nearly two dozen kinds of ouzo, and a convivial (but laid-back and inviting) atmosphere, and it's a Greek taverna worth visiting.

Lauren Saria

Valley tastemaker, James Beard Award winner, and foie gras fanatic chef Christopher Gross continues to bring top-notch French fare to his comfortable yet chic bistro inside Biltmore Fashion Park. From stellar staples like wild mushroom soup with foie gras, hanger steak with sautéed shallots, or the decadent Chocolate Tower, featured in Julia Child's cookbook, to new dishes like sea bass in a saffron cream sauce and exceptional pied de cochon (the pretty French word for pig feet), fans of French cuisine can swoon in the restaurant's contemporary dining room or take a seat around the bustling open kitchen. A selection from co-owner and sommelier Paola Embry's extensive wine list should not be missed.

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