China is a nation with a multitude of culinary traditions stretching back thousands of years. In comparison, Phoenix has been around since last Tuesday and we should all be thankful that some of what's good over there can be found over. here. A word of advice: If you want to embark on a true eating adventure, borrow a food savvy and linguistically inclined Chinese friend. Doing so will open up a world of possibilities via "secret" Chinese menus.
It has been postulated that there exists an inverse relationship between the quality of food at an Asian restaurant and the quality of the service. The staff at Tott's apparently never got that memo because their food is good and their service is phenomenal. Making a weekday take-out order? Let them know when you expect to get there and they'll time their cooking so the food comes out just as you come in to pick it up.
This is a restaurant that is too busy turning out top-notch traditional Chinese food to give a damn about decorating with a tasteful fan collection. Earlier we said you should bring someone to help navigate the Chinese menu? That advice goes double here. Once you're off the safe all-English reservation you'll be in what our food critic described as "choose your own adventure" territory. You'll have eggrolls large enough to kill a man, things with squid, things with their heads still attached, things made with things that your server will have difficulty describing in English. But you know what? That's how Chinese food is supposed to be experienced.
If you're a regular reader then you'll likely be familiar with some variation of the following phrase, "Located in a non-descript strip mall." Asian Cafe Express surprises no one by fitting that description to the letter. It might not look like much from outside but inside you'll find you can order incredibly cheap Hong Kong-style Chinese off a menu that can only be described as sprawling. Their Chinese only menu is so good it might be worth ordering at random off of it just so you can broaden your horizons a little.
If you're craving less than traditional Chinese food but would like to avoid dining at certain soulless corporate restaurant chains, head towards Scottsdale. George & Son's features an Asian Fusion menu that nonetheless trends toward takes on classic Chinese dishes. "George's Seafood Pockets" sound like a knockoff hot pocket but taste like a traditional scallion pancake stuffed with the very tastiest seafood. If you'd like to waddle home, be sure to check out their high quality buffet.
This Asian market may not look like a restaurant but once inside you'll find it will be hard to leave hungry. The market is certainly well stocked but the real draw is to either side of the checkout lines. On the right you'll find their deli which serves up some of the best roast duck in the Valley. To the left you'll find the real gem; a small bakery serving everything from seasonal moon cakes to massive BBQ pork stuffed bao. 5. Tien Wong Hot Pot
Do you have a large group of friends craving a communal Chinese experience? Is it too late to order dim sum? Tien Wong Hot Pot won't let you down. After you sit down at this surprisingly well appointed eatery you'll need to select a soup base and then order off a surprisingly long ingredient list. If you're confused the helpful staff will be more than happy to guide you through the process. If not, they'll get out of your way so you can fill your bubbling hotpot with thin slices of meat and the freshest vegetables.
Like dim sum, a Peking duck is an archetypal eating experience unique to China. As luck would have it Nee House serves up one of the best in the Valley. Their duck possess all the hallmarks of good duck: Crisp skin, succulent fat and flavorful meat. Served alongside a handful of other dishes you'll find it's easy to put together your family style meal fit for royalty.
Phoenix Palace has won numerous awards for being home to the Valley's finest dim sum and not without good reason. For the uninitiated, dim sum is best described as a buffet that comes to you. Squeeze into Phoenix Palace on a typical Sunday and you'll find yourself squeezing past carts stacked high with steamer baskets. Language is a non-issue when you can order simply by pointing at whatever looks interesting. Just remember to bring friends. Dim sum items typically come in groups of three to four and it's hard to get a good sampling without other mouths to share the bounty.
Fresh hand-pulled noodles have an unbeatable chewy texture you can't find anywhere else. At China Magic Noodle House you can actually get five different styles of noodles, from thin "vegetable" noodles to wide "shaved "noodles. All made to order and served either stir fried or in a rich beef broth. They also make fresh juices and boba which go well with steaming bowl of fresh noodles.
1. Chou's Kitchen
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Virtually everything at this tiny Northern Chinese eatery is delicious but one item will capture your imagination: Pan fried meat pies. Still not convinced? These pies are crispy on the outside and open to reveal flavorful meat stewing in its own broth. It's like dumpling soup if the soup was actually inside the dumpling. There is a small freezer by the register, if you've liked what you've eaten then you'll be overjoyed to know that many of their dumplings are sold frozen by the dozen or more.
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