Danny Bowien. © Jasmin SunChinese food: the Christmas day choice of non-celebrants and anyone interested in an unconventional holiday meal. Here, eight chefs share their favorite places to eat Chinese food in the country. »
Danny Bowien. © Jasmin Sun

Danny Bowien of NYC and San Francisco's
Mission Chinese Food. © Jasmin Sun

Chinese food: the Christmas day choice of non-celebrants and anyone interested in an unconventional holiday meal. Here, chefs' favorite places to eat it in the country.


New York City
Tom Valenti, Ouest
Shun Lee West is enormously popular, especially for those who don’t celebrate the Christmas holiday. They have a restaurant dining room as well as a café where they serve dim sum. Their dim sum is well liked, but my wife and I are both creatures of habit, and have always gone to the dining room. It’s horribly gaudy but that’s part of the fun; there’s this 100-foot-long dusty dragon looking down on you as you eat. We always get the pickled pig’s kidney. I don’t even know how they prepare it, I don’t want to know, but it’s fantastic. From there I just take the lead from the waiters or manager about whatever they think is good.” shunleewest.com

David Chang, Momofuku Restaurants
“New York’s Great N.Y. Noodletown is the place I would go late at night after getting off work,” he says. “Their ginger scallion noodles are the inspiration for our version at Noodle Bar.” greatnynoodletown.com

Danny Bowien, Mission Chinese Food
Spicy Village (formerly Henan Flavor) is one of Bowien’s favorite haunts for excellent Chinese food in Manhattan. “They do this ‘Big Tray of Chicken’ with pieces of fried chicken that have been braised in beer, chile, fennel and Sichuan peppercorns,” he says. “You have to get them to put their handmade pulled noodles on top. That’s the best thing in the whole world.” 68B Forsyth St.; (212) 625-8299

Falls Church, Virginia
Paul Qui, Uchiko, Top Chef Texas Winner
“I have a soft spot for Peking Gourmet,” he says. “I loved eating Peking duck there with my folks and watching old Chinese men carve out the most perfect skin with a giant cleaver, while leaving the fat on the meat. It’s one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the country.” pekinggourmet.com


Justin Yu, Oxheart
Yu’s top pick for authentic Chinese food on Houston’s Chinatown “strip” is Shanghai Restaurant. Oddly enough, “It’s actually not a Shanghainese restaurant,” he says. “It's a Cantonese restaurant where the family never bothered to change the name when they bought the business. It’s really great for traditional Cantonese food: Ong choy with shrimp paste, dry stir-fried beef chow fun, fried rice with salted fish, and they have the most amazing salt-toasted spareribs. Each piece is super-crunchy, juicy, with little bits of umami speckled throughout.” 9116 Bellaire Blvd.; (713) 988-7288


Alhambra, California
Sang Yoon, Father’s Office and Lukshon
“My favorite dishes at 101 Noodle Express sound boring, but taste exciting,” explains Yoon. “Go for the beef roll and eggplant rice. The roll just looks like a wrap or burrito filled with marinated beef brisket and a ton of cilantro stems, but it’s what everyone orders here. The eggplant rice is a very simple dish: The eggplant is cooked down until it’s very soft, almost into a paste, then combined with ground pork and just spooned over steamed rice.” 1408 East Valley Blvd.; (626) 300-8654

Jason Franey, F&W Best New Chef 2011, Canlis
Sea Garden, in Seattle’s International District, uses very Northwest ingredients: geoduck, abalone, fresh cod. You usually don’t see that at most Chinese restaurants; they’ll have the standard Chinese ingredients but not the local ones. They do a hot pot with pork belly and cod, which is perfect for a cold night. If you want to go big, you can get a live crab, which they fry and toss with a slurry of salt, pepper and cornstarch. Since the crab is so fresh they don’t have to do much to make it taste great, but it’s easy to mess up the dish because it’s so simple. Luckily, they always do a really good job.” seagardenseattle.com

Portland, Oregon
Andy Ricker, Pok Pok
Best Taste, a storefront-style dim sum joint just off 82nd Avenue on Division (Portland’s real-world Chinatown) is one of the best choices for Chinese food in Portland,” he says. “There are just a few tables and atmosphere is nonexistent, but they make some of—if not the—best BBQ meats in the city. Their BBQ pork is the best I have tried for sure; the duck is likewise excellent and the roasted pig is exemplary.” 8350 Southeast Division St.; (503) 771-0812