Best Chinese restaurant (2000)

La Chine

From the gracious service and elegant, flower-filled setting to the sea scallops in a spicy garlic sauce and honey-glazed apples, La Chine is everything Chinese dining should be. No gloppy sauces or made-in-Taiwan knickknacks here -- the dining room is as classy and evocative of Asian hospitality as the food. And what food: seafood in your choice of sauces, including ginger, spicy black bean and traditional Szechuan; sweet-and-sour orange roughy fish balls; an Oriental version of gumbo; true kung pao beef complete with ginger, garlic, whole dried chiles and fried peanuts; the house specialty of succulent tea-smoked duck; and lamb in a chile sauce. Call a day ahead and beg for the beggar's chicken, a whole bird that's stuffed with sweetened rice and rubbed with Chinese five-spice powder before being baked in clay, or try the bargain (for those with a big appetite) gourmet $22.50 prix fixe dinner, which includes a platter of five appetizers (check out the pickled jellyfish), La Chine's popular chicken with pine nuts in a lettuce leaf, soup, one of four entrees (go for the Peking duck), and banana fritters or lychees in syrup for dessert. You'll never want to touch a tired old pu pu platter again.

Readers' choice: P.F. Chang's


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