Today marks the Chinese New Year, which is a good reason to go forth into one of this city's excellent Chinese joints and feast on meats and vegetables loaded with Szechuan peppers, a vat of soul-warming beef noodle soup, dumplings or something much, much stranger -- duck tongue, pig's blood or shark's fin soup, for example, none of which you'll find in the dollar-a-scoop shops. In celebration of the holiday -- and in the interest of avoiding said dollar-a-scoop joints -- we're updating our list of Denver's five best Chinese restaurants. Here, in no particular order, are our top ten.
Spice China, 269 McCaslin Boulevard, Louisville We spend a lot of hours searching out the most authentic representations of Szechuan, Taiwanese and North Chinese specialties this city has to offer, but there's also a special place in our hearts for the more Americanized dishes. Louisville's Spice China definitely has a decent list of more or less authentic Shanghai-based specialties, and it also serves up some of the best Americanized Chinese food -- including kung pao, mu shu and lo mein -- we've had in the area.
King's Land Seafood Restaurant, 2200 West Alameda Avenue Alameda Square is a good bet for Chinese food, not least because it's home to King's Land Seafood restaurant, a joint that's been turning out a worthy array of dim sum for more than a decade. During prime hours, trolleys roll through the massive 300-seat spot, and the women pushing them plunk down dumplings, porridges, stir-fried vegetables and hard-to-identify parts of animals at each table. Just make sure you get there before 3 p.m., which is when the carts stop rolling.
Zoe Ma Ma, 2010 10th Street, Boulder Edwin Zoe noticed a lack of real Chinese food in Boulder, so he imported his Chinese mother from a coastal town in Shandong Province to make her recipes and fill the gap. From a tiny space just off the Pearl Steet Mall, Zoe Ma Ma turns out fantastic noodle dishes that span northern Chinese and Szechuan specialties, delicious dumplings and zong zi, bamboo-wrapped packets of rice, pork, mushrooms and lotus seed. And while the regular menu contains satisfying staples, we're most enamored of the daily specials, one of which is the fiery, rib-sticking Szechuan braised-beef noodle soup.
Super Star Asian, 2200 West Alameda Avenue A few months ago, Super Star Asian made the decision to expand, which will double the number of seats in its Alameda Square dining room. Why? Because the place was perpetually packed, thank to its ability to sate dim sum aficionados with its massive selection of handmade dumplings as well as please anyone after rarer Chinese delicacies, like shark's fin soup and steamed chicken feet. There really is something for everyone on this menu, and it might be the best restaurant in Denver to spot a chef on his or her day off.
Star Kitchen, 2917 West Mississippi Avenue We usually go to Star Kitchen for dim sum, and we're not the only ones. At lunch time --especially on the weekends -- the restaurant is a chaotic sea of people, with families huddled around tables, the adults passing dishes back and forth on a lazy Susan while kids dart in and out of aisles, bumping into staffers pushing carts loaded with steamers and platters. And we can eat bun after bun and dumpling after dumpling until we explode, one reason the place earned our Best Dim Sum designation in Best of Denver 2011. But the restaurant also maintains a tome-like menu of non-dim sum dishes, and the seafood specialties in particular are worth your attention.
China Jade, 12203 East Iliff Avenue, Aurora This Aurora strip mall spot has two menus. One features Americanized Chinese dishes like egg rolls, lo mein and mediocre kung pao -- not a single one of which is really worth a second glance. The other menu, though, lists the good stuff: crispy pig intestines, tendon, thinly sliced smoked pork belly and steamed buns. It's a vast offering of some of the best Chinese-Chinese dishes, laced with garlic and ginger and heat.
Lao Wang Noodle House, 945 South Federal Boulevard When Chung-Ming and Tse-Ming Wang moved to Colorado from Taiwan, they brought their culinary specialties restaurant. And here in the Mile High City, we're lucky enough to get a real taste of their former home, with bowls of Taiwanese beef noodle soup loaded with five spice, pan-fried pot stickers and pig's ear. Their xiao long bao -- or soup dumplings -- are worth the trip alone.
JJ's Chinese Seafood, 2500 West Alameda Avenue Fish tanks flank the walls of this Alameda joint, from which the kitchen plucks specimens -- like lobster -- to turn into dinner. And to be sure, JJ's turns out some excellent seafood dishes, employing jellyfish, razor clams, squid, shrimp and scallops, all specialties of the Cantonese chef. But the massive menu at JJ's goes beyond ocean life, too, covering everything from pedestrian sesame chicken to crispy pig's intestine to duck tongue with basil in XO sauce.
Tao Tao Noodle Bar, 10400 East 6th Avenue, Aurora Tao Tao resurrects many favorites from the Federal location of Chopsticks China Bistro, which same owners David Lee and May Sung moved to the suburbs before closing last year. American-Chinese staples such as kung pao and Happy Family are supplemented by authentic Chinese-Chinese dishes, including dim sum and a raft of platters featuring intestines, jellyfish and tendon. The couple also took the opportunity to expand their offerings, adding more specialties from Shanghai as well as a handful of noodle dishes from their native Taiwan, listed in the breakfast section alongside Chinese morning rice porridges and dumplings, even though noodles are available all day. Don't miss the juicy pork dumplings here, either.
1. Chef Liu's Authentic Chinese Cuisine, 563 South Chambers Road, Aurora Chef Liu's is another spot with a "secret" menu, and it's one that features specialties from all over China, including Beijing-style pork with bean paste, fried pork livers and dan dan noodles. But truly, Chef Liu's specialties are the Szechuan dishes, from mouth-numbing beef to cumin-rubbed lamb to Szechuan chicken. The best way to approach dinner here may be to have your server order you a feast of interesting items, though everything that comes out of the kitchen is excellent. And that's what earned the restaurant Best Chinese Restaurant in Best of Denver 2011.
An honorable mention goes to Hong Kong BBQ, a spot at 1048 South Federal Boulevard that serves up noodles, porridge and, yes, Hong Kong-style barbecue dishes. It's a favorite of Cafe Society editor Lori Midson.
Have other favorites? Tell us about them below.
More Best of Denver Lists: - Denver's five best restaurants for blind dates
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