Sunflower Asian Cafe's owners hail from Jiangsu Province, but ask a server what to order from the traditional Chinese menu (you'll need to request it), and she'll point you to dishes originating in Sichuan. Heed her advice, because the kitchen does masterful work with tingly Sichuan peppercorns and spice, and its less-spicy Sichuan fare is worth your attention, too. Start with the tea-smoked eel and maybe some spicy cucumbers, then work your way through spicy fried chicken, pepper-smacked dan dan noodle soup and fiery Sichuan-style boiled fish. From other provinces represented on the menu, the Nanjing salt duck, a Jiangsu specialty, is worth exploring if you've got a large group; the cold preparation is so savory it almost tastes cured. You'll also want to try the Yangzhou combo fried rice studded with seafood, Chinese sausage and peas. And because you should always eat your vegetables, don't miss the dry-fried green beans.
Readers' Choice: Hop Alley/Imperial Chinese (tie)