It's frighteningly easy to go very, very wrong with Chinese food in this city: for every Szechuan, Taiwanese or dim sum gem, there are at least two dollar-a-scoop joints, fast food outposts and restaurants that proffer nothing more than bastardized, Americanized versions of orange-flavored chicken and beef with broccoli.
Still, the good stuff exists, with several decent Chinese food places scattered throughout the city. Here are the five best:
5. Star Kitchen We usually go to Star Kitchen for dim sum, and we're not the only ones. At lunch time -- especially lunch time 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, which gained the place 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, too.
4. China Jade 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.
3. Lao Wang Noodle House 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 potstickers and pig's ear. Their xiao long bao -- or soup dumplings -- are worth the trip alone.
2. Tao Tao Noodle Bar 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 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 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, lamb skewers rubbed with cumin, fried pork livers, dan dan noodles and racy Szechuan chicken. The breadth of the menu is especially exciting because everything that comes out of the kitchen is excellent. And that's what earned the restaurant Best Chinese Restaurant in Best of Denver 2011.
Have other favorites? Tell us about them below.
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