Chinese New Year falls on February 19 this year; celebrations and feasts traditionally last for two weeks (at least in China), making February the perfect month to sample your way through the city's best noodle houses, wok kitchens and dim sum eateries. Although two of our favorites, Chef Liu's Authentic Chinese Cuisine and East Asia Garden, closed in 2014, Denver still has plenty of great options for crisp-skinned duck, tender dumplings and tongue-buzzing Szechuan specialties.
Keep reading for the ten best Chinese restaurants in the Denver metro area, in alphabetical order. And since Chef Liu's, last year's best Chinese restaurant in Westword's Best of Denver 2014, is no longer with us, the category is wide open for a new winner. Cast your vote for your favorite in our 2015 Readers' Poll.
10) China Jade 12203 East Iliff Avenue, Aurora 303-755-8518 China Jade's menu of standard American-Chinese dishes doesn't go above or beyond that of dozens of other restaurants serving fresh-cooked, if not exactly mind-blowing, fare. But peruse the traditional Chinese menu and you'll find build-your-own steaming hot pots awash in numbing Szechuan peppercorns; unusual but approachable dishes like Ants Climbing Tree (a simple spicy dish of ground pork and noodles) and basil eggplant; and rustic, adventurous plates of pork intestine with pickled cabbage or Szechuan-style eel.
9) China Taipei 8100 South Quebec Street, Centennial 303-773-0155 China Taipei, tucked into the back corner of an unassuming suburban strip mall in Centennial, has been serving traditional Taiwanese cuisine for more than twenty years. Favorites like beef chow fun stand above the competition, while a second Chinese menu (just ask if you aren't offered one) hides bowls of thick squid and noodle soup, tea-smoked duck, pork belly with pickled mustard greens, and braised pork feet in dark soy sauce. It's a family-run affair, with friendly service from Danny and Amy Chou and their welcoming staff.
8) Hasu Asian Bistro & Sushi 250 Steele Street 720-379-5868 While Denver lost one of the best Chinese joints in town when East Asia Garden closed last year, the restaurant's owners opened Hasu in Cherry Creek North with a menu nearly identical to that of the South Broadway original -- only with a sushi bar and other Japanese dishes tacked on. At lunchtime, Szechuan eggplant and Kung Pao shrimp offer more flavor and complexity than standard American-Chinese fare (without much of the typical sweetness), but the Chinese dinner menu, here bound in an opulent cork cover, is what makes Hasu special. Try the odd but surprisingly comforting tofu and black egg mixture (like a Chinese version of picnic-worthy egg salad), a spicy fish pot thick with dense slabs of fish and searing chiles, or a far-from-ordinary Chong Qing spicy chicken.
Keep reading for more of the best Chinese restaurants in Denver.
7) Hong Kong BBQ 1048 South Federal Boulevard 303-937-9088 If you eat nothing else at Hong Kong BBQ, the dark-lacquered duck and pork that hang in a display window at the front counter are worth the trip to South Federal. Served with fluffy steamed buns, the crisp-skinned duck packs meaty flavor and deep layers of spice. But it's not just about barbecue: simple, country-style congee rice porridge -- available with a variety of different meats and vegetables -- offers the same kind of warming comfort found in Vietnamese pho and Japanese ramen. Hong Kong BBQ also has a deft touch with sauteed vegetables, so be sure to include some bright, garlicky greens in your order.
6) JJ Chinese Seafood 2500 West Alameda Avenue 303-934-8888 The length of the menu at this Alameda Avenue institution and the seafood tanks in the entryway can be a little intimidating for first-timers, but the waitstaff is happy to make recommendations -- or just go with a big group and get a variety of the strange and familiar. For the strange, duck tongues in XO sauce offer small and meaty bites in a mildly spicy stir fry; for the familiar, JJ makes a light and satisfying version of the usually sweet and gloppy sweet-and-sour shrimp. But this is first and foremost a palace for those seeking traditionally prepared seafood specialties, from whole fish to delicate razor clams to the freshest crab in town.
5) Lao Wang Noodle House 945 South Federal Boulevard 303-975-2497 The owners of Lao Wang Noodle House aren't getting any younger, and the hours at this tiny Taiwanese treasure can be a little erratic, but the noodle bowls and dumplings are still worth a little inconvenience. With a reputation for steaming hot xiao long bao (broth-filled soup dumplings), Lao Wang does an even better job with pot stickers, pan-seared and turned out onto a plate with the crunchy side up. Order all at once and sit back as the kitchen paces your meal; a pint of Lao Wang Lager will help ward off any impatience.
4) King's Land Seafood Restaurant 2200 West Alameda Avenue 303-975-2399 Seafood may feature prominently in the name of this west-side eatery, but the main attraction is the dim sum, served from a head-spinning array of push carts that circle the dining room's many tables like sharks. A big group is a must if you want to sample a large range of the sweet and savory options -- translucent shrimp dumplings, sticky barbecue ribs, homey turnip cakes and custard tarts worthy of a French pastry chef.
Keep reading for more of the best Chinese restaurants in Denver.
3) Star Kitchen 2917 West Mississippi Avenue 303-936-0089 Athmar Park is Denver's go-to neighborhood for dim sum; Star Kitchen is one of the newer destinations (having opened in 2008) and one of the less intimidating options for those new to the Chinese small-plates meal (called yum cha) centered around tea and socializing. Not that there aren't dozens of options -- all of them good -- but the pace and size of the place are a little downsized compared to some of the competition. If you're not sure what to order, just wait for the cart pusher to lift the lids of the many steamer baskets for a peek at the dumplings and buns, or choose from bowls of soups and piles of fresh pastries.
2) Super Star Asian 2200 West Alameda Avenue 303-727-9889 Another Athmar Park favorite for dim sum, the multiple menus at Super Star Asian offer longtime standards as well as rarer items on a Chinese-only menu. Dim sum is best as a weekend brunch, so head over right when the cavernous dining room opens at 10 a.m. so you don't have to jockey for a parking space or table.
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SHOW ME HOW
1) Zoe Ma Ma 2010 10th Street, Boulder 1625 Wynkoop Street 303-545-6262 Edwin Zoe and his mother have been putting out some of the most soulful and satisfying daily Chinese specials -- don't miss the Szechuan braised beef and noodles -- from a hole-in-the-wall eatery just off the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder since 2010. A second location opened in January next to Union Station in Denver, serving the same handmade noodles, dumplings, meatballs and soups that have earned Zoe Ma Ma a loyal following.