5. New Peach Garden
1111 Washington Avenue, Golden
This quiet subterranean kitchen right on Golden's main drag recently added more house specials to its already tempting list of dishes hailing from China's Shaanxi province — and other quadrants of the map lesser known in Denver's culinary collection. Housemade breads and hand-pulled noodles highlight a menu seasoned with cumin and scorched with Sichuan heat. Don't miss the rou jia mo: circular sandwiches stuffed with shreds of toothsome and aromatic pork or beef.
4. Shanghai Kitchen
4940 South Yosemite Street, Greenwood Village
This southeast suburban eatery covers a range of American Chinese favorites, but there's also a menu in Chinese (with English translations) that features other dishes less familiar to typical takeout customers. Traditional preparations await those willing to make the crosstown trek from the usual Federal Boulevard haunts, so go hungry and explore the range of whole-fish specials, cold sesame noodles and other fare — including dishes that only appear on the specials board in Chinese characters. Look for "mini pork dumplings," the liquid-filled delights more commonly called soup dumplings or xiaolongbao.
3. Zoe Ma Ma
1625 Wynkoop Street, 303-545-6262
2010 10th Street, Boulder, 303-545-6262
Zoe Ma Ma is the closest thing you'll find to Chinese home cooking in the Denver-Boulder area. In fact, with owner Edwin Zoe's mom in the kitchen, you'll swear she's cooking just for you. Everything is made in-house, from tender steamed buns to plump dumplings to noodles at the bottom of every bowl of braised beef or chicken soup. Regulars know which day to head over for specials, with lion's-head meatballs making an appearance mid-week and the famous Sichuan beef noodle bowl showing up from Sunday to Tuesday.
2. Yum Yum Spice
2039 South University Boulevard
The name of this hot-pot specialist is a little goofy, but one "yum" just isn't enough for the Sichuan-style offerings here that allow you to mix and match veggies and proteins to your liking. Crank up the numbing heat — that's customizable, too — for a bold dose of tingly, buzzing Sichuan peppercorns that balance fiery red chiles. Choose from standard meats like pork or beef, or opt for something more traditional, such as whole bullfrog or duck head. Hot pots come as broth-based mini-cauldrons or dry-pot style, served in a sizzling wok with a flavorful sauce that clings to every morsel.
1. Super Star Asian
2200 West Alameda Avenue
Super Star is a beacon in west Denver for those seeking a weekend dim sum banquet, and the endless parade of rattling carts stacked with dumplings, pastries and other nibbles certainly won't disappoint. While the kitchen shines with shumai and turns out tempting turnip cakes during daytime hours, a visit during dinner proves that its ability to impress doesn't end when the carts stop circling. Instead, things just get better. You can't go wrong with anything from the sea, including what might be the city's most complete list of abalone preparations, as well as the live-tank specials and a beautiful lobster in XO sauce. Bubbling clay pots filled with complex stews and family dinners featuring whole Peking duck and steamed fish — among many other traditional preparations — mean that you can share a quiet dinner for two or head over with the whole clan for a blow-out celebration. Ask for the Chinese menu for even more options; the staff is happy to translate.