Monday, September 15, 2014

My 10 Best Chinese Restaurants in the United States - 2014 Update

Like most serious food observers, I am not a big fan of Top 10 type lists of best restaurants.  Different people have their own reasons for disliking these lists, with my personal objection being the tendency to place geographical or other correctness over the merits of the listed eateries.  National lists include restaurants in cities where I wouldn’t be caught dead eating Chinese food, and local lists include Chinese restaurants from parts of town that don’t have good Chinese food.  But the fact is that Top 10 listings on television and the internet draw a greater audience than other food related stories, so they’re not going away anytime soon.

Indeed, my one and only Top 10 listing,  the Asia Society piece on the 10 best Chinese restaurants in the United States, was far and away my most widely read piece.  The 3,200 Facebook likes for this item probably are a hundred times the amount for all of my other written articles combined.  Of course the reason for the huge readership of this article was that I stayed true to my principles and did not come up with a geographically correct listing, but rather a listing of restaurants all located in California.  This in turn created a massive dustup which generated the ultimate large numbers, with mostly New Yorkers condemning the listing and Californians applauding it.

Since it’s been over two years since my Asia Society listing, I feel it’s time to revise the listing to reflect new restaurants that have opened up in that time period and changes in quality in existing restaurants.  However I am not writing a third party publication article, nor am I even giving a critique of the revised Top 10 listing.  This is for a couple of reasons.  As I previously mentioned I’m not a fan of Top 10 listings so I don’t want to overemphasize it.  Also, the top half of the listing is pretty much the same as two years ago, so I didn’t want to rehash the same information.
One commentary on the revised Top 10 listing is worth mentioning, however.  While I had attributed the lack of New York restaurants in the original top 10 listing to the fact that New York Chinese food was a cut below that of Los Angeles and San Francisco, it was also because of a quirk in that star New York chef Joe Ng happened to be between restaurants when the 2012 listing came out.  A Top 10 listing in previous years would have listed World Tong in Brooklyn when he was in charge of that kitchen, or Chinatown Brasserie in Manhattan, when he landed there.  And now that he is back with Red Farm and Decoy (I know they are separate restaurants, but I rate them in tandem since they’re like Siamese twins, being in different floors of the same small building), New York is represented in my latest Top 10.  In order, here they are.

1.  Koi Palace, Daly City, CA
2.  Sea Harbour, Rosemead, CA
3.  Elite, Monterey Park, CA
4.  King Hua, Alhambra, CA
5.  Chengdu Taste, Alhambra, CA
6.  Lunasia, Alhambra, CA
7.  Din Tai Fung, Costa Mesa, CA and Arcadia, CA
8.  Hakkasan, New York, NY and Beverly Hills, CA
9.  Red Farm/Decoy, New York, NY
10.  Jai Yun, San Francisco, CA