There was a time when egg rolls, spare ribs, wonton soup, chicken chow mein, and, of course, fortune cookies defined Chinese food. More often than not, the options were greasy, fatty, overly salty, and much too sweet. Sure, it was filling, but only for a little while.
Today, more and more of Westchester’s Chinese restaurants have been upping their eat-in and takeout games, offering discerning diners an enriching bounty of elevated and authentic cuisine that dances circles around simple, Americanized egg foo young. In most cases, selections are fresher, healthier, and intensely flavorful, too, with everything from appetizers to dessert closely tied to the regional culinary traditions of China. And for those who can’t end a meal without a tiny paper peek at the future, fortune cookies are still there for the asking.
361 N Central Ave, Hartsdale
It’s all about the spice at this strip-mall-sensation, where owner Peter Liu serves up the bold flavors of his native inland China. “We use a lot of chilis, garlic, and ginger in Mandarin cooking,” which, he says, centers around meat-forward dishes and river and lake seafood, like rock shrimp. Crispy-skinned, organic Peking duck with fresh cucumber and flour crepes is Liu’s signature entrée, and the pork shank with wild peppercorn and potato is also “Mandarin food at its best.” Soup dumplings are a quintessential must, and the dry chili chicken with cilantro and sesame is a solid representation of the powerful taste-punch of the region.
265 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck
Although Taiwanese-born Paul Chen grew up in New Jersey for the most part, he lived in Hong Kong as a young adult and spent time traveling to important cities throughout Asia, learning the secrets of regional cooking. Today, Chen’s menu reflects not so much Asian-fusion fare but rather “Chinese collaboration cuisine,” as he calls it, with knowledge and know-how collected from every corner of his native country, including: Shanghai steamed soup dumplings; Peking-style pork ribs, a staple in Beijing; and three-cup chicken, a nod to his native Taiwan. “This is a new concept,” he says, “very different from old-school Chinese food, which is all the same stuff.”
3 Barker Ave, White Plains
Believing that “one sauce does not fit all,” Hong Kong’s Ricky Ho runs a restaurant where “every dish is cooked to order, and 40 to 50 ingredients make 100 different tastes.” This is the home of what Americans consider traditional Chinese comfort food (cooked in the Cantonese style), only here it’s less salty, less greasy, and bursting with flavor despite the lack of burn-the-tongue spice. The dumpling-loaded dim sum cart, which rivals those that roll in Hong Kong, is the main draw; however, it’s been stuck in park since COVID.
20 N Central Ave, Hartsdale
With her mother in the kitchen making the sauces and a chef from the Sichuan region of China doing most everything else, owner IWen Chen leads the charge to immerse diners in the zip, zing, and rich variety of authentic Sichuan cuisine. “The tastes and aromas are very different from typical Cantonese takeout,” she says. Spicy chili oil seasons just about every dish, from cold Chengdu mung bean jelly noodles to spicy roasted whole fish and signature “dry pot-style” chicken, fish fillet, or beef that’s stir-fried with vegetables and lotus root in spicy hot pepper sauce and served in a wok.
Tarrytown House Estate, 49 E Sunnyside Ln, Tarrytown
Chicago-born and the son of Filipino immigrants, Chef Dale Talde has managed to corner the market on Cantonese-style staples that he kicks up a notch and serves with a current yet an imaginative and unexpected twist. Near-weightless dumplings and noodles, and Cantonese barbecue take center stage on a menu that reads like a foodie’s adventure novel, with dry-aged beef and black truffles making frequent appearances. “Cantonese fare emphasizes fresh and seasonal ingredients,” says Talde, which explains why grilled delicata squash and Brussels sprouts with lady apples mingle seamlessly with Kung Pao chicken and Cantonese roast duck.
58 Saw Mill River Rd, Hawthorne
Forever a fan of classic Chinese comfort food but dismayed that it wasn’t keeping pace with consumer healthy-eating habits, Jody Pennette founded this takeout-and-delivery-only upmarket hotbed of organic, locally raised, wild, grass-fed, chemical-free Chinese cooking. The menu consists of the standards, artfully “refreshed with modern relevance and American-chef sensibilities.” He explains, “We use tangerine in our orange beef and singe the peel.” In addition, authentic Chinese chicken-and-duck roasting ovens beckon nothing but farm-quality birds and yield the healthiest pint of chicken and broccoli this side of the Yangtze.