An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jan 16, 2014
08:28 AMThe Connecticut Table
Chinese New Year: Authentic Flavors at Top Connecticut Chinese Restaurants
On Wednesday, one of Connecticut Magazine’s editors brightened the magazine’s Facebook page with this post: “With the Chinese New Year coming up on Jan. 31—all hail the Year of the Horse!—we're wondering: Where do YOU go for Chinese food that's a cut above the rest?”
According to Facebook analytics, the post has been seen by nearly 500 people—but just one person commented so far, and offered a disparaging view of Chinese cuisine in Connecticut, saying, in part, “Someone let me know where there is a Chinese restaurant in the state of Connecticut that's ‘a cut above', as much as edible.”
Well, we’re here to tell the person who offered the negative comment, and everyone else, that Connecticut is home to at least a handful of terrific Chinese restaurants, as judged by not only patrons of these beloved places but dining experts that collaborate with Connecticut Magazine and such arbiters as Zagat.
Here’s a short list of some of the state’s destination places for Chinese fare:
- Lao Sze Chuan in Milford
- Ching’s Table in New Canaan
- Taste of China, Clinton & New Haven
- Great Taste, New Britain
- Panda House in Stratford
- Hunan Pavilion in Fairfield
In online stories that will tempt anyone to make a reservation, our colleagues at CTbites sing their praises of Lao Sze Chuan and Hunan Pavilion.
Here’s the CTbites insider’s tip on Hunan Pavilion: “ … to insure a truly exceptional experience, skip over the conventional menu and jump right to the Shanghai Bund Select (or Shanghai New Menu), an edited list of house specialties and an eclectic mix of Shanghai, Szechuan, and Hunan cuisines. Also ask for the menu in Chinese, even if you don’t speak a word of any dialect. The Chinese menu isn’t overly extensive, and if you aren’t shy about it, the staff will patiently translate, and this is where the hidden treasures can be found."
Here’s how the CTbites story on Lao Sze Chuan opens: ‘How adventurous do we want to be?’ Maria asks. ‘On a scale of one to 10?’ She’s poring over the menus at Lao Sze Chuan and says it’s so authentic, some of these dishes aren’t found in Chinatown in New York City. Diced rabbit with peanuts. Hot and Sour eel with cellophane noodles. Pork intestines with blood cake.” (Above, a Ctbites photo of a dish at Lao Sze Chuan.)
Zagat offers the tasty scoop on Great Taste, saying in part, “Devoted Sinophiles ‘come back over and over again’ to sample ‘some of the best’ Chinese cuisine around at this New Britain stalwart,” and on Taste of China: “‘Authentic’, ‘consistently good’ Sichuan and Chengdu dishes are served by a ‘pleasant’ crew at this Clinton Chinese … .”
“One of the not-so-hidden secrets of the Shoreline dining scene is the Taste of China restaurant in Clinton. Opened in 2000 by Huping and Jonathan Dolph, the restaurant filled a niche the Dolphs felt in a personal way – Huping was frustrated she couldn’t find “real” Chinese food. It didn’t take long for knowledgeable New Haveners to find the Szechuan-style dining spot, even though it’s 25 miles away. That trek is no longer necessary. The Dolphs teamed up with their chef of 13 years, Xiyu Huang, and opened New Haven’s Taste of China, bang on Chapel Street, across from the Green.
Originally from Nanjing, China, Huping went to Singapore in 1996 to learn English. Jonathan, had gone to Singapore to teach English. One year after she they met in his class they were married, and Jonathan returned to his hometown of Madison with his new bride.
Huping was always looking for “real” Chinese food, but could only find cheap take-out that resembled nothing she had eaten in China. “I was talking to my husband and said that I wanted to open a restaurant because I never had real Chinese food here, it’s all American-Chinese. My husband asked, ‘Are you sure?’ And I said ‘Yes, but I want you to quit your job. I want to do this together. You deal with the bar and I will deal with the kitchen and running the business.” (Above, duck at Taste of China in New Haven.)
As for the Stratford restaurant, our audience has this declarative thought: “Panda House in Stratford offers really yummy Chinese food."
So bring on the Chinese New Year Jan. 31 and the Year of the Horse. Connecticut’s Chinese restaurants are ready to make it a delicious one.
And this just came in on Twitter afte the story posted: