Let's rank Silicon Valley cities on the quality and diversity of their Chinese cookery!

Hi fellow ex-Chowhounds. Mr Taster here, formerly of the Los Angeles Chowhounds, calling out from the void up here in the Pacific Northwest, where it’s much harder to come across a good plate of 刀削麵.

My Lovely Tasting Assistant™ (LTA™) and I will be visiting the Bay Area, arriving San Jose, and we intend to grab a few excellent Chinese meals from the regional mom and Pop shops, like the ones we used to frequent in LA’s San Gabriel Valley.

Where to begin? SV is a huge place.

Are certain valley cities known for having better overall Chinese food? For example, am I going to get a level of cooking in Milpitas that I simply won’t get in San Mateo? (The LA analogue would be Rowland Heights having a slightly higher standard of cooking, and perhaps a deeper funkiness than Monterey Park). Rank your favorite SV cities for Chinese cooking! (And don’t forget to include where the city of SF ranks on that list.)

Also, would love to know if Milpitas Square is the best Chinese mall to visit (in terms of diversity of cooking styles and of overall quality). I’d read there’s one in Cupertino also… Any others you’d suggest?

Next: I’ve done some preliminary research on regional Chinese cookery, and have come across a staggering list from Chowhound:

With only a handful of meals in SV, which would you absolutely not miss?

I can tell you we are partial to excellent hand pulled or knife cut noodles, but also love Sichuanese, Islamic (Xi’an and Xinjiang) and Shanghainese food. LTA™ is Taiwanese, so a good 牛肉麵 is always welcome. A good traditional Beijing style 烤鴨 (with proper open hearth hanging oven and fruit wood) would be great too- I don’t think I know of any in the US producing a Quanjude quality duck. Avoiding Cantonese food, just because we can get that in SF proper, and even in Portland Chinatown(!)

Having laid out this criteria, don’t be afraid to suggest a Cantonese (or other region I haven’t listed) if the quality of cooking is exceptional.

Thanks, gang!

Mr Taster

Fantastic question-- I’ve been wanting to hear the LA contingent’s views on the South Bay restaurants. I’ll give some comments about specific restaurants later.

For reference, the updated SFBA Regional Chinese list, a wiki so you don’t have to wade through the comments, is here. I just updated the google map too-- it’s color coded by region, but google groups the more obscure regions into one category even though when you click on the restaurant it’ll have my annotations .

You might also want to check out the threads on hand-pulled and stretched noodles and another on knife cut and shaved noodles.

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Milpitas Square and Cupertino village have a stunning amount of diversity in terms of Chinese cuisine (e.g., see this post), but I don’t know that any restaurant in those shopping centers would be considered best in their respective category in the Bay Area, or even Silicon Valley. In terms of scenery, Milpitas Square is a strip mall and the building that houses Koi Palace and a few other places is next door; Cupertino Village has a nicer layout to walk about.

If I were on foot, my top place for a crawl (outside of Chinatown) would be The Inner Richmond in SF, which has Taste of Jiangnan (Wuxi), Gourmet Noodle House (Shanghai noodles), Shan Dong Best (Shandong dumplings), and Chili House (Sichuan, and I’ve heard good things about their Beijing too). Alternatively for SF, the three blocks on Taraval in SF just west of 19th Ave has Made in China (Hunan/Dongbei), House of Pancakes, and Mr. Bread’s egg custard tart which might be best in the SFBA.

But you’ll have a car no doubt, so hop around, explore, and give us some new insights!

Top picks for South Bay/Fremont

I don’t get down to the South Bay often, so I’ll caution that these are places I’ve only been to once or twice (I can comment more on SF/Peninsula/East Bay restaurants). Make sure to look at hours and note that many places are either closed or have their B-team working on Mondays and Tuesdays (grrr… often my night to eat Chinese).

Shaanxi: Thousand Tasty in Milpitas (their roujiamo and lamb & “pita” soup best good versions I’ve had at the other Shaanxi restaurants, and I’ve heard good things about their hand pulled noodles). Alternatively, QQ Noodles in Milpitas Square has consistently good hand-pulled noodles.

Hunan: Wonderful in Millbrae is my benchmark, and a meal a few months back at Ping’s Bistro in Fremont suggests it might be an even better pick. They also have a broader menu. Changsha rice noodles at Yum Noodles in Santa Clara are phenomenal (toothpick beef, less so).

Uyghur: Eden Silk Road in Fremont. They’re an international chain and just opened a San Mateo branch too.

Hubei/Wuhan: I’ve had some good dishes at Hankow Cuisine, but an outpost of the SGV’s Qi Wei Kitchen might be a better bet. It also has more Hubei dishes.

Tianjin: I had a good meal at Golden Garlic on S De Anza Blvd in San Jose.

Er …

Sichuan: huh, there’s enough good stuff up north that I’ve never bothered to eat Sichuan in the South Bay. Chef Zhao would be my pick for the Peninsula. Closer to SF, Yi Yuan is great, and has Beijing hand-pulled noodles too.

Shanghai: I wish I could give a strong recommendation in SV, but there is so much inconsistency that the best may be in SF. Are there particular dishes you’re looking for? For XLB, Shanghai Dumpling in Cupertino is my favorite for their large sized and smokey XLB, and MY Dumpling in Milpitas Square has more delicate and small ones that are more similar to Din Tai Fung’s (there is a DTF in San Jose, BTW).

Beijing: Beijing Duck house in Cupertino opened with a great prep of Beijing Duck, but they reportedly went down hill a while back. Any recent experiences? Chili House, an SF Sichuan restaurant which now has a Beijing menu, has been getting good reviews.

Dongbei: I’ve been disappointed with the Dongbei restaurants in the South Bay, and none have been as good as Shen Yang in SGV. Have others had better experiences?

Milpitas Square is hard to beat. Not only a wide variety of Chinese places including Darda and QQ but Anjappar Chettinad. I worked near Cupertino Village for a year, went to all the Chinese places there and wasn’t wildly impressed.

Newark, Fremont, and Milpitas run into each other. I think there are livelier Chinese and Indian restaurant scenes there because it’s not as expensive to open a place as it is around Sunnyvale. The downside is as soon as you find a place it might be replaced by something else, like my favorite Shanghai place did.

Damn, Yi Yuan looks great. Any more recommendations there?


I think the northern and wheat specialties are the main reason to go to Yi Yuan, especially with the recent opening of Royal Feast in Millbrae— Chef Liu, the chef who put China Village on the Chowhound radar and left for Fresno in 2004, has some of the most nuanced versions of Sichuan dishes I’ve tastes and also specializes in Tanjia Cai, an aristocratic cuisine from Beijing http://www.chowhound.com/post/chowdown-report-royal-feast-millbrae-1045414

Back to Yi Yuan, The zha Jiang mian is one of my favorites and the Hand pulled noodles in general are some of the best in the Bay Area. Really good spicy beef noodle soup and also good big sesame pancake.

For Sichuan dishes, Cold chicken with spicy red oil aka "The “tender organic chicken in house sauce” (“mouth watering chicken”), bitter melon with honey (I think z&y still does this better though). I don’t like their mapo tofu. I’ve had some other good Sichuan dishes as takeout, either there or at their sister restaurant Yummy Szechuan down the street, but forgot to make notes

Went last night. The menu sure is all over the place: Sichuan, Shanghai, Shandong / Korean-Chinese, Xi’an / northern / Muslim Chinese.

The complimentary Sichuan kimchi was really good.

I was waiting for a friend traffic so instead of finishing the kimchi I ordered A8 Extremely Pickled Vegetables with Fish, which I thought would be a cold appetizer, but instead it turned out to be a giant bowl of soup. It seemed like a fish (basa?) version of the sour lamb soup I’ve had at Muslim Chinese places. This was really delicious and the best thing we ordered.

B6 dong po pork was good, a bit simple compared with some red-cooked pork I’ve had at Shanghai places but this was my second-favorite dish. My friend thought the meat wasn’t as tender as it should have been but I’m not sure I would have preferred that.

E1 plain scallion pancake, desperately underseasoned, I’d have liked more scallions. Texture was excellent and it was good once I adjusted the seasoning with some of the chunky hot sauce or a piece of pork.

H17 Szechuan dan dan noodles. Bland, tasted like peanut butter, not much meat, I don’t think these were the hand-pulled noodles. It’s hard to relate what we were served to some of the posts I read online from people who recommended it. One bite was more than enough. I’m now craving a good version.

S3 typhoon shelter frog. Fail. The frog was moist but there was too much breading and somehow the flavors didn’t come together.

Google Translate was no help with this.

We probably ordered the wrong things. Almost every other table got either the E5 pan-fried pork buns or the E7 or E8 green onion & beef or bok choy & pork pies. They looked great and we overheard people remarking that they were good. The next table had two great-looking dishes that I think must have been H15 and H16 Szechuan & Beijing silky tofu. Most tables got a dish of green beans with chile peppers that didn’t look like dry-fried.