Chinese food needs a good agent these days.


After years as the reigning exotic starlet of the American palate,
she’s really let herself go–appearing regularly in freezer sections
and mall fast food courts. She’s licensed her name to abominations like orange chicken (which tastes like neither) and spongey egg rolls and tasteless fried rice studded with frozen peas and carrots. Poor dear.

When a complex, centuries-old national cuisine is reduced to a line of microwaveable dinners, there’s cause for concern.

Unlike Thai and Vietnamese, more recent culinary newcomers which
have survived the ocean-crossing fairly intact, Chinese rolled into our
consciousness at a time when Velveeta was considered a modern marvel.
To appeal to wary American palates in inventions like chow mein,
General Tso chicken, mayonnaise-sauced walnut prawns, ketchupy sweet
and sour pork and fortune cookies mixed familiar tastes with the
illusion of something more exotic. Sorry if I burst any bubbles there.

With such a massive Chinese population here in the Bay Area,
there’s no reason we can’t do better than Panda Express and the all-you
can eat buffet at Fu Zhou
(and trust me, I’ve done some serious eating at both).
What are you favorite authentic Chinese spots? We’re not talking buffets here (I’ve already done that). I want to know who has the best dumplings, dim sum (is there even any in the North Bay?), soup, moo shu and Peking duck? What are you secret guilty pleasures? Who’s got the most exotic cuisine? Who deserves a shout-out and who’s totally over-rated?