The Tan brothers grew up in the restaurant industry, as their father was a renowned chef of China. At Rong Tan's, this trio of siblings brings its family traditions to the states with a menu honed overseas. Diners can savor sichuan-spiced lobster stewed with veggies or order the Empress chicken, lightly fried and served on a throne of pure gold. Rice and noodle dishes, house specialties—including the orange-flavored beef—and vegetable options round out a menu with dozens of entrees.
The carved bodies of fierce dragons, their eyes aglow with neon red lights, corkscrew about Magic Wok’s foyer as if awakened by the aromas of Sichuan, Hunan, Mandarin, and Cantonese dishes. In the dining room, lime-green walls come alive with red tapestries, accented by canary-hued Chinese pictograms. After polishing off a Thai-style fish fillet, guests retreat to the bar to sip plum wine, elixirs wrung from apples and pineapple, or champagne with all the bubbles picked out.
Though the chefs at Mandarin revere classically prepared Chinese dishes, they aren’t afraid to add a dash of inventive flair with internationally inspired twists. Hawaiian-style preparations of sweet-and-sour chicken join other Chinese comfort food, such as Chinese- or Singapore-style me fen, a mix of thin rice noodles with vegetables and meats such as pork and beef. Rice and noodle bowls from the Tour of Asia menu cull flavors from Osaka, Seoul, and Hong Kong, and traditional Chinese dishes such as chicken with snow peas and sesame beef round out the menu. Staffers pour martinis into curvy-stemmed glasses or help guests pair wines amid the dining room's mandarin-orange walls, bamboo placemats, and geisha statuettes.
Chefs at Happy Panda use crunchy vegetables, sweet pineapple, and lots of Asian herbs and spices (but never MSG) to create flavorful Szechuan and Hunan dishes. They fry egg rolls, wontons, and origami swans to a crisp in 100% vegetable oils and offer a number of vegetarian dishes in addition to the roast pork, chicken, beef, and seafood options. The restaurant runs a bustling dine-in and carry-out trade, particularly during the lunch rush, when diners can choose from 30 specials served with fried rice and an egg roll or soup.
Bred on Louisiana-style cooking, local restaurateur Grant Gieseler was dismayed by the lack of quality southern fare in the Cincinnati area. He and his business partner Blake Gieseler founded Bayou Fish House to introduce the area to fresh fried fish and hearty gumbo. Diners can grab meals to go or kick back at the bar or seating area and tell exaggerated tales about the biggest fish they ever ate. The eatery's walls sport a paddle, a life preserver, and various aquatic tchotchkes to remind fish of their home.
Pearls are often prized for their exquisite appearance and oystery aroma, but Boba Cha values a different sort of pearl—bubble tea's chewy spheres of tapioca. This cozy shop in downtown Cincinnati specializes in creamy concoctions that combine sweet flavors with the tapioca pearls' satisfying chewiness. Aside from the signature bubble teas—which can be prepared hot or cold and with or without milk—the shop whips up frozen snow treats flavored with fruit and yogurt.