As the most populous city in the world, Shanghai has been shaped by travelers and settlers from all over. This is particularly evident in the city's food, which has been influenced by the culinary styles from both the northern and southern regions of China, as well as dishes from throughout the entire continent of Asia. This cultural integration holds true at Shanghai Café, where the chefs use recipes the Hu family has spent the past half-century perfecting. These recipes follow various Shanghai cooking principles—for instance, the original flavors of meats and fish are allowed to shine through rather than being drowned out by heavy marinades or sauces that are too sweet or salty.
Though the recipes are traditional, they respect modern, healthful eating habits by incorporating natural broths and stocks and limiting the use of oil. Some of the restaurant's signature dishes include boiled dumplings, steamed pork buns, and dim sum—a Shanghai staple. In the spirit of Shanghai's pan-Asian tendencies, the menus also include Thai dishes, such as pad kee mao (drunken noodles), nigiri, sashimi, and maki.
Since 1987, Seven Seas has served the Washington metropolitan area with authentic Chinese cuisine, featuring a number of entrees that go well beyond the standard offerings. Browse the lunch or dinner menus for a variety of savory seafood selections, such as the fresh squid, sautéed in a black-bean sauce, then garnished with green peppers, onions, and jalapenos ($12.95). Or try the lightly battered shrimp topped with premium walnuts ($16.95). Those leaning toward chicken can keep leaning, eventually falling face-first into the string bean Szechuan, which features minced chicken stir-fried in a light brown sauce ($9.95). With chefs who have experience with Mandarin, Cantonese, Szechuan, Taiwanese, and American methods of cooking, Seven Seas’ massive menu will satisfy even the pickiest of diners. To drink, Seven Seas offers a hodgepodge of Oriental and Californian wines, plus premium sake, such as the Sho Chiku Bai Organic Nama ($16), a libation that’s as balanced as a tabby-cat gymnast.
When the proprietors of Taipei Tokyo first opened in 1993, they were, admittedly a fend-for-yourself type of place. Back then, sushi was just beginning to become more popular?but was hard to find?and so were authentic, traditional Chinese dishes. They decided to let the food speak for itself, and it worked. After expanding to a new location in 2003, they upped their interior decorating game with a beautiful freestanding sushi bar and a chic but approachable dining room, expanding their kitchen to cover a whole plethora of dishes from Eastern Asia. The impressive menu runs the culinary gamut of Asia from thinly-sliced sashimi to wok-seared Chinese stir-fried broccoli and Thai-style drunken noodles made by a remarkably sober chef.
His entrées may be named after animals, but chef Tai keeps his Chinese cuisine absolutely free of meat. He uses imitation meats to craft standout dishes such as pumpkin chicken, kung pao squid, and shredded pork. As if to emphasize his passion for natural foods, Tai cooks only with pure vegetable oil and refrains from flavoring his dishes with MSG or dark magic. These restrictions sometimes force him to get creative, but the results are delicious whether he’s using soybean protein to make chicken or transforming white yams into baby shrimp and squid.
Chopstix Cafe & Grill at Urbana serves Chinese cuisine, only with a healthy twist. Instead of stir-frying ingredients or shooting them with chili-flavored lasers, chefs there specialize in grill-style cooking that results in tastier, better-for-you dishes. The cafe's list of quality ingredients doesn't hurt, either, and includes pork tenderloin, extra-large shrimp, and white-meat chicken that can be found in such popular dishes as the chicken with broccoli. As a full-service restaurant, Chopstix also pours adult beverages, including beer, wine, and Polynesian-style drinks.
Masala Wok's expansive menu features new Asian, Thai, and Indian flavors to help diners recreate the wondrous lies of Marco Polo, gentleman fabricator. Accompany your stomach's journey down the Spice Road with an appetizer of zesty battered chicken lollipops, an Indian take on wings (four for $4.99, eight for $8.49), before choosing your favorite flavor-corner of the East with a main course. Try a subcontinental delicacy such as the spicy southern curry with red-pepper-bedecked fish, shrimp, chicken, lamb, or paneer in a mustard-coconut sauce ($8.99), or head for steamy Southeast Asian environs with the Thai-influenced spicy basil plate ($8.50 for chicken, $8.35 paneer, $9.50 shrimp or fish). Lock lips with the orange chicken, stir-fried with scallions and carrots in orange sauce ($8.50), or skewer your stomach's overwhelming sense of emptiness with a chicken malai kabob—yogurt-marinated boneless chicken kabobs grilled with cheese, spices, and cilantro and served with rice and naan ($8.99).