Don't Wok (Run!) to Orlando's Top Picks for Chinese

For Asian anything, particularly authentic Vietnamese cuisine, ground zero in Orlando is the Mills 50/Colonialtown area, but it's rife with Chinese options, as well. Locals love unpretentious favorites like Tasty Wok or the carbohydrate-laden delicacies of Noodles & Rice Cafe. Indeed this is a neighborhood where favorites from throughout Asia are well slung, much to the delight of "No Reservations" fans with fewer frequent flyer miles than the late, great Anthony Bourdain – but you'll find them elsewhere, as well. While travelers can debate the authenticity of Americanized fare that comes in the form of General Tso's chicken, they'll find some interesting choices in the realm of self-serve innovation in Hotto Potto's DIY hot pot bistro, and delicious, creative delights out in East Orlando, where UCF students and other grateful locals can alternate between Taipei 101's delicious  Taiwanese fare and Chuan Lu's authentic Sichuan on the reg.


An undeniable carb-ivore's delight, Noodles & Rice Cafe is not strictly Chinese, but rather an Asian fusion favorite that pulls together an array of delightful dishes, from Hong Kong-style barbecue to the steamy fragrant hot pot. Pad Thai and spicy noodles, ramen and won ton and more hold up the "noodles" end of the bargain while other Eastern delights â€" delicious curry pineapple fried rice, succulent Korean short ribs, crispy-fried samosa â€" make dieting here nearly impossible. Courteous servers are happy to explain the hot pot process for newbies. You'll find the Chinese selections ample â€" and the portion sizes, as well.

West Orlando

What's in a (Japanese) name? Not much in this case, but you'll be happy you showed up. This small mom-and-pop � yet another strip-mall gem (Orlando is rotten with them!) is often busy, busy, busy � a testament to its devoted customers who come craving authentic Taiwanese cuisine and often leave with to-go boxes � but never disappointed. You can call ahead, but it's best to come expecting a wait as food is cooked to order. If you're in a rush or super hungry, save this one for when you have a little time � it's worth it. A glass-half-full way of looking at it: more time to consider the ample menu and perhaps ask some questions.

So, you like the DIY sensibility of fondue, but are less than enthused by the massive time and money investment necessary to make it happen. 10Best prescribes Hotto Potto, a fun little concept wherein you begin with a broth base, select from an array of meats and vegetables to create a custom Chinese-style hot pot you may then dress with any number of condiments. It's fun, it's reasonably priced, it's pretty healthy. Heck, it's straight-up vegan if you want it to be. While you won't while away ages during the cooking process, it is still a process, so if you're in a real hurry, come another time when you can relax and enjoy. Portions are impressive. You may find yourself leaving with leftovers. You won't mind a bit.

Mills 50

For authentic Chinese dine-in or delivery, you won't go wrong with Tasty Wok. A long standing favorite in Colonialtown North (the Mills 50 neighborhood is a hotbed of so many Vietnamese gems that other Asian delights are often under-reported) this unpretentious little restaurant is well known for its scallion pancakes, noodle soups, congee, roast duck and chow fun (a dish you don't all that often in the 407), all of which are served up in heaping portions for beyond-reasonable prices. A word to those looking for a plush, upscale venue to impress a date, future in-law or potential client: this ain't it.

Kim Wu Chinese Restaurant

Kim Wu's location and atmosphere are inauspicious (truthfully, that's largely the norm for Chinese in Orlando â€" so many are ensconced in varying degrees of "unassuming strip mall"), but the fare is memorable with some surprising authentic dishes positioned amid the more recognizable American-Chinese fare. Start your meal with fried pork or vegetable dumplings or perhaps one of their soups, then pause to appreciate the artful presentation of dishes like the honey walnut shrimp (one of Kim Wu's most lauded) before digging in. Prices are affordable, particularly during the lunch buffet, and meals come with a small dessert plate and cleansing hot towel at the end.

Peter's Kitchen, brought to Orlando's dumpling-craving masses via a long-lauded area chef whose previous endeavors were local faves, as well, features a massive roster of delicious, sizzling plates â€" familiar to unique â€" along with a "dim sum every day" policy that regulars love and newcomers delight in with wide-eyed surprise. Grab a shortie pencil and go to town. Spare ribs in black bean sauce are delightfully meaty chunks that fall off the bone and while we don't like being dramatic, the pan-fried shrimp stuffed eggplant is, figuratively, the stuff your dim sum dreams are made of. That said (and this is the hard part), don't fill up early, because Peter's expansive menu is loaded down with deliciousness you'll want to vet completely. And since that's impossible on one visit, you may find yourself craving a second when the fullness finally wears off.

West Orlando
Joyful Garden

You don't have to have seafood at Joyful Garden. There are numerous chicken, beef, veggie and pork options amid its expansive menu of largely Hong Kong-style fare, but you'd be missing out. The unassuming place, located in the Asian-eats wonderland around the 1st Oriental Supermarket in West Orlando, boasts a pet store's fortune of glass tanks in which its freshest ingredients are housed. Joyful Garden is the adventurous diner's playground, to be sure, but risk-averse guests interested only in a pleasant and delicious dining experience can be gently guided to items within their culinary comfort zone.

East Orlando

Spicy beef soup, brined eggs, fried tofu with housemade kimchi and marinated deep-fried pork chops. This is just the tip of the delicious iceberg that is Taipei 101, a hidden gem not far from UCF that's buried in the confines of an Oviedo strip-mall shopping center. The more recognizable fare (spring rolls, dumplings, orange chicken) are not only safe choices for the less adventurous, the quality stands out and for those looking to go a little more "No Reservations" and sample �" pig ear, pig blood rice cakes, tripe, tendon and a host of other "less American" options will suffice. And of course, there are lots of choices in the middle. Point is: the food here is wonderful and it's not uncommon to find a line stretching to the door upon arrival as this is a counter-order operation. Try it.

Fresh ingredients abound at Chef Wang's. What doesn't, mercifully, is the oft-sugary goo that saturates so much of what Americans consume under the "Chinese" heading. Here, steamy-wonderful plates abound â€" beautifully prepared fish, succulent and flavorful vegetable combinations and noodles for days.Chef Wang hails from Beijing, but the dining experience here culls from across China â€" spicy Sichuan offerings hold their own alongside wonderful northern-style dumplings. Chef Wang's is located in a sprawling strip center on West Colonial that's home to a number of truly superb Asian restaurants, so if it's your first time in the neighborhood, be sure to cruise past a few - recon for your next visit.

Sophisticated, spicy and authentic are words you'll often hear associated with Chuan Lu Yuan, a Mills 50-outpost that operates as part of the larger Ginza steakhouse. We'd add colorful, flavorful, aromatic and delicious, though it's likely all been said before. Chuan Lu Yuan serves Szechuan dishes, many of which will seem delightfully new to folks more accustomed to Americanized Chinese fare. Hot pots, hand-pulled noodle soups, an array of dishes for the adventurous culinary explorer. While there are options available for those less interested in straying outside their comfort zones, we recommend you bring several bold dining companions (more people = more dishes to sample!), ask lots of questions and taste, taste, taste.


Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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