The Chinatown Newbie:
If you’re completely new to Chinatown and can sympathize with being intimidated or not knowing where to go, Penang (a Malaysian restaurant) would be a good place to start. It’s located on the corner of Tremont and Washington Street, a very main intersection just on the border of Chinatown. The atmosphere feels a little more upscale, rather than some of the hole in the wall type places you’ll find when you venture in further. There are plenty of adventurous items on the menu, but Malaysian has some similarities to Thai food, which is generally more familiar to people and there are some items on the menu like pad Thai and chicken satay. See the full review here.
Dim sum, is traditional Chinese brunch. It is typically eaten family style, severs come around with carts to your table and you choose what you’d like to try. There are usually several varieties of dumplings, fried rolls, and buns, and lots of pork, shrimp, and tofu. My two favorite places for dim sum in Boston are Hei La Moon and Emperor’s Garden / Empire Garden (click either for full review). The options at both are similar but my favorite dish at Hei La Moon is the fried shrimp and taro, and at Empire Garden is the roast duck.
Soup Dumplings and Taiwanese:
When most people think of Taiwanese food, they really mean soup dumplings (also known as juicy dumplings or steamed juicy buns). The dumplings are prepared with a bouillon cube in the middle, and when cooked, the bouillon turns to broth. Eating them is a little tricky (you don’t want to spill the broth or burn yourself) but so worth it! Gourmet Dumpling House is the most well known in Chinatown, and there is almost always a line out the door. While I’ve eaten there and loved it, I don’t love waiting in line and when searching for an alternative I discovered Taiwan Café. The food is just as good, but it’s lesser known and therefore less of a wait. They are temporarily closed for renovations, but definitely worth a visit when they reopen. See the full review here.
Ginza is one of my favorite sushi places in Boston. They serve fresh, high quality sushi at a reasonable price. They are also one of the only restaurants in Boston that does the stone grill, they bring this to your table and you can cook meats, seafood and vegetables yourself.
Pho Hua is my favorite place for Vietnamese in Boston, and feels a little more authentic than the chain restaurant around the corner. The pho (noodle soup) is delicious and also great for a Chinatown newbie. The chicken pho isn’t terribly different than American chicken noodle soup if you skip the garnishes, but if you’re brave the hot sauce, fish sauce, lime, and mint add some great flavor. If you’re more adventurous, the curry dishes are also really good!
East Ocean City might be my favorite restaurant in Chinatown. They have several huge menus including traditional Cantonese dishes, seafood so fresh you can pick your own fish right out of the tank, and a few standard American – Chinese staples. When people want to try Chinatown this is usually the first place I recommend or bring people, and no one has ever been disappointed. See the full review here.
The places I've mentioned are my go-to spots, but if you try all of them and want something new this blog is a great place to start! I've also found Yelp to be a reliable source, and sticking to Beach Street (Chinatown's Main Street) you can almost never go wrong!