BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT - 2006
You've driven past it a thousand times; you'd be forgiven if you thought it was a flower shop. This unadorned restaurant, in a basement on Nicollet below the flower shop, is simply the best Chinese in the Twin Cities. The owners are a Taiwanese Buddhist couple (she cooks, he serves) who dish up Taiwanese specialties alongside Chinese standards. The 3-cup tofu is a heap of silken, garlicky bites in tangy, toasty jackets, and the Vietnamese lemongrass mock beef is a platter of chewy strips suffused with bright lemony flavors—the best mock anything we've ever tasted. Also excellent: potstickers (vegetarian and non), the fresh, sprightly soybean paste noodles with bok choy, and the spicy, pork-laden Mapo tofu. For an authentic Taiwanese experience, ask for "hollow vegetable"—it's a leafy green vegetable served on the streets of Taipei whose Chinese name translates literally as "open heart." (They don't always have it, but it's worth a try—a more delicious green is not to be found). The restaurant is usually filled with Chinese expats, families, and grad students, and as most entrees are under $10, you could eat here every night. (Some do.) The restaurant has developed an especially loyal following in the vegetarian and vegan communities (vegetarian items are cooked in a separate wok), and on busy nights, customers have been known to leap from their seats to help take orders. Delicious. Affordable. May Evergreen prosper!