Chinese Food: Our First Exotic Cuisine
Scroll down for a list of all reviewed Chinese restaurants.
New Orleans had a Chinatown at one time, surrounding the corner of what is now Tulane and Elk Place. Before World War II, there was a strong Chinese business section in the 300-500 blocks of Bourbon Street. Chinese restaurants thrived in both places. For most Orleanians, the first food they ate from far outside the orbits of France, Spain and Italy was Chinese. In the 1980s, the Chinese restaurant community peaked at well over 100 restaurants.
It's ironic that as New Orleans slowly embraced exotic cuisines, the number and overall quality of its Chinese restaurants has drifted downward. Most new Chinese restaurants now are either geared primarily towards the take-out clientele, or offer all-you-can-eat buffets. Both of these marketing schemes take a heavy toll on the goodness of the food.
What's happened is that the Chinese restaurants got new competition from the Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese places. Although all those are different from one another, in the commercial sense they are largely interchangeable. In many cases, restaurant that opened as Chinese had owners from Vietnam and other East Asian countries, who later flipped their menus to their native cuisines when those dishes became popular.
New Orleans’s Chinese restaurants also compete quietly but furiously with one another, with the result that they are among the cheapest of restaurants. At times, the competition moves into the realm of creating exciting new dishes. But as soon as one Chinese place starts doing well with a new dish, suddenly lots of other Chinese places serve it and claim they originated the dish. At this writing we are seeing a small but growing presence of dim sum--the Chinese answer to tapas. I'm hoping that many more Chinese places adopt that exciting menu of small bites.
Tastes in Chinese food are more individual than in most kinds of eating. One becomes accustomed to the way one’s favorite Chinese cafe cooks, and measures all others by that yardstick. Beware of this. What may taste unfamiliar may be much better than what you're used to.
Over 150 Chinese eateries are open in the New Orleans area. That's more than triple the number oper before Katrina. Most of the growth has been among places whose main business is take-out and delivery, with minimal or no dine-in aspects. Those restaurants are not included here (or in any other category). Why would you cut the quality of a meal in half or worse by getting it to go?
Click on any of the restaurants listed below for a detailed, updated review.