The Nine Best Chinese Restaurants in St. Louis
Come lunch and dinner, the buffet at Joy Luck can get awfully crowded -- patrons shuffle in a steady parade from tables to buffet and back again (and again). But even the most regular of regulars might not be aware that Joy Luck has a "secret" menu. Actually, the staff calls it an "authentic" menu, an apt label in that it features authentic Szechuan dishes you won't find on Joy Luck's buffet, or at just about any other Chinese restaurant in town. For the full effect, order a bowl of the Chengdu spicy beef (a fiery broth containing tender slices of beef) or the dry-fried chicken. Fear not, gaining access to Joy Luck's secret doesn't require a code or handshake or working knowledge of Szechuan dialect. The authentic menu is printed in English as well as Chinese -- all you have to do is ask.
(4530 Lemay Ferry Road; 314-487-8834)
Lemay Wok doesn't make any claims of grandeur, but what this modest storefront wedged into the middle of a south-county strip mall lacks in flair, it makes up for with tasty renditions of the Chinese and Chinese American dishes Americans have come to love. Whether it's the hot-and-sour soup, General Tso's chicken, potstickers, lo mein or mu shu, your cravings will be satisfied. The sauces are the key. Neither too thin nor too cornstarch-thickened, they balance sweet and savory, spicy and sour. They don't swamp the other ingredients -- you can taste the subtle sweetness of chopped carrots in the kung pao chicken, a hint of ginger in the hot braised pork. The service is exceptionally friendly, but if you really want to appreciate Lemay Wok, order it to go one time and eat it directly from the carton.