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Not All Chinese Restaurants Are Created Equal


Hungry? You might give a listen now to David Chan. Mr. Chan is a Los Angeles tax lawyer who says he's eaten in more than 6,000 Chinese restaurants in North America and knows how to identify the best. David Chan joins us on the line now.

Thanks very much for being with us.

DAVID CHAN: Well, thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: So what do you look for?

CHAN: As far as good Chinese cuisine? Chinese cuisine differs from other types of food because it continues to evolve. So actually what you're looking for is what the latest trend and what the latest popular dishes are. Whereas in regard to non-Chinese restaurants, if you hear something that's, you know, we've been in business for 50 years, that may be a selling point. For Chinese food, that's, you know, a sign to avoid that restaurant.

SIMON: Are there any signs that you look for when you're sizing up a place from the moment you walk in or consider walking in?

CHAN: Well, I mean, you know, there's sort of an old saw that, you know, if you go into a Chinese restaurant and it's full of Chinese diners that it's got to be a good restaurant. My first visit to New York I tried that test, it didn't work. We went to this place in Chinatown, it was just jam packed with Chinese people, but then we realized after we ate there that the reason it was full is because the portions were huge and the prices were cheap.


CHAN: But, I mean, generally speaking it is a good indication.

SIMON: Do I have this right? You don't know how to use chopsticks?

CHAN: Yeah, I don't use chopsticks, because they say you're supposed to hold a pair of chopsticks the same way you write with a pencil. I started writing incorrectly when I was little and my teachers couldn't stop me. So now it hurts me to write because I don't hold the pencil correctly. And I can't maneuver chopsticks for the same reason.

SIMON: You've eaten at 6,000 Chinese restaurants?

CHAN: Yeah, actually 6,150 at this point.

SIMON: Wow. So, I mean, you never go back to the same place twice?

CHAN: Well, I do, but it's relatively uncommon.

SIMON: So can you tell us a couple of your favorites?

CHAN: My personal favorite is the best Chinese restaurant in the United States. It's called Coy Palace in Daly City outside of San Francisco.

SIMON: May I ask? Do you know where you're going for dinner tonight?

CHAN: Going for dinner tonight? Well, tonight, I'm the guest of the city of Springfield, Missouri. And the reason I'm going there is to try their cashew chicken, because in the first interview I did the writer asked me is there a Chinese restaurant you haven't been to that you'd like to go to. And I mentioned that I've always wanted to go to Springfield, Missouri to try the cashew chicken. Somebody suggests I should've mentioned a restaurant in Hawaii instead of Springfield, Missouri.

SIMON: You'll love Springfield, Missouri, though.

CHAN: I'm sure I will.

SIMON: Happy dim sum to you, Mr. Chan.

CHAN: Thank you very much.

SIMON: Chinese food maven - I've always wanted to say that - David Chan in Los Angeles. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.