Where to experience the best of Chinese food and drink, including numbing Sichuan feasts, dim sum and farm-to-table fare

THE FIRST CHINESE restaurants in the United States opened in San Francisco to cater to Chinese gold miners and workers in the mid-1800s. Mostly simple, Cantonese-inflected eateries at first, the restaurants evolved to fit the growing needs of the region’s Chinese population as it became more affluent and more diverse. Now, in the Bay Area’s Chinese neighborhoods, old-school chop suey houses exist side-by-side with farm-to-table restaurants, which take advantage of the growing market for Asian heirloom vegetables, and crowd-pleasing hot pot hotspots. Regionalism has broken into the scene as well: Z&Y Restaurant was a pioneer of fiery and numbing Sichuan cuisine, while the more recent Wojia Hunan Cuisine showcases its region’s smoked meat and hot pickled chile flavors. In a time when xenophobia and pandemic-era stereotypes have heightened the coronavirus’ economic impact on Chinese communities, it’s important to remember that the Bay Area’s Chinese restaurants are an essential aspect of what makes the local food scene so great. Here are some of the places you shouldn’t miss, updated in February with more favorites.

An ambitious emporium offers next-level Chinese dishes and goods.

China Live is a multistory culinary wonderland with a fine dining restaurant, “Bladerunner”-esque cocktail bar, a retail section and a 120-seat, high-ceilinged casual eatery featuring different styles of cooking. Of course, you can’t just go in and gawk anymore. But in the pandemic age, China Live has maintained its multifaceted spirit, with a robust online retail store stocked with titanium woks and jars of XO sauce as well as its more popular dishes. Definitely try the crunchy and indulgent fried scallion breads, which are rolled up like cinnamon buns, as well as the jiggly, tingly mapo tofu. – San Francisco Chronicle (02.04.21)