Chinese restaurants hold a special place in Pakistan’s dining culture and given the number of restaurants offering Chinese food, one could argue that it’s the second most popular cuisine to Pakistani food. It’s made in our homes and Pak-Cheen dosti is on so like why not?
Given its popularity, there are a LOTTTTT of Chinese restaurants to be found in Lahore – some, really old and some very recent. But where do you go when you want some quality (desi) Chinese food? Well, glad you asked 😉
When YUM started out in 2010, it was a breath of fresh air and actually helped modernize Chinese and Thai food in Pakistan. It was far more accessible as compared to restaurants in five-star hotels, and the quality of their food was phenomenal. Over the years, there have been a few complaints about deteriorating standards, but quite honestly which restaurant doesn’t hear that?
Despite all that, today YUM is one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in Lahore. Their Chef’s Special Chicken and Singapore Noodles are among my favorites. Furthermore, they have duck, beef, a variety of seafood including squids and lobster, and even a Thai menu if you’re in the mood for some Thai Green Curry.
X2 came shortly after YUM and was another welcome addition to contemporary Chinese dining in the city. What always takes me back to X2 is their Wasabi Prawns in ebi mayo. Ebi mayo is a fantastic Japanese appetizer dip and in X2’s case, the tiger prawns are tossed in it before being served; it’s sweet and somewhat salty, but rich in texture and complements the batter-fried tiger prawns.
Another very favorite item of mine on the menu is the Beef Chili Dry with X2’s Egg-Fried Rice and their classic Mint Margarita – beef chili dry fans need to write this down and visit the restaurant because, in my opinion, they have the best one in Lahore.
3. The Rice Bowl
The Rice Bowl was actually one of the first restaurants (in my memory, at least) to bring about the bowl system in Lahore. What happened previously was that there would be a family serving of food, and often times we’d just have to eat it because we couldn’t order according to everybody’s tastes. So when this placed opened up in Mall 1, understandably, everyone went to it. It was fast, convenient when eating out with friends (especially splitting the bill).
You also got a humongous serving, you could select anything and everything you wanted as an entrée and the food was wonderful. It was also very affordable in terms of what you got. My favorite, however, were two entrées and one side – the two being Crispy Chicken in Sweet and Sour, and the other Crispy Prawns in Sweet and Sour; paired with their Vegetable Chowmein, it was great. Unfortunately, they moved out and The Wok came in its place with the same menu and the same taste – only the name changed. Don’t know what went on there, but they’re in Johar Town now and they’ve always delivered so grab yourself a bite to eat from there!
Situated right opposite to The Wok (former The Rice Bowl) in Mall 1, Bamboo Union is a beautiful, contemporary dining place for Chinese food. It doesn’t give off the typical Pan Asian restaurant vibe – in simpler words, it modern-contemporary and sleek. They absolutely did not go wrong with their interiors – especially with the comfortable seating and the wrought iron lamps. It’s dimly-lit like many other Chinese restaurants, so we appreciate them not changing that aspect of Chinese dining.
My personal favorite item is their Crunchy Honey Beef with its thinly cut strips of beef, fried and then tossed generously in a honey-based sauce that is just divine. They also have one of the best Lettuce Wraps with Wok-Fried Chicken, so if you want to cut out the rice/noodle part, this would work. And don’t forget to check out their kids’ menu if you’re a parent!
5. Dynasty @ Avari
Speaking of old, typical Chinese restaurant décor – that’s where Dynasty scores! Because, sometimes we love that old-school vibe too. The food, however, has always been top-notch and it’s still one of the best Chinese restaurants in Lahore. With some of the best chefs cooking Chinese food in Pakistan, the Dynasty experience is usually flawless.
Their Chicken Spring Rolls are one of the best I’ve had in Lahore, and trust me I’ve had a lot of spring rolls in my life so I can say with some authority (lol) that those rolls are springing with flavor. Their Steamed Dumplings, again, not bad. But my favorite and my dad’s favorite item on the menu will forever be the Twice Cooked Beef which is wok-fried beef with capsicum, onion, and carrot in Szechuan sauce – lip smacking, good chewy beef. Thank you, China.
Mandarin Kitchen opened just last year, so it’s relatively new out of the lot. But they’ve got a good team of chefs, which you can taste in their food. Sure it’s a little on the expensive side, but isn’t everything? Especially with the taste, quality and ambiance, I’d say there’s not much to complain about. I love dining on their ground floor, primarily because it brings me in close proximity to their kitchen – which has a glass around it. Hence I see all the cooking, the drama, the opera (as I like to call it) unfold; there’s a slow build up as the chefs prepare the food, which then jumps into their giant woks, finally climaxing as the giant flames gush out and turn the whole room orange. I sometimes get super romantic with food.
But while we’re discussing this, it’s important to mention that you need to try out their Fried Calamari as an appetizer. Their Kung Pao Chicken and Mongolian Beef stand out among the menu if you’re ordering as a family. If you want a single serving, which they offer, go for General Tso’s chicken, which is more of an American-Chinese dish, but it’s delicious so who cares?
NOVU, much like Bamboo Union, is very casual, contemporary Chinese dining. They have a couple of interesting items on their menu like their Crispy Honey Beef, Chef’s Special Chicken which is blazing hot btw, and the Juha Fish. These dishes are something to look out for when you go.
In terms of the space, it’s pretty intimate and limited but the décor is very fresh and there’s even a balcony for when you want to side outside and chill with your friends. We’re hoping they can expand their space soon because accommodating a big party of people can be a difficult task. Sometimes I’ve had to go back because a table wasn’t available. But yeah, overall, affordable food that doesn’t taste horrible.
8. Tai Pan @ Pearl Continental
We love Tai Pan at Pearl Continental and its red and black China bowls, plates and glasses. The restaurant went through a massive renovation and it’s all new, new now! A personal recommendation is their Lemon Chilli Soup, Steamed Dumplings, Crispy Roast Chicken with Hoisin Sauce. Little on the expensive side, but I think that’s obvious considering the restaurant’s in a five-star hotel.
9. Lius Kim Mun
Lius Kim Mun is run by the people who used to own Hsin Kaung. For those who didn’t know what the latter was, it was one of Lahore’s oldest Chinese restaurants and set the path for Chinese restaurants to become in demands more and more. Thirty or so years later, we have a couple of great Chinese restaurants. Hsin Kaung closed down, however, Lius Kim Mun is a comparatively new restaurant. There’s a takeaway in Gulberg but the one in Johar Town is a proper restaurant with plenty of seating. If you visit, try their starters with their batter-fried Butterfly Prawns, and then move on to the Special Prawn Chowmein and Chicken with Mushroom and Vegetables.
The Wok came in place of The Rice Bowl and easily became one of the most favored Chinese restaurants in Lahore. They have the same taste, and almost the same menu and they’ve kept consistent with their quality. Service sometimes can get brutally annoying, but I’ve also ended up there over the weekend and the Mall 1 area can get very busy. So it depends. Weekdays are relatively calm, and when the weather’s nice there is always their outdoor seating to enjoy your meal from.
A very recent Chinese restaurant, and it’s already making the rounds within foodie groups as a quality place for food. The warm wooden walls and ceiling paired with a Chinese woman’s mural are pretty darn elegant and make it an attractive place to have guests over at. The kitchen staff and servers are very attentive to every question, hence service is top-notch. In terms of menu and taste, their Chicken Tempura and Beef Chili Dry are worth a shot. The Beef Chili Dry is succulent and not too much on the spicy side, perfect with their Egg Fried Rice on the side. Worth a shot definitely!
Let us know if you have any recommendations or if we missed anything in this guide. Happy eating 🙂
Cover image via Bamboo Union/X2