2. Yu Kitchen

Yu Kitchen specializes in the cuisine of Xi’an.

A dozen blocks from Columbia University, Yu Kitchen may be the Upper West Side’s most exciting dining hall. The pint-sized spot caters to student budgets, with prices hovering around $10-$20. Here, diners of all ages can stave off homesickness with chicken noodle soups even better than mom’s, abounding with juicy thigh meat. Or they can try any number of hard-to-find dishes, including jet-black fern noodles and a towering pyramid of sticky rice studded with pork belly. Yu Kitchen’s menu delivers complex flavors that our server proudly attributed to the restaurant’s emphasis on “real Chinese food. Not that American stuff.”

Yu Kitchen specializes in the cuisine of Xi’an, the most populous city in Northwestern China. The city’s dumplings are larger and heartier than those made in other regions, thick-skinned and ballooning with filling. Although Xi’an Famous Foods bears most of the responsibility for popularizing the style among New Yorkers, Yu Kitchen does them just as well. One version gets stuffed with chicken and steamed, while another is filled with beef and submerged in spicy and sour broth. Chong’s pork dumplings with spicy sauce, among the most popular varieties, wade in chili oil. If you do not adhere to the “no double-dipping” rule, give your dumplings additional dunks in the zippy sauce. Yu Kitchen is located at 2656 Broadway Manhattan, NY 10025