Tucked into a small suite of shops and restaurants on Route 1, Northwest Chinese is relatively hidden to those who don’t seek it out. But it’s probably for the best — only the bold can handle the heat of the traditional Chinese fare served inside its walls.

From the second you walk in, it’s clear that the place is close to its roots. The wooden shelves that line the wall by the entrance are decorated with ramekins, Chinese dolls, artwork of Mao Zedong and fried chili oils. 

I spent two separate evenings — one with friends and the other by myself — enjoying meals at Northwest Chinese filled with marinated jellyfish and other authentic delicacies. 

Texturally, the jellyfish was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It was simultaneously tough, chewy, soft and gelatinous; refreshingly cool, yet tremendously hot. The fish dumplings were perfectly steamed and piping hot as they sat in a bowl of cold sour pork bone broth. Reminiscent of a classic pasta and red sauce dish, the pan-fried rolled noodles in spicy tomato sauce hit the tongue just as an arrabbiata would: with spice and tang. To top it all off, I ordered tang yuan — the mysterious sweet ball soup — which ended up being rice balls filled with black sesame in a sweet broth. 

Chili oil is the common denominator of Northwest’s food. Providing an almost insatiable heat, it becomes a part of you as you dig through hearty plates of pan-fried rolled noodles, or even appetizers like the spicy shredded carrot and potato (served cold with a refreshing crunch).

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Northwest takes you into a true Chinese kitchen and makes you want to stay forever. As I sat there, I eyed the three Northwest Chinese T-shirts pinned high on the back right wall. I figured these couldn’t be just for display purposes, right? 

Wrong. My hopes of adding a unique white tee to my collection were dashed, but I still left satisfied — the unfathomable flavors of my meal and the unexpected nature of the dishes were more than enough to satiate me. 

Best Dishes: shredded carrots and potatoes in chili oil, pan-fried rolled noodles in tomato sauce, dumplings in sour pork bone broth, sweet ball soup 

Note: You should order items by their respective number codes (ex. A1) to make the process go smoothly. As seen on their website, everything is listed in Chinese, in traditional fashion, but their physical menu is written in English.