Zonxon Noodles: AmerasiaIt can be scary when there’s no description on a Chinese menu. Zonxon? What? Just think of this noodle dish as a cousin of the three-way: Thin noodles form the base layer for a hearty chili-like sauce full of ground pork, tofu, lima beans, mushrooms, and carrots. Ground peanuts, bean sprouts, cilantro, and julienned cucumber stand in for cheese. It may not spawn a local chain, but it’ll make for a happy lunch. 521 Madison Ave., Suite B, Covington, (859) 261-6121, kungfoodchu.com
Spicy Sizzling Lamb: Sichuan BistroOnions, lamb, and sliced jalapeños arrive on a cast iron server, all smoke and sizzle. You can smell the heat. It touches the back of your throat and the top of your sinuses at the same time, not as insistently as horseradish or wasabi, but with a gentle tickle that builds. The flavor comes through; the smoky fire lingers. The more you eat, the more you can expect to numb: first your tongue, then your lips, then your nose. Order extra rice for a little relief. Sichuan Bistro, 7888 S. Mason Montgomery Rd., Mason, (513) 770-3123, sichuanbistro.com
Portuguese Style Baked Chicken: Raymond’s Hong Kong CafeThis dish is a direct result of the western European influence on Hong Kong (which was ruled by the British for many years) and the neighboring island of Macau (which was long governed by the Portuguese). Served in a small casserole dish, it’s a literal and figurative melting pot: egg fried rice is the base for baked chicken in a creamy, vegetable-studded, Portuguese-style (that is, mild) curry sauce. It’s reminiscent of your mom’s old-school chicken and rice casserole, but with a kick. 11051 Clay Dr., Richwood, (859) 485-2828, hongkongcafe.us
Steamed Clams with Black Bean Sauce: Uncle Yip’sThese smallish steamers are a little less flavor-forward than their bivalve cousins, which allows the wonderfully earthy, ginger-bright sauce to be the star of the show. It’s a shame they don’t serve bread for sopping the leftover broth, but a spoon will do nicely. 10736 Reading Rd., Sharonville, (513) 733-8484
Hot and Sour Soup: Oriental WokThe hot and sour soup all others aspire to be. All tang and no bite, a heat that makes itself known but doesn’t overpower, and a silky, meaty flavor that calls your name on a chilly day. We’d recommend a seat in the dining room of Mike Wong’s original location on Buttermilk Pike, where you can soak up the swank old-school Chinese restaurant atmosphere. Yes, those are carved “tusks” guarding the entry to the dining room. Yes, they do celebrate birthdays with tambourine and gong. Yes, you should see it for yourself. 317 Buttermilk Pike, Ft. Mitchell, (859) 331-3000, orientalwok.com
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