Orange County doesn't have the San Gabriel Valley, lined end-to-end with great Chinese restaurants. We do, however, have Irvine, which is where most of these recommendations are, and where you can eat well from just about any region of China.
As with all these sorts of lists, there will be the inevitable bruised egos and hurt feelings, so when you discover your favorite didn't make the list, add it to the comments for posterity!
10. Formosa Chinese Restaurant
|Quality Inn's website|
Who knew a cafe inside a Quality Inn & Suites could be... good? Ignore most of the menu; Formosa Cafe, as its name implies, is a Taiwanese eatery. While you may not be able to read the Chinese-only specials on the whiteboard on the wall, a little polite insistence will lead you to the back page of the menu, where you'll find beef noodles, Taiwanese breakfasts, and the best san bei ji
(three cup chicken) in Orange County.23702 Rockfield Blvd., Lake Forest; 949-458-7125; no website.
9. 3-6-9 Shanghai
Everyone goes to 3-6-9 Shanghai for the xiao long bao, the steamed dumplings with the soup magically tucked inside. To order only these does a disservice to the other Eastern Chinese items on the menu, like crab (sadly, not hairy crab) in garlic sauce, lion's head meatballs, and braised pork belly.613 N. Euclid St., Anaheim; 714-635-8369; no website.
8. Trieu Chau
It may be spelled the Vietnamese way, but Trieu Chau is mostly a Chiu Chow Chinese restaurant, a subset of southern Chinese food renowned for its beautifully clean flavors. It's a tiny place, so you may need to share your table with strangers as you slurp their amazing noodles. Get there early; they close at 5 p.m. and the lines start to get ridiculous earlier than you'd think.4401 W. 1st St., Santa Ana; 714-775-1536; no website.
6380 Irvine Blvd., Irvine, CA
601 E. Orangethorpe Ave., Anaheim, CA
2700 Alton Parkway, Irvine, CA
734 S. State College Blvd., Anaheim, CA
4401 W. First St., Santa Ana, CA
613 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, CA
23702 Rockfield Blvd., Lake Forest, CA