Here's a reply to a post I just recently placed on http://providence.urbanplanet.org that I thought would be appropriate for here too.
Now that Lemi's BBQ has closed in Cranston, here's what I think is the best of the RI authentic Chinese scene:
- Lucky Garden: On Smith Street in North Providence, it's my current favorite. Best dim sum in RI. Very authentic, especially the specials. Yup, it's far up in North Providence (for the West Enders/Smith Hillers, it's pretty close to them), but it's worth the trip.
- Red Ginger: In a strip plaza in Johnston, you could be forgiven for thinking it's yet another Americanized place. The location, decor, and menu all scream "Americanized." And they do Americanized cuisine very well in fact, as well as my current Americanized favorite China Inn in Pawtucket (now that Little Chopsticks in Smith Hill is gone ).
Ask for the Chinese menu and convince them that, yes, even though you may not be Chinese, you will enjoy that congee dish, and you'll have found some nicely authentic cuisine. Some Chinese students at Brown Med tipped me off to this place, and it's great. I think they may deliver to much of Providence as well (I believe the med students said that they order it delivered).
If you ask for their takeout menu, note that their authentic takeout menu is on a separate photocopied sheet you'll need to request separately.
- Iron Wok: Located in Seekonk in the strip plaza across from the Target/Best Buy/Kohl's/TJMaxx uber-big-box complex, this one was a surprise. I saw the add in a local newspaper with the tag line of something like "Not like your regular Chinese restaurant..." and decided to check it out. I had a brief conversation there with the owner chef about the Chinese food scene and he rapidly summarized it, "Now that Lemi's closed, the only authentic is really Lucky Garden and Red Ginger. My place is like Red Ginger." He showed me his Chinese menu, but basically put it down and said, "I'll make anything you want. I do all my own sauces and everything from scratch." I ordered cumin beef for myself and drunken chicken for my sister, and they both very good. My cumin beef, one of my favorite dishes, was a bit more hot than flavorful, but I ordered it on the hot side and they gave it to me 100%. Definitely worth supporting. They've been there for about a year now.
And that's about it. I know some like Phoenix Dragon on Broadway, but I've had two meals there now and haven't been blown away by either. Frankly, I think our best Chinese places hold up well against the Boston places, but we just don't have that many of them (three in an entire metro of 800,000 people!).
None of our places have any ambiance or style, though. I think there's got to be a market for stylish, authenic, funky Chinese in Providence. Downtown perhaps?