Chow's has a total lock on Chinese food in the capital. They have won the Best Chinese Restaurant category in this paper's Best of Santa Fe issue for the past 10 years straight. For whatever reason, the general quality and variety of Chinese food in New Mexico tends to be underwhelming, but the Zheng family has gone for the gold with Chow's, putting their place leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. There's no run-of-the-mill greasy, gloppy, sweet and sour pork here. The menu takes traditional Chinese dishes and gives them a slight twist, as with the crispy-skinned scallops in jade sauce, an emerald green blend of cilantro and spinach tinged with ginger. In fact, it's surprisingly easy


not to break your diet here, with appetizers like firecracker dumplings, boiled not fried, and served in that same cilantro and spinach sauce. But if calories are no problem, then go for the lacquered duck, with a crisp exterior that gives way to moist, flavorful meat that matches perfectly with Chow's plum sauce. Although they do serve beer and wine, the house herbal iced tea, sweetened with honey and spiked with orange juice, makes it easy to forgo booze at a business lunch. Just don't forget to order a dish of green tea ice cream with a chocolate-dipped fortune cookie.

720 St. Michael's Drive, 471-7120.

Lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. $$