CHICAGO: Opera, (312) 461-0161
Modern Chinese fare gains theatrical digs at Opera, an energizing newcomer in the South Loop. Much-lauded chef Arun Sampanthavivat teamed up to devise a menu grounded in regional flavors but taking contemporary license with presentation. Don’t miss the five-spice squid or spicy beef short ribs. Opera’s stage, once a 1930s film storage warehouse, spans an open kitchen, convivial table arrangements, and intimate nooks in narrow former storage vaults.

DALLAS: Tom Tom Noodle House, (214) 522-1237
Head to the House for well-priced, familiar pan-Asian food in a Zen-inspired setting. The West Village hot spot dishes up shareable appetizers based on street foods such as Mandarin duck salad and Gyoza dumplings with yuzu garlic sauce. Move onto generous noodle broths, grilled meats, and rice bowls teeming with shrimp, currants, curry, and more. Its good looks, including an outdoor rock garden and indoor bamboo finishes, belie Tom Tom’s $10-and-under prices.

MIAMI: Pao, (305) 695-1957
Oversize retro cocktails — think Scorpions and Singapore Slings — set a playful tone at this Cantonese specialist in South Beach’s new Clinton Hotel. Cart-less dim sum lunches and more substantial dinners hew to Sino-American classics like egg rolls and barbecued pork fried rice. The breezy, minimalist decor spills over to the pool deck, where canopied banquettes and intimate cabanas are the top tables to snare.