Dumpling House, Cambridge

When we heard Gourmet Dumpling House was opening a sister restaurant in Cambridge, we were thrilled. There aren’t not a lot of really good quality Chinese restaurants in Cambridge, so we hope it helps elevate the quality of Chinese food further in the area.

We came in on a Sunday night to try out their food. Other friends had mentioned to us that they were open for business so we invited them along.

The is a lot of nice, clean, bright open space inside the restaurant. We really like the wall hangings that they use for decoration.

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Mini Soup Dumplings with pork aka Pork xiao long bao

These soup dumplings were the primary reason we came for dinner. We ended up with two orders because they were good, but not great compared to the location in Chinatown. To eat a soup dumpling, you have to wait for it to cool down a bit, then gently bite down on the wrapper and suck out the soup. Then you eat everything else. These ones had a good amount of soup and ground pork inside. I wish the ground pork was more flavorful however.

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Beef with Scallions Roll in Pancakes aka Scallion pancake wrapped beef

This was a decent version of this Taiwanese traditional appetizer. The beef was tender and the scallion pancake a bit thick but very crispy. We needed more dipping sauce because they didn’t put enough inside. It was good and we would definitely order it again but Jean & Lee Kitchen in Newton makes an even better version in our opinion.

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Baby Clams in Special Chili Sauce

This dish would have been excellent if the clams were properly washed and not so gritty. It was hard to decide because the flavor and the heat from chili sauce were delicious. The major issue was not knowing if you would get a sandy clam really put a dent in our enjoyment. Every fourth or fifth clam we would go “Awww, more sand!”

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Sizzling Beef Short Ribs with Black Pepper Sauce

This beef short rib dish was very good. The beef was tender from the marination and very more-ish. These sesame seeds on top added a light crunch, which was nice. There were more onions than peppers in the pepper sauce. We would order it again.

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Beef and broccoli

The beef and broccoli stir-fry was good as we hoped it would be. Beef was fresh and the broccoli was not overcooked but still a little crunchy. Everything was stir-fried with soy sauce. This isn’t a true Chinese dish however. It is a Chinese American invention. This is my friend’s take out favorite so if it wasn’t up to par they probably wouldn’t return on their own. They liked it immensely.

As with many Chinese restaurants, the customer service aspect is sincerely lacking, as the emphasis is on food, not service. As long ad you don’t take it personally and realize this is a cultural difference, you should be fine. We ended up with two different servers. The first one was polite but had to leave because their shift was over and the second one was extremely brusque.

Overall, Dumpling House puts out solid Chinese food. With some adjustments as they get used to working as a team, it can be as popular and as delicious as Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown.

Dumpling House
Central Square
950 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02149

Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

WOW BBQ Restaurant, Malden- A First Look

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On a rainy late Monday summer evening in between thunderstorms, we stopped in to try WOW BBQ restaurant. This is the brick and mortar Malden location of the popular food truck that has been making the rounds in Boston for over a year. The new location has been open for 2 months now. WOW BBQ specializes in chuan’r, a type of charcoal-grilled kebab from Xinjiang, a northwest region of mainland China. The most popular kind is yang rou chuan’r, or cumin-spiced lamb skewer.

The restaurant is brightly lit with plenty of street parking available. They are open until midnight or later during the week. WOW BBQ in Malden is the only chuan’r restaurant that I know is open very late. Other places that serve chuan’r, namely One of The Kind and Gene’s Flatbread Cafe, are not open as late nor do the lamb skewers taste as authentic or good because they are deep-fried (Gene’s are only fried during the week supposedly) not grilled.

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The inside is freshly painted in red and black with fun, hip graffiti and large wall murals. There’s the main room with two large Samsung flat screen TVs and another room with a bar and another flat screen TV. They are in the process of creating a cocktail menu at this time. WOW BBQ is a good place to watch basketball or soccer games. One thing we also noticed is that they are also very social media savvy and use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram regularly as a large number of their customers are Chinese students.

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Sandy, our server, was a little stiff at first but perfectly polite. She explained the ordering process and made a few menu suggestions. You basically indicate what you want by placing the quantity of each predetermined meat/vegetable/drink next to the appropriate item and the server enters it into the computer system. If you prefer your food with a spicy kick their are containers of ground chili pepper on each table so you can season to your liking.

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Our server suggested that we try the cabbage and she was right. It was delicious. The cabbage was lightly tangy and covered with a peppery seasoning.

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The bok choy (top) was good but unfortunately swabbed with a bit too much oil. Next time we would probably request light or no oil on any of the vegetables.

The whole shrimp (bottom) were very tasty and perfectly grilled. I am always happy when my shrimp come with the head-on. That’s the best way to eat them because you get a creamy crunchy contrast.

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The beef skewers (top) were cooked to well done and turned too dry. Be sure to specify medium or medium rare so the meat stays tender. The seasoning was good.

We tried the chicken hearts (bottom) as we do love offal. The hearts were split into half, like little filets, before being threaded on the skewer. They were the right kind of chewy meaty muscle.

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The chicken skewers (top) were delicious because they were tender and well-seasoned. Very more-ish. They were my dining companion’s favorite of the evening.

The lamb skewers (bottom) were my favorite. The heavy cumin seasoning was the perfect complement to the lamb. Please note that they each had one piece of fat per skewer to keep the lamb meat from drying out while being cooked.

We highly recommend WOW BBQ Restaurant for their excellent chuan’r. If you’re a first timer, try the lamb, chicken, shrimp or cabbage skewers. We also suggest checking out their website or Twitter for weekly specials, because sometimes they offer small discounts. We wish WOW BBQ much continued success!

WOW Barbeque Restaurant
184 Salem Street
Malden, MA 02148

WOW BBQ Restaurant Facebook page

Wow BBQ Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Pho Viet’s, Allston- Banh Mi

Pho Viet’s is one of many mom and pop Vietnamese restaurants in the Boston area. They are located in the Hong Kong market food court. If you ever happen to find yourself hungry in Allston with only a few bucks to spare, look no further than Pho Viet’s. For only $3.75 (it used to be $2.70 when I first started coming here years ago), you can possibly get the best sub ever made.

The banh mi come in beef, pork, chicken, shredded pork, tofu, and ham. The only ones I’ve ever had are the beef and pork. They both taste fairly similar with the pork tasting a little sweeter to me. It starts off with a freshly baked airy baguette slathered in their house mayo. Next comes a generous portion of marinated grilled meat topped of with fresh crunchy tangy pickled radish & carrots, cucumbers, spicy chilis or jalapeños, and a few sprigs of fresh cilantro. It’s a simple yet delicious sub.

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Grilled beef

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Grilled pork

Don’t have high expectations of stellar high end customer service and you’ll be fine. They want you to order quickly and get you your meal as fast as they can. Service was fairly quick despite being in a queue at 6 in the evening that was 7 people deep. There’s not a lot of difference in styles of banh mi avaible but what sets different places apart is quality. The good quality and constant turnover of the ingredients combined with a good price help to make this a restaurant a regular in our Boston banh mi rotation.

We’ll be back to try the pho, bun bo hue, combination rice plates and of course, more banh mi.

Pho Viet’s
(Hong Kong Market food court)

1095 Commonwealth Ave

Boston, MA 02215

Pho Viet's on Urbanspoon

East by Northeast, Cambridge- Wednesday Night Ramen Special

We’ve been on a bit of a ramen kick here in Boston lately as the ramen scene has been taking off the last few years. Some ramen shops have been positive experiences and others, not so much.

We’ve heard many positive things about East by Northeast and it has been on our list of places to try for awhile. Even on their website, they tout themselves as a “modern Chinese restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts that is casual, yet inspired” that serves tapas-like plates. On Wednesday nights, they have a ramen special, which helped us decide to make our first visit.

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We started with a complimentary amuse bouche that was a delightful confit of carrots on mini biscuits.

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I have a soft spot for pork belly on soft mantou bread so it’s not surprising that we had to order ExNE’s version. Every bite was delicious because the richness of the pork belly contrasted well with the crisp sweet crunch of the apple combined with the tangy, sweet and sour crunch from the pickled purple onions and beets.

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We then tried a special of the day, which consisted of cured lamb loin, ramps and liver pate wrapped in a Mandarin pancake that was pan-fried. It was a refreshing take on a traditional Taiwanese dish that usually uses beef and scallion pancake together. This was amazing and I hope it becomes a regular menu item.

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Then we moved on to the much anticipated reason for our visit, ExNE’s Wednesday ramen special. Their website describes the ramen as “house made alkaline noodles, rolled thin, hand cut, with the right balance of chew and slightly slippery mouth feel. The broth is a double stock.  First a pork stock in the style of tonkotsu, made with plenty of pork bones and pork fat, cooked until it is deep, thick and rich.  The hearty pork stock will be tempered with a lightly gingered fish fumet.  The combination of land and sea offers a complexity to the soup.  The meat is smoked pork confit.  Carefully sourced pork shoulder, brined for days, poached slowly in pork fat, then lightly smoked over applewood chips.  A soft boiled egg, not a poached egg.  The egg is cooked so that the yolk will be creamy and only slightly runny, with a firm egg white to provide more texture. House pickled kohlrabi will add a crunch as well as a hit of acidity to balance the salty richness of the broth and meat.  Finally, the broth will be finished with a dollop of monkfish liver butter. Monkfish liver is known as foie gras of the sea, gently poached and blended with butter; it adds the final dimension to the dish.”

The broth was initially fishy and sour, like Vietnamese canh chua, probably from the fish fumet and the pickles, until we stirred everything together. The broth turned out to be light and tasted rich due to the addition of ankimo, monkfish liver butter combined with the pork stock. The hand-pulled noodles were one of my favorite parts of this ramen. They had the requisite toothsome-ness that I desire. My second favorite part was definitely the half egg. It was perfectly cooked with a still slightly runny yolk. The pork was also very good. At $12 per bowl, the portion itself is relatively smaller than most of the ramen being served in Boston. Was that a deterrent? Certainly not, but if you are a big eater and can finish an entire bowl of jiro-style ramen, then consider ordering other dishes as well.

Service was quick and polite. Prices aren’t cheap but they aren’t exorbitant either, given the quality and care with which each dish is made. We definitely will be returning to try more dishes in the future, particularly anything with hand-pulled noodles.

East by Northeast
1128 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

http://exnecambridge.com

East by Northeast on Urbanspoon

Vinh Sun BBQ Restaurant, Chinatown, Boston

We extended Lunar New Year and got together with the family for a lunch in Chinatown. Our standard favorite, Hong Kong Eatery was just too busy and we grew hungry and impatient.

Our father decided on going to Vinh Sun, Hong Kong Eatery’s competitor. He said they have similar menus, the restaurant is more spacious, but slightly more expense. However, they do take credit cards unlike HKE.

We enjoyed the smokier black tea and let our father decide on the items to order. The first dish that came out was the Eight delight chow mein noodles with squid, beef, shrimp, baby corn and carrots. All the ingredients were perfectly cooked, noodles nice and crispy and the gravy brought the elements together.

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Per tradition, father ordered a Spicy Salt Squid and the calamari was chewy, yet tender and had the right level of crunch and saltiness.
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A personal request was Pork Chop Spicy Salty Dry Fried for $9.95. The tender pork was coated with spicy salt and nicely seasoned.

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Our father exclaimed “Ooh, they have hot pot here!” So he ordered one with Fillet Steak, ginger, scallion and onions with black pepper sauce for $14.95.  The tender beef balanced the green and yellow onion. Delicious and went well with the chow mein noodles.

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Finally, we enjoyed Me pa tofu, fried tofu rounds which were served with oyster sauce. The soft, silky tofu on the inside went well with the crispy exterior.

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Overall, our meal at Vinh sun was solid, great dishes, well seasoned, well executed and delicious. There is something to be said for nostalgia and Vinh Sun is a great substitute for Hong Kong Eatery, when HKE is crowded.Vinh Sun BBQ Restaurant LLC on Urbanspoon

Hong Kong Eatery Revisited Again, Chinatown, Boston

One of our family traditions is Hong Kong Eatery (BMH’s review of Hong Kong Eatery RevisitedVisit 1). One of our father’s favorites. Despite trying the Quincy location, he still loves the small, Chinatown original. The restaurant is always buzzing with a mix of single diners at a shared or community table and lots of families. We really wish we knew Chinese, and could understand the specials and items on the mirrored wall.

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We started with an order of Stir fried beef Ginger & Scallion, a father’s choice for $8.75.  This dish is as aromatic as it gets. The beef was so incredibly tender, the onions and scallion were translucent and glistening. All in all the ginger flavor was strong and had a bite, but went well with the sweetness of the tender beef. Must get.

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Another father order was Sweet and Sour Pork for $8.50. The pork was fried and then enrobed in a thick sweet and sour sauce. The sauce was tangy and went well with the bits of onions and veg._MG_4341

One of our favorites of the meal was the square bean curd with a center of pork and shrimp filling served with a five spice soy sauce. The tofu was nice and pillowy and had absorbed some of the the flavor of the shrimp. Toe coating on the exterior of the bean curd was lightly fried and the textural contrast was killer. _MG_4342

 

A friend favorite is the Beef chow fun, dry fried with sprouts, scallion, flat noodles and salty soy goodness. Great combination and hard to not have second helpings._MG_4340

You know its a good dining day when you have Hong Kong Eatery’s Half Roasted chicken for $8.50. Upon descending the restaurant’s entrance, one notices the window display of all the roast pork, peking ducks, soy chickens and roasted chickens. This one is tender and has a nice crust. _MG_4339Another family favorite is the salted fried calamari squid with tentacles! There is a nice salty flavor which brings out the calamari’s essence. You can’t beat the tentacle texture as well.
_MG_4338Our little brother’s favorite, and one of ours is the Beef and Chinese broccoli  chow mein for $5.50. The thin yellow noodles are fried and covered in the gravy. Bits of carrots, baby corn and chinese broccoli offer other elements of texture, sweetness and bitterness. The beef as always super tender (could not make tender at home). We heard baking soda is added to the beef to make it super tender, this can not be confirmed, but I believe it.
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Another successful meal at HKE and if you visit, you will probably see one of the BMH clan there.Hong Kong Eatery on Urbanspoon

 

Eastern Bakery, Chinatown, San Francisco

Eastern Bakery, located next to the Wok Shop is another Chinatown spot for mooncakes, fortune cookies, cookies, mung bean cakes and egg tarts. There is various signage and posters of Bill Clinton posing in the bakery. You must respect Bill’s halo effect. The cocktail buns and pork buns were really fresh. Get those! The coffee crunch cake is on the list to sample next.

We would definitely return to try other pastries whenever we were in the vicinity.

Eastern Bakery on Urbanspoon