Boston area Chinese restaurants - an evolving work (first posted 7/2002)
|Is it mealtime yet? 性本餓?
In my experience, popular guides to Chinese restaurants (e.g., those sponsored by newspapers
or published on the web by people who don't have extensive experience with Chinese cuisine)
rarely seem to be
geared toward authentic Chinese food, catering instead toward an
Americanized palate for Chinese-American food. I hereby present my
picks for Boston area authentic Chinese restaurants.
While I very much enjoy authentic Chinese food, I don't have the
money, time, or even inclination to regularly frequent all of these
restaurants, so it is possible that it's been a while since I've been to
some of these. However, I'll continue to consider each of them to be a reliable source
of authentic Chinese food until shown otherwise. I'll appreciate
e-mail about new candidates to try out and maybe add to this list, and significant information
(e.g., they've moved, they're out of business, etc.) about
any listed here.
When I was young, Chinese food was spareribs, chicken wings, and
teriyaki, and I can still enjoy those. However, if those items sound like
your favorite kind of Chinese food, you may not really go for the restaurants
below. I am not a fan of spicy food, so you will
not find restaurants specializing in that below.
I supplied Chinese names of restaurants and dishes when I could. If your web browser doesn't show Chinese Unicode (UTF-8) characters, they'll probably show up as garbage characters.
- Chung Shin Yuan (中興園) Newton; 183 California St, (617) 964-0111,
People often line up outside a half-hour before it opens for their special weekend brunch offerings ("Dim Sum" style choices, but you order from the menu and there are no small push-carts), which is their fare that I am recommending here; a small number
of those items are available at other times. Chung Shin Yuan may on occasion run out of some of the ingredients needed to make some of their dishes, so that's another reason to go early (as opposed to trying to get seated as part of the "second shift" of diners, at an hour like 1 pm when the line of people might be shorter than it is when they first open).
The "Pan Fried" White Turnip Cake is actually deep-fried.
Practical tip: the customers are typically noticeably fewer on weekends during breaks between college terms, e.g., between Christmas and New Year's.
My favorites: Fried chitlens (炸大腸), Soy Bean Milk (Salty). In 7/02, I was saddened to discover that they no longer make what used to be another favorite, the Fried Chinese dinner roll (銀絲捲─炸的).
- East Ocean City Boston Chinatown; 27 Beach Street, (617) 542-2504.
- Formosa Taipei Lexington; 315 Marret Road, (6781) 862-6198
Small with few seats, it's probably best thought of as a take out place. The parking lot can be awkward to get in and out of. They also have a Nashua, NH, location.
- Jo Jo Tai Pei (久久台北) Allston; 103 Brighton Avenue, (617) 254-8889 & (617) 254-8887. Opened in June 2008 according to this boston.com review. One of the best (but unfortunately, also one of the priciest) Taiwanese restaurants in the Boston area.
- May's Fusion and Cuisine Allston; 95 Glenville Avenue, (617) 782-1688.
5/2011: This place apparently changed its name from May's Café. I haven't been there since it operated under that former name, primarily because its location isn't so convenient. I think it likely still has good food, but my information here is likely rather out of date.
I preferred the saltier seasoning of some of the dishes (like the Formosa Stir-fry Rice Vermicelli [台式炒米粉]) of
the predecessor of May's Café (Café Soya [菜根香]) -- the owner changed restaurant name and location -- but May's Café was still a good place. The fried chitlens (large intestine) (炸大腸) are almost as good as those at Chung Shin Yuan (the inner vegetable is actually better, but that's not the key part of the dish).
Practical tip: The restaurant is located in a residential area with no, or virtually no, parking nearby (2/23/08: A 10/6/07 review at the Yelp review website claims:
Unknown to many, there are 4 parking spaces designated by the restaurant. 2 Spots on the right and the other 2 on the left wing of the restaurant. If you're unsure, stop your car outside the restaurant and ask.). An option is to park in the municipal lot on Harvard Avenue (between Brighton and Glenville Avenues) and walk the several blocks to the restaurant.
- Peach Farm (小桃園) Boston Chinatown; 4 Tyler Street, (617) 482-1116.
- Royal East (五月花) Cambridge; 782-792 Main St, (617) 661-1660.
My favorites: Sauteed Baby Bok Choi (when they have it -- it was a special in 1/06), Crispy Roasted Long Island Duck, Steamed Grey Sole with Ginger & Scallion, Fried Bean Cake Mixed with Minced Shrimp.
- Shabu-Zen (錢旺涮涮鍋) Boston Chinatown; 16 Tyler Street, (617) 292-8828. Allston; 80 Brighton Avenue; (617) 782-8888.
A hotpot restaurant (you cook your own selections in a hotpot at your seat) new since January
2002, I think. The more recently opened Allston location has a small parking lot.
My favorites: Boneless Short Rib Beef.
- Shangri-La (四川小館) Belmont; 149 Belmont St, (617) 489-1488 & (617) 489-2188.
In October 2004, people lined up outside about 10 minutes before it opened for their special weekend brunch offerings (similar to those of Chung Shin Yuan, but a larger selection according to my memory), but everyone got a seat at 11:30 when the restaurant opened its doors. Some diners arriving fairly soon afterward did have to wait in line.
October 2009: People wait in line for tables for Saturday night dinner.
2011: Sunday brunch over a long weekend was noticeably less crowded than normal; a good time to go.
My favorites (some of which may only be available during the weekend brunch, when the most authentic dishes are available): Crispy chicken -- the meat is remarkably tender (脆皮雞), Salt-Watered Duck (鹽水鴨), Crispy Intestine (炸大腸).
- Taiwan Cafe (海之味) Boston Chinatown; 34 Oxford St, (617) 426-8181.
My favorites: Vegetarian steamed ravioli (花素蒸餃) (these do have egg in them), Sauteed little neck clams with basil (九層塔海瓜子) (made not spicy, of course).
- Wang's Chinese Cuisine (formerly Wang's Fast Food) (東海園) Somerville; 509 Broadway, (617) 623-2982.
Regrettably somewhat uneven, but my favorites have always been reliable.
My favorites: Handmade Chinese dumplings (全手工製做北方水餃), which you can buy frozen in bulk and cook up in boiling water conveniently at home: Vegetarian spinach dumpling (素菠菜水餃), Vegetarian leek dumpling (素韭菜水餃). Note that both of those have egg in them, but the not-my-favorite Chinese Vegetables dumpling (素青崗菜水餃) doesn't have egg and is an option for vegans.
- Wok 'N Roll (翠苑) Cambridge; 1908 Mass Ave., (617) 497-8638.
This place certainly has its share of Americanized dishes, but it's got some good, tasty dishes with more authentic ingredients.
My favorites: Beef Chow Foon (whose rice noodles don't, however, hold up well as leftovers); Buddha's Delight (which has lotus when they can get it).
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