Ho Yuen Ting report
Nine of us had dinner at Ho Yuen Ting last night. I really enjoyed meeting with other members of the Boston pack and putting faces (and in some cases, additional names) to the names. Attendees were: 9lives, Amy, Bob (who doesn't post but came with me), C. Fox (your faithful reporter), Ben, Rubee, Victoria (who doesn't post but came with Rubee), chuck s, and galleygirl.
We took our time over the extensive menu, glances interspersed with rounds of introductions as more people arrived. Ben helped by translating the Chinese page -- as much as he could insert into the conversation, anyway. Here's what we ended up ordering:
Battered, deep-fried spareribs
Squabs that had been cut into small pieces and dry-sauced, served with pepper salt
Deep-fried shrimp balls, served with (I think) duck sauce -- a sort of battered forcemeat of chopped shrimp (how do they keep them together?), which I really liked, though they were better without the sauce
Dried squid and shrimp with XO sauce -- another "dry" sauce; these were curled-up pieces of squid with a leathery texture, kind of like reconstituted squid jerky (there, I said it, OK?), and tiny, intensely salty & shrimpy shreds of shrimp -- delicious -- this was one of the more popular dishes on the table
Soft-shell crab with spicy garlic sauce -- another breaded, deep-fried item, as it turned out -- tasty, but I wish it had been served hot & crisp
Fresh conch with Chinese green -- only we were given the conch with onions instead, which was good, even if not what my tastebuds were yearning for. However, I got my greens fix with the...
Stewed green with mushroom -- one of the few "wet-sauced" dishes, young mustard greens with little straw mushrooms -- although I enjoyed the greens, the sauce was pretty tasteless
Fish belly with squash-that-turned-out-to-be-cucumber -- this was a kind of brothy stew with wedges of cucumber and deep-fried, soggy bits of unidentifiable fish part floating in it, plus various other bits & pieces (surimi, carrot, and pork among them)
Lo mein with pork
.and rice all round.
As you can see, I left it up to the omnivores among us to comment on the dishes I didn't try.
We were served by one man who bore our general confusion with heroic patience ("How many?" "We don't know." "Chinese or American?" "Well, uh, some of each...")
And a good time was had by all, or at least by me.
I will add my two cents on the meat items -- YUM!
The spare ribs were great -- even though they were battered and deep fried, they weren't greasy at all, and they were very tasty. The scattering of green onions and garlic on the top made for a delicious treat to get things going.
The squab was also good, although I enjoyed it much more before someone pointed out that it is also known as pigeon. I sort of thought it was like peking duck -- delicious crispy skin and lots of chowing at the bones. The pepper salt (Ben let us know that it's mostly msg) was a nice sprinkle on the top.
My favorite might have been the softshell crab ... it was hot when I got it. Lots of peppers and chiles made for a delicious spicy treat. Galleygirl did what I wanted to do, which was scoop up the leftover crispy bits and chiles and eat them with the lettuce the crabs are served on. Next time I will arm wrestle her for them (or share).
I did not enjoy the fish stomach soup, which was like (as ben described) reconstituted pork rinds. The broth was flavorless and the cucumber seemed slimy. Not a fave.
At the end, some of us went to Limbo for an after dinner drink. I had never been and could definitely see going back -- it's more comfy than I expected, and the dirty martini was very good. It was nice to chat with fellow hounds and to share our love of this site.
Thanks to ninelives for pulling another gathering together. We'd like to do something in the new year, maybe Dim Sum (especially if Ben comes to translate!!!!) wrayb and dave mp, you were missed.
I just leapt on the rest of that crab because it was my favorite thing, altho i usually don't like the salt-fried stuff..(Probably all that pigeon slowed you down,Amy!!)..Well, okay, I like it, but then I feel guilty afterwards!! The light batter on these soft-shell babies really had a lot of bite, more so than usual...
However,I don't think they were the soft-shell crabs in garlic sauce that we actually ordered; I think they were just salt-fried with hot peppers. Altho our waiter was very nice and patient, two of the dishes weren't the ones we thought we asked for. Of course, being chow hounds, it didn't matter, because we were trying to try as many different things as possible!!
So, even tho the conch WASN'T over mustard greens, which I would have liked to try, because there's a similar dish at Taiwan Cafe(had to earn my retainer.. ) , it's not hard to be happy when it's conch w/black Bean Sauce...Anything tastes good with black bean sauce!! The mustard greens we did have were very good, but the straw mushrooms they were topped with seemed canned to me, so they didn't much help the flavor of the sauce, as mentioned...In it's favor, the sauce wasn't very oily.
The shrimp balls had nice chunks of ginger chopped in, which was a nice flavor addition...
I did like the challenge of the fish-belly, or fish maw soup, but there did seem to be too many things going on...Crab with a "K", as cfox said, and bits of ground pork..Neither added any flavor, that I could tell.I think it would have been more interesting with the fish maw, and the chinese zucchini, and maybe a better broth...I would have like to try one of their hot-pots, to get a better idea what their broth was like...
Salt-fried things seemed to be on lots of plates going by, it semed to be soemthing they're very good at...And our crispy lo-mein noodles looked good too...Maybe they excell at fat??
The most unusual thing, and one I would go back for,WAS the squid and shrimp in XO sauce..(I didn't think it was THAT leathery, cfox!!) That and a sauteed green dish would make a nice meal.
Hard to believe, but the chowhounds seemed to be having even more fun talking than eating...It did overflow into drinks after, and I was surprised at how much I liked Limbo.(truly CH to og from one to the other!!).The atmosphere was more low-key and welcoming than I expected..Of course, it could have been because it was a Tuesday nite, but it was probably because of the GREAT company! And I was really surprised to find a Willem Pinot Gris on their wine list for $24, a less outrageous mark-up than the norm in boston restaurants..(NO, that had NOTHING to do with how good a time I was having!! Altho it may explain why I'm not posting til late afternoon..(g)..)
And of course, half the discussion was planning our next meal!
I just wanted to say I really enjoyed dinner and meeting the chowhounds last night. The dishes we ordered were a good sampling and I for one will be back for the squid dish. With what other group can you have so much fun, have Ben translate the menu and order for us, and when a certain 'fish belly' dish arrived, I think everyone still tried it (albeit tentatively!). Looking forward to the next gathering of the hounds...
great meal, great company....my favorite dish was the squid in xo sauce..special thanks to Ben..gets the "most valuable chowhound" award. The fact that he could read the chinese menu really made a big difference..looking forward to many more CTown adventures with Ben on the squad.
awww gosh, you guys are making me blush now, HAH ;-)
I am glad to help, though some of the dish names had me scratch my head. For example, the spare rib is simply called [some_chinese-providence] rib, and the salted chicken is called empress chicken... how the heck was I suppose to know what it is, haha.
Anywho, other than that fish maw dish (which I thought was fresh fish belly...), everything else is pretty good (and I am pretty snobby when it comes Chinese food! ;-). The baby squid w/ bits of shrimps and XO sauce was a first for me and simply awesome. I think they were cured somehow and deep fried to concentrate the falvor and create the nice chewy texture...
The Conch dish... our server screwed up and gave us the next dish down I believe. I swear I told him it was the one w/ mustard green =p
oh, and about the straw mushroom. If I am not mistaken, I do not belive you can even buy them fresh. They only come in caned. But what you are suppose to do (in a real nice fancy place), is to soak and cook them in stock to enhance its flavor, then cook them w/ whatever..
I definately want to do a Taiwan Cafe trip. The size of the group allowed for good sampling of the dishes, so maybe this time, I will get something great. There aren't many Taiwanese restaurants in the US, and I am desparately hoping that they are good ;-)
Anyway, I had a great time w/ you guys, and am really happy to find out (in person) ppl who care about food as much as I do, haha
Enjoying reading all the HYT reports.
Ben said: "Anyway, I had a great time w/ you guys, and am really happy to find out (in person) ppl who care about food as much as I do, haha"
Yes, Ben, it is truly great to dine with a group of folks who are both discerning in and appreciative of what they eat.
Regards to all,
Time for me to weigh in, although I can't add much to what has previously been said. I too enjoyed the squid in XO sauce. Excellent! But what made the evening was chowing down with some of the more notable hounds and finding the real stories behind some of the postings that I have been reading. Good conversation and good company are important to having a good dinner. Thanks all. Sorry I had to leave Limbo but as it was I started to nod off in the middle of calculus. Looking forward to next time. Imagine nine of us at dim sum. Ben you'll have to try the lobster dumplings at Chau Chow City.