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Jan 14, 2002 08:07 AM

ma soba

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I'm wondering what people think of Ma Soba on Cambridge St in Beacon Hill. I'm considering having dinner this week...What's the concensus?


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  1. Ma Soba is a cafeteria like place, but don't let the plastic decor deter you. The noodle soups are plentiful, cheap, and oh so good. I particularly recommend the wonton soup. Also the gyoza are very good. The sushi is mediocre. Stick to the noodles.

    1. I sometimes have lunch at Ma Soba on Cambridge St. in Boston (not to be confused with the Ma Soba in Cambridge). I find it to be an enjoyable experience. The decor is clean, modern, and stylish (in a minimalist sort of way). The food is good... perhaps a bit more expensive than other Asian eateries.

      1. I'd have to give it a thumbs up. I ate there many a night as a student at Harvard and one of my roommates actually worked there. I would also stick to the noodles. Although the food might not be the most authentic, it is still quite good and extremely varied.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Hilary

          I think a couple of folks think I'm referring to the one in Cambridge...This one, I believe, is unrelated. It's on Beacon Hill and is a bit more upscale than the one in Harvard Sq.

          1. re: gracie

            Actually, the one in Harvard Square has gone out of business.

            As for the Beacon Hill one, the atmosphere's quite nice and they have good Asian fusion entrees in the $12-20ish range. The sushi is quite good, though more expensive than comparable places around town (I think the spicy tuna maki was in the range of $6 or so).

            You'll have a good meal, though I don't think it compares with top Boston Japanese places (Oishii, etc.).

        2. yep, I read the post that said Ma Soba in Harvard Sq
          is now closed.

          here's why I'm reviewing it: I think it sucked.

          I don't want to offend anybody who liked it, but I
          want to make this site more useful to you and me.

          People's tastes differ, and that's fine. But you
          can't recommend places to me and vice versa if we
          use the same words to mean different things.

          Ma Soba served the blandest most generic form of
          "pan-asian" food imaginable, blander and less
          memorable than the wretched Fire and Ice in Harvard

          Now, I'm the guy who thinks Taiwan Cafe is not all
          that great. It's good, and it serves a lot of
          authenticity, but it's too heavy handed. it's a
          "stick to the ribs" sort of place, but with strong
          strange (by American tastes) flavors that make it
          at least interesting.
          Ma Soba Harv Sq. is the opposite. Bland watered
          down toothless food: a waste of time. I'd rather
          be hungrier for my next meal.
          The point of this is that if you read other
          recommendations I make you might have a chance
          of understanding what they mean, and if there are
          any others who think the way I do they might find
          it useful in distinguishing other restaurants here.

          9 Replies
          1. re: supersnob

            Supersnob, I have to agree w/you about ma soba in Hvd.Sq...I've never had a poorer excuse of packaged tasting, oversalted broth on my noodles(soba is my choice..), but while you were ranking on Taiwan Cafe, I noticed before that you had only mentioned going there once...It's entirely possible to get a heavy, rather ordinary meal there as it is in any Chinese-cuisined restaurant, if you just aim for your "norm"..Perhaps this is what happened? There are certainly lots of non-ribsticking dishes that you seem to have missed..

            1. re: galleygirl

              galleygirl, if I need someone to keep track of every
              little thing I say and who'll harass me with a foolish
              accountablity, I need only call my GF. No, I come
              to get away from it all, to have an easy breezy time
              of it... that's 1.

              2. I was not rankin' on Taiwan Cafe. That was mild
              praise by my standards. If you want rankin', see what
              I had to say about Morton's.

              3. I am wide open not only to the possibility that I
              experienced a Monte Carlo strikeout on the TC menu,
              but that perhaps my tastebuds were asleep at the wheel.
              It can happen. But, I somewhat doubt it because...

              4. There were 6 of us and we ordered many many things
              from here and there on the menu

              5. I know of very few restaurants that *dramatically*
              change their complete style of cooking from shift to
              shift in the kitchen. Certainly, it's imaginable, but
              in reality it doesn't happen that much. Individual
              dishes can vary, freshness, etc., but generally the
              "taste" you get from a selection will be duplicated.

              6. I'm quite experienced with Chinese foods. I think
              there is a depressing tendency among Chinese
              restauranteurs to hit a lot of the bass notes in the
              repetoire. the food at TC tasted like food I've had
              before, meaning, it seemed "right". But I prefer a
              lighter style of cooking.

              I'll definitely be eating there again, so I'll keep
              you posted...

              1. re: supersnob

                Yikes, I don't think she was "keeping track of every little thing you say, etc.", just trying to sway you a little more to her way of thinking about her favorite restaurant. And if the "big dog" were here, he'd point out that subject titles aren't supposed to be changed.

                1. re: Joanie

                  I intended what I wrote to sound so absurd that it
                  would be unmistakably facetious. Of course that sort
                  of thing often doesn't work online, so, my apologies
                  I did go on to answer the question seriously.

                  I believe the instructions say that the subject line
                  should only change if the topic really changes.
                  It annoys me when I'm trying to read about something
                  and people are talking about something else.
                  of course, since I didn't give any useful info about
                  TC, I suppose I did choose a lousy new subject line.
                  I've remedied that, though.

                  But if people are going to start beefing about "site"
                  issues.... oh, don't get me started.

                2. re: supersnob

                  Whoa, deal with your GF stuff on your own; lighten up,I was just trying to help you have a better meal at the Taiwan Cafe...
                  1) You haven't posted THAT much,and one of your first happened to be about one of my favorite restaurants. It's not foolish accountability; we keep track of what people say to learn their "food style", to see if their taste jibes with our own..Some people's recommendations, I'll go right out and try. Others, I won't bother with.

                  2) You never said there were 6 of you, or WHAT you ate...

                  3) It's not that the restaurant dramatically changes their cooking from shift to shift, it's that you might have chosen dishes that you like, but had nothing to do with the specialities of the house...

                  4) Surprisingly enough, I HAVE had a lot of experience with Chinese food, too. Yeah, I've eaten in a lot of provinces in China, too...It still doesn't make my opinion any more valid than anyone else's..They're OPINIONS. I've learned more about food hearing other people talk about what THEY ate, esp. on the SF board,and what to order from the various regions. And when I've eaten with my very American friends at TC, I've had mediocre meals...When I've eaten with people who were willing to take more of a chance, I've had better meals...Heavy food is NOT my style..You can get both at TC, depending on what you order....

                  I was actually trying to see if there was a way your experience at the Taiwan Cafe could have been better.That's what this board is about.

                  1. re: galleygirl

                    we agree almost completely.

                    I already tried to atone in my response to Joanie:
                    I didn't mean for the teasing opening to my comment
                    to be taken seriously. it was, my bad, sorry. Joke
                    backfired, sorry. I hope it's not that big a deal.

                    The rest of my post was quite serious and took you
                    quite seriously. that's good, I hope.

                    eating all over china does too make somebody's opinion
                    more valid on some dimensions. Not the end-all, but...
                    I think it's great that you've been too.
                    I think my post directly recognized that you were
                    trying to help (and I thank you for that, and I enjoy
                    quite a few of your posts) and I quite directly left
                    open the possibility that I was wrong.

                    My original post about TC said that I like the food.
                    I simply tried to add the, what I consider useful,
                    info that on the scale of light to heavy, I found it
                    heavy. On the scale of seasoning, I found it highly
                    seasoned. I liked it, I liked it, I liked it. I don't
                    think heavy is necessarily a bad thing, but it is
                    when it's not what you are looking for.

                    But surely you'll agree with me that I shouldn't
                    talk about it any more without going there again :)
                    so I won't.

                    one more little thing about calibrating to my advice.
                    I recently recommended Hi Rise bakery. They serve
                    sandwiches, that's a light meal. But given that it's
                    a light meal, my comment was that it was a little
                    heavier than need be because they fry-toast the bread.
                    I'm just trying to be helpful. I wouldn't bother
                    recommending a place that I thought wasn't worthwhile
                    and I try to point out who might be disappointed. Me,
                    I wish other people would do the same, but I guess I'm
                    off on my own on this... and probably a few other

                    1. re: supersnob

                      I had my first meal at the Taiwan Cafe and was bowled over just by the sheer variety of different foods and the speed at which they arrived at the table, very hot and fresh tasting. There were only two of us, so we overordered a bit, just to get a spread of tastes. The meal:

                      Sticky Rice Sausage: I love sticky rice in almost anything and this was a tasty way to serve it, rice soaked in some kind of meaty dark liquid, with some small flecks of meat and peanuts. Kind of an Asian Boudin Blanc.

                      Minced Pork in Tofu Silk: This one tagged me, and reminded me yet again that I need to remember Benadryl when I go venturing into Chinatown. A very finely ground pork mix, wrapped in deeply browned tofu, it tasted wonderful, but my allergies reacted in such a way to make me fairly certain they'd tossed some fish into the mix when grinding the meat. I drank a lot of water through the rest of the meal.

                      Mustard Greens with Fresh Tofu and Edamae: Wonderful in every way. The tofu was vastly different than we'd expected, mixed in noodle-like strips with the greens and soybeans.

                      Beer-Basted Duck: Tasty, but as with most "wet" duck dishes, the skin was so soggy as to be a waste unless you really like your fat in the drippy slimy format. The sauce was terrific, a strong beer taste without the alcohol. Like a lot of Chinatown duck dishes, they essentially toss the entire duck through a bandsaw, so there are lots and lots of little bones to navigate to get all the meat. Don't order this one on a first date.

                      All in all, highly recommended. Anyone try the duck tongue dishes?


                      1. re: Bricoleur

                        I totally agree on that Tofu Skin and edamae dish---I think it's a bellweather dish for TC, one I mention to friends when I'm trying to explain what a unique place it is...Try the Taiwan Style soy sauce duck next time, from what I could see, not quite as slimey...

                        1. re: galleygirl

                          I've had both the beer-braised and the soy sauce duck and from what I remember they are both pretty much the same level of "slimyness." (Maybe the beer-braised one was saucier/soupier than the soy sauce one? Can't remember exactly, but that might be a contributing factor.) For those who haven't had it, I wouldn't really describe them as slimy though, just stewed so the skin isn't crisp like in other preparations. However, my b.f. is usually a huge fan of the crispy-skinned kind of duck, so when he wanted to order one of these I warned him that it was stewed. He tried it anyway and thought it was great. Both the soy and beer versions add a strong (but not overpowering since duck is very flavorful) complement to the duck meat. Yummm...