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Taiwan Cafe, Chinatown, Boston (longish)

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Had dinner at Taiwan Cafe last night. (You can tell from the places that I've chowed at that I've been taking notes from this board.) This is yet another place where the English name is completely different from the Chinese version (in Chinese it's "Flavors of the Sea" -- perhaps a sign that I ought to try the seafood next).

The menu does indeed offer a fair amount of Taiwanese cooking (which itself evolved from the mixture of different regional Chinese styles brought there by Nationalists from all over China when they fled the mainland). Lots of good little eats on the appetizer/snack section: spotted old Taiwanese favorites like turnip cake, garlic seaweed, porridge with yams, several varieties of steamed dumplings. Couple of interesting things in Chinese on the walls, e.g. snails, salt and pepper soft shell crab, a seafood hotpot (with or without lobster). The entree dishes shared family style looked pretty good and hearty, heavy with homecooking allure.

Thanks to sis' suggestion, I got the house special pork chop platter which was a serious amount of chow that nearly overwhelmed the plate (and belly). Two huge bread pork cutlets dominate. Beneath the coarse crispy batter that had a lot of sweet notes, one cutlet seemed to be made with roasted pork (char siew/cha shao), while the other was a bone in chop.

On the side, stir fried string beans and sour pickled greens (mei cai). Back home in Singapore, rice is often moistened by some gravy from a dish of fatty pork (thick cut bacon) stewed in soy sauce. They do that here too. The stuff from the stew is obvious -- a few sweet and smooth chunks of pork fat, a scattering of minced pork and a hard boiled egg that's acquired some dark salty flavors from long immersion in the gravy. Rich lard dishes sometimes convey a savory sweetness to me that speaks beyond the sugar content -- this sauce is one example.

Pretty good stuff, with portions that can challenge formidable German-sized servings, a remarkable deal, since that's only $4.50.

Tried the version with the chicken cutlet today for lunch (working slowly down the rice/noodle section), it's fine, but the firm chicken breast cutlet is nowhere as good as the pork cutlet. Noodles next, then the appetizers for brunch.......

And before I forget...snagged a very good egg tart for dessert at Ho Yuen (thanks galleygirl). Rich eggy flavor in the silky custard...good flaky crust. I think that's where my sister gets them.

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    David Pearlman

    Glad you like it. It's one of the two places I eat at regularly in Boston, where I spend about four days a month. Next time try the crab with ginger and scallion. My wife lived in Hong Kong for a while and says Taiwan Cafe does it better than anywhere in HK. Also check out the various forms of bean curd, which are often part of meat based dishes. Also try the fish ball soup; the fish balls would be ordinary except that they come stuffed with marinated crab, making them quite a treat.

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    1. re: David Pearlman

      Thanks for the lovely suggestions. The stuffed fishballs sounds like a typical Foochow-ish dish where the fishballs are often stuffed with meat, usually pork. Will have to try that next time!

    2. Jusat for a little history, Taiwan Cafe was the scene of the first chowdinner...or lunch. I learned of the place on this board and it's a real favorite around here. The eggplant with basil is one of the best dishes around.