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Aug 8, 2006 11:58 AM

Cambridge Allston Updates?

I immersed myself in our new software looking to research lunch/supper (as opposed to 'Dinner') possibilities.

So far, have come up with:
--Reef Cafe
--Dok Bua. (what's best for this Lotus Of Siam/Issan afficianado?)
--Shanghai Gate (Garden?) (what's best?)
--Color, homestyle Korean, Korean fried chicken

Are these all still good? Would Dok Bua deliver to hotel (see below)? Is the menu online? How good is Aneka Rasa--is it exc?

I guess fried clams are out of the question absent a CH convoy to Essex Seafood. Sigh.

Could not find any consensus on exc. Portuguese. Anyone?

I've a couple of lunches and suppers this week, while headquartered at the D'tree Guest Suites 400 Soldiers Blvd in Allston bouncing over to the Royal Sonesta on conference days...on foot, hotel shuttle, by cab, and by bus. Galleygirl? Limster?

PS--closest decent b'fast near this hotel?

Culled from research:
Galleygirl: "Just remember, it's Victoria Seafood, not Victoria Cafe! So, of course, if you stick to the seafood, and specials, you'll do better. Their twin lobster with ginger and scallion, or however you choose it, is equal to Peach Farms', at a smaller price...they do very good stuff with greens and crab, conch and veggies, and anything on the special menu. Check the tanks. Ignore the clay pots, they do, indeed, suck..."

more galleygirl re Dok Bua 411 Harvard St., Brookline. From 3 years ago...Squid Salad, off menu Thai Seafood soup, "And speaking of "HOT", that's how we ordered everything, Thai Spicy...I've been told to add, "Pet,pet", the Thai thanslation...It must be working; everytime I leave, the glow follows me for hours, as I plan my next visit."

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  1. The opinions I've already given on these things in the past year:

    1. Dok Bua is, at best, totally inconsistent. It's a fun neighborhood place, and I'd recommend it if you're craving Thai, but don't go and expect to have an excellent dining experience (though you will, if you order well and are lucky).

    2. Victoria Seafood is antithetical to the spirit of HK food. The flavors are not fresh, and the dishes are not prepared with care. I can't comment on the famous lobster special, but steamed fish, hot pots, and stir-fried dishes (including eggplant, vegetables, and meat dishes) are off-tasting and poorly seasoned. I disagree that they do "very good stuff" with greens: a simple plate of choi was undercooked and entirely unsalted, kind of like it was fished out of a cart at dim sum. If you order this in a seafood restaurant it should be well-prepared with garlic and oyster sauce or MSG.

    3. Shanghai Gate is very good, and I think it's gotten better since it opened. I find their Lion's Head meatball to be overly vinegary and dry, but otherwise, everything I've had there was very good.

    4. If you're walking over in the Cambridge direction, there's at least one very good storefront. Just walk up Western Av.

    5. Aneka Rasa has a satay that is like a Platonic ideal of satay. It seems to have a lot of fans on this board.

    6. Very good fried clams (big bellies) and even better scallops can be had at Celebrity on Mt Auburn St in Watertown.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Luther

      Luther...exc current feedback. To the extent possible, I've gone back and read your prior posts on this area. Our tastes seem to match up well.

      Added to list: Brookline Turkish Family Restaurant on the basis of this recent post from Limster

      Deleted from list for this short visit: Dok Bua, Victoria.

      re Aneka Rasa: My favorites from this cuisine are String Beans or Okra Belacan (fermented shrimp paste), Lemon Grass Seafood Soup, Nasi Lemak (coconut rice, hard boiled egg, dried anchovies etc), Ong Choi ('straw veg') Belacan, Roti Canai, Satay of course. How does Aneka Rasa stack up in these areas?

      1. re: Luther

        Celebrity. My gosh I live right there and have never even considered eating there... will have to give it a whirl.

        1. re: StriperGuy

          I was thinking the same thing as I only ever really saw people eating ice cream there.

          1. re: Dax

            Back in the early 70's it was a Dairy Joy. I don't know if they were related to the one in Weston but they did feature clams.

          2. re: StriperGuy

            I, too, live right in Coolidge Sq. & will definitely check out the clams. I thought it was only ice cream as well.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              Definitely! I lived right around the corner in my early childhood. The soft serve is great (especially the javaberry and creamsicle), and the food is of really high quality (good ingredients). The fries and rings are too skinny but otherwise good.

              The hamburger is fresh-ground from big cryo-vac'd chunks of beef. They grind it coarsely, which is how I like to do it at home in my food processor. Unfortunately, they don't salt the meat, and I can't get them to cook me a real rare burger. The burgers are fresh and cheap, though. Tip: try putting some of their cocktail sauce on a burger.

              I can't remember the last time I had the pizza but it does actually look pretty good (NY-style) whenever I see someone else eating some.

              1. re: Luther

                I do get the amazing soft serve there sometimes.

                Little known Celebrity tidbit. They used to carry Richardson's Ice cream but got into a bit of a feud with Richardson's. The Celebrity guy did not order vanilla from Richardson's (cause he had the soft serve and limitted space in the scoop freezer.) Finally Richardson's said you have to buy our vanilla or we won't sell to you.

                The celebrity guy said fine, and now carries (eh) Hood Ice Cream. So sad, Richardsons in Watertown would rock. I have for years toyed with trying to get them to talk again.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  Interesting story. I'm glad I never tried the scoop ice cream.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    So I had to stop for at Celebrity on my way home last night. What a surprise of menu offerings: fried seafood, burgers, pizza, subs + ice cream. Really wanted a cone of soft-serve, but was there for the whole fried clams. $13.07(inclds tax) for a sm($12.45)al la carte.gets you an ample serving of tasty, small full-body clams in about 5"(very quiet at 5:45). Can't imagine the size of a large order $30.45 - ?a gallon bucket! Batter was light, crispy, tempura-like, but totally lacked salt. For me, this was probably a good thing, so I could regulate it & not have to toss the whole order cuz of oversalting. Tartar sauce tasted like they used Miracle Whip & sweet relish vs. mayo & dill, so was too sweet for my taste. Since I'd dashed home w/my prize, I quickly whipped up my own tart version before the clams cooled, accompanied by a cold one. Will be back soon to sample other items.

            2. Gonna have to disagree with you on the Dok Bua statements.

              I have yet to have anything other than great chow from there.

              Yesterday, in fact, was the most recent...Ordered ...

              - Fresh spring rolls (like the ubiquitous ones from Pho Pasteur) - they were fine - a good, thick peanut sauce with lots of chopped nuts made this better than typical.

              - Pad thai with crispy chicken - breaded and fried choice dark meat with abundance of noodles, asked for medium spicy - got medium spicy - a nice peppery bite. I ate some more for breakfast this morning.

              - Duck larb - the proportions of lime / cilantro / onion / spice were just right - my DC had never had it before, and kept stealing from my plate! A new convert.

              - Spicy catfish - abundant chunks of deep-fried fish in a basil-laced sauce that was complexly spiced. Addictive.

              Luther - where are your fave Thai places, if not the Dok?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                I will confess that I've never been to a Thai place that really wowed me (except maybe 1 or 2 trips to Dok Bua). I do like Rod Dee as well. I loathe the bland "stir fry and noodles in an elegant atmosphere" Thai places that seem to be everywhere.

              2. I also don't appreciate the bland noodles with white tablecloths! Blech!

                I confess that I really like the funky environs at the Dok. I called the style Happy Bladerunner. ;)

                1. The report:

                  1. Rami's. Not very good falafel--too much flour, very small balls with high surface/mass ratio soaked up a lot of the OLD fryer oil, resulting in a not very good taste. Good turkey shwarma. Ok hummes, mediocre baba ghanouj. Cold, factory made pita. Very clean place, though, which was impressive. Suggest anyone who likes this falafel to try Zuni Cafe, 50th and 10th Ave in NYC.

                  2. Kupel's Bagels. Good pumpernickel bagels, boiled, cooked on a stone.

                  3. East Coast Grill. Not my choice. But as we approached the door at O Cantinho, it became apparent that they were closed for vacation. As are a great many other Portuguese places in Cambridge just now. So East Coast Grill it was, picked by my hosts who up until that point had been humoring me. BBQ brisket had the smoke taste right, but the consistency of potted meat. Good beans. Forgettable cornbread (27 years in ATL, you get to learn about cornbread). The spit roasted chicken was a real winner--flavorful, moist, would return for this. Good fried green tomatoes. Good draft beer selection. Just about all the fish was not local and had frequent flyer miles, so it did not interest me. What didn't have air miles had sweet preparations. Ditto--of no interest.

                  4. Christina's (sp?) Ice Cream. Exc! And great quality flavorings, so unusual these days. For my money, much better than Toscanini's. Flame ON...

                  5. Courthouse (ok, this was a Cambridge trip, mostly). The little restaurant adjacent to the fish market. Second visit, this time was within walking distance of the Royal Sonesta where the conference was. Surprisingly good 'Native' i.e. whole fried clams. Not big bellies, but fresh and whole. Ok rings. Decent fried fish.

                  6. Midwest Grill. Aneka Rasa was too busy to deliver. VG Sirloin and Lamb. They use Sirloin Top Butt, which has some tough parts and some good parts. The tough parts they marinate with a lot of garlic. Avoid. Linguica ok, Kielbasi like from the supermarket, bacon wrapped chicken dry, chicken hearts pretty good. Hot/cold buffets--nothing remarkable. But for $22.95 a pretty good value for the two good meats, chicken hearts, salad and starches. More Christina's ice cream (second night running) after.

                  Missed Shanghai Gate, sigh. I like Shanghai food. Missed Brookline Family restaurant. Ditto Turkish food. No real highlights, but no downers either. My wife is pissed about the ice cream--her favorite food.

                  Thanks to all for the updates.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Steve Drucker

                    Thank you, I really appreciate the update -- always great to get an outside opinion on local favourites too. It's always a split on opinion on Christina's vs Toscannini's; I love them both, but for different reasons (Christina's - flavours; Toscannini's - texture).

                    1. re: limster

                      Finally got to Shanghai Gate.

                      Generally toned down food. Soup dumplings had thick skins, tasteless broth. Scallion pancake very greasy. Sliced fish and mushroom, a bland dish ordered for balance, was unexceptional. String Beans In Spicy Garlic Sauce neither garlic laden nor spicy. Ma Po Tofu had the basic spice profile but was tame to fault.


                      On a bright note, produce shopping at Russo's was terrific! Not to mention the navigational challenge of journeying from West Washington St in West Newton to River St in Watertown!

                      1. re: Steve Drucker

                        Boy, I disagree with so many opinions in this thread. I think Rami's little falafel balls are wonderful burst of flavors in the pita, and are delicious with their hot sauce. Shanghai Gate is definitely tame, especially compared to Szechuan, but the food is fresh and delicately spiced--I think it's great. I think Toscanini's is substantially better than Christina's.

                        As for Dok Bua, I agree it's inconsistent (last time I went the rice in my warm dessert was cold and clumpy), and it's not as good Thai as top Thai restaurants in some other cities(e.g. Los Angeles), but it's still quite good.

                        1. re: Steve Drucker

                          Many thanks for the update -- haven't had any xiao long bao in the area that compares with the excellent ones I had a few years ago at Su Hong in Palo Alto, but I remember Wing's Kitchen's version as decent. I've been sticking to shen jian bao lately.

                          I think you'll probably have better luck with the Shanghainese main dishes at Shanghai Gate, rather than their interpretations of Sichuan (Ma po tofu, string beans in spicy garlic) or NE Chinese (scallion pancake). I liked their fish with wine lees in the past, and dishes like kaofu, vegetables with gluten puffs, lion's head meatballs have been good. But I haven't been in a while, and am wondering if they've gone downhill because the owners are spending more time at New Shanghai, their other restaurant.

                    2. Thanks, this is good to know. I'm only an occasional BOS visitor.

                      We've had a pretty good Shanghainese run here in ATL the last few years, and as a result have become a little spoiled. That the cuisine is very homestyle makes it very much a favorite.