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Aug 13, 2006 03:06 PM

Zoe's Brookline

Still in mourning for the loss of New Taste of Asia! The chef, Xiao Long, was invited to participate in the new venture at the former Shalom Hunan, but declined, darn it!

So I went to Zoe's yesterday for lunch, and was very pleased. A dish off the menu but recommended by the owner and his wife, a Hunan specialty that they described as a sort of casserole, but it came on a plate; chopped smoked chicken with peppers and leeks, and a slightly tangy spicy "sauce" (jus really). Fantastic! I also managed to get lamb with cumin, a really nice dish of bright fresh cilantro topped with stir fried lamb slices. We also ordered crispy fish with chilies. This was funny as it came out in a huge bowl and the waitress started to serve it like soup, into small bowls. I asked her if she was sure it was soup and she said yes, then went to ask. I could tell that in fact the fish, along with a hundred or so dried red peppers and some bean sprouts, was sitting in a huge bowl full of oil! Ha. We never did figure out if that's what they intended, and if so, what a waste of oil, but the fish, once "fished out" of the bowl and drained, was very tasty.

I also heard that they intend to add more Hunan specialties to the menu, though for now the "real" Chinese food is listed on pages titled "Szechuan" and "North-South" (don't know what that means).
I'd like to hear from others on this as it definitely has a lot of potential and is a welcome addition to the area.

By the way, they also had a $6.95 buffet, which I didn't even look at but if you're after that kind of thing the place will answer as well.

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  1. Hey that's the fish dish I had, too...A little strange that oil, but I chalked it up to Sichuan style...Maybe next time I'll get fish fillets in Nappan cabbage and chili sauce, and see how they do with that...

    1 Reply
    1. re: galleygirl

      I was bright red, my eyes were tearing, and sweat was dripping down my face; and that was just from trying to order! I tell ya, the communication gulf in this place is the widest I've seen.

      In an effort to get spicy fish that were NOT swimming in oil, we ended up going back and forth over about 5 different menu options, and ended up getting the SAME dish I got last time...This time, however, they actually did it with less oil, as I had requested, and it was the same fish, silken tofu and bean sprouts, in a broth with only a tiny bit of oil, garlic, and a million chilies. Very good, actually, but I was really looking for a chili sauce. there seemed to be a fish fillets with tofu, or tofu blossoms, as it's listed on another part of the menu, that looked easier to eat, but still minus the red sauce I usually like with nappa cabbage...

      TC got boneless spareribs, which he loved, and we shared a dish of cold tofu skin stuffed with vegetables, which was one of my favorite versions ever of this dish- lots of sprouts, carrot and ginger slivers in the filling.

      We tried to have the page of specials from the old Zoe's translated, because they only had it in Chinese, but this was totally outside the realm of possibility ...Anyone here have it transated?

      Liquor licence still hasn't been transferred...

    2. I ate there with my wife and a friend over the weekend. We were offered that same smoky Hunan chicken dish. The waitress explained to me in Mandarin that the thing is on the "Chinese language menu" but that said menu hasn't been printed yet. I did not recognize the name of the dish, and could not read her handwriting on the check, except for the first character "tu - ??? - ji" (earth - ??? - chicken). The chicken chunks unfortunately were still loaded with bone chunks and gristle, a typical result when you hack at a chicken with a cleaver without deboning it first, and one that reminded me not so fondly of many meals in Changsha, Hunan from my past. However, gristle aside, the flavor was a very pleasant surprise -- smoky almost to the borderline of southern BBQ, but those peppers are spicy la jiao peppers, unseeded on my plate, and give the dish quite a kick!

      The cumin lamb was also excellent in my serving -- cumin possibly even with caraway seeds? -- and flavorful without being excessively spicy (my wife isn't so fond of the unadulterated heat). The mapo doufu was something of a disappointment -- not enough black bean flavor or Sichuan peppercorn for my taste -- which makes it all the more tantalizing that Xiao Long was offered a job here.

      The "North-South" on the menu appears to basically translate roughly into a collection of northern/Beijing style dishes and a collection of Shanghai/Yangzi delta style dishes. I was really psyched for some eel (which gets done very nicely at Wing's in Chinatown), but unfortunately they were fresh out.

      So on the first trip, not the most divine Chinese food that I've had in years, and in some ways a similar mix of pleasing and disappointing that I remember from trips to Zoe's on the Cambridge/Somerville line. But it's good enough that I'll be back at some point.


      1. Is this Zoë's is a branch of the Zoë's on Beacon Street in Somerville?


        1 Reply
        1. We had the "crispy fish with chilis" at the Somerville location, and were as perplexed as you were about the big bowl of oil. I don't think we'd order it again, but it was a new experience, to say the least. And we also love that lamb with cumin. . .

          1. I was there this past weekend, and we somehow ended up getting
            the buffet. It was more than respectable, I'd say. Along with
            the more common chow foon and fried rice, they had pig's ear,
            tripe, and an interesting dumpling (along with a rather good
            um..gyoza, whatever it is called in Chinese). And, in addition
            to the buffet, they came around with a dim sum cart from which
            we got an interesting chicken in a very thick gravy-ish thing,
            a sticky rice with fruit cooked in, and a tapioca dumpling,
            filled w/red bean..

            Last weekend, I think, might've been the first buffet lunch?
            They seemed a bit disorganized, and each time I went back to
            the buffet there were new dishes added.