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Cambridge dinner for conservative Taiwanese in-laws?

Seven of my in-laws are going to be spending next Tuesday night in Cambridge, and I'm facing two problems: 1) I live in New York, so don't know the Boston restaurant scene; and 2) while my mother- and father-in-law are good eaters when it comes to Chinese food, they're health-conscious (she's diabetic) and culinarily conservative in the West.

Any ideas? Some serious Japanese? Easy-to-understand Argentine?

—Matt

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  1. For Japanese, your best bet is probably Blue Fin in the Porter Exchange. I'm not sure how "serious" it is, but the sushi is quite good and there are always lots of Japanese in there ordering all sorts of other stuff. It's not very formal or fancy, though. Seven people would be a big party but shouldn't be a problem on a Tuesday night; since they don't take reservations, I wouldn't try it on a Friday or Saturday.

    There's a very thread on the lone Argentine place (in Arlington). A quick search should turn it up.

    Would they be up for one of the "New American" places like Gargoyles, EVOO, The Blue Room, etc. These are a big step up in price and fanciness, but you ought to be able to find something healthy on any of these menus.

    1. With respect to the Blue Fin rec, it's a good place and I see they've done a nice renovation, but it is not a fancy place suitable to take in-laws, in my opinion.

      Frankly, you should play it safe - make reservations at Fugakyu in Brookline - it will not be too hard to mapquest the directions from whereever you're staying - valet park the car (check to make sure they valet on weeknights) or if not, there is plenty of off-meter parking in the neighborhood.

      There is a decent Chinese restaurant on Mass Ave. - Chang Sho - that is probably the fanciest setting of places of that genre in the area - I haven't been in a while, but the food should be adequate.

      1. Chang Sho is not exciting, but they do cater to an older crowd under a restricted diet. It is almost midway between Harvard and Porter Sq. and has a parking lot of its own. It sets a formal table, but is not too stuffy and they certainly can handle a party of seven plus. I know an older couple in that neighborhood who make it their kitchen away from home and they have a drug-store's worth of dietary restrictions that the restaurant happily accomodates.

        1 Reply
        1. re: VivreManger

          Chang Sho has (in my opinion) the best Chinese food in Cambridge. Definitely a good option for you.

        2. Thanks for the suggestions! Blue Fin sounds like a good possibility, but I think I'll stay away from Chang Sho—I somehow doubt they want Chinese food. That's always the tough thing, isn't it, when visitors want something different from home, but not necessarily THAT different.

          Anwyay, I'd love to hear more about these New Am places, though. How solid are they in terms of consistent quality? Are the in-laws going to flip out when they're served oyster-mushroom foam or rainbow emulsions? And how are the restos going to treat a moderately large group (7 ppl) who aren't ordering lots of wine?

          1 Reply
          1. re: worldmatt

            Based on what I know of Taiwan, your in-laws are not going to be excited about any Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant in Boston. My best friend, who is Taiwanese, loves Taiwan Cafe, but why would they want to come to the US to eat Taiwanese food? My hunch is that they also won't be that impressed by sushi, since I've heard sushi is very good in Taiwan. But if you want sushi and you want to be sure it's good, I'd second the Fugakyu recommendation.

            The Blue Room, which someone recommended, is big enough that they can accomodate 7 people without much fuss. The menu isn't too precious, but the food can be very, very good, and in my experience they've been very accomodating. I love EVOO too.

            If they, like beetlebug's parents, want to experience "New England," the Summer Shack (Fresh Pond) isn't a bad idea. Great Bay (not in Cambridge, but not far over the river) has good high-end seafood.

          2. Ah, thanks for the clarification. DavisSquare's recs of Gargoyle's, EVOO and the Blue Room are all perfectly fine, although I think EVOO is probably the least complicated of the three.

            The only foams around here come on the tops of our beer glasses, so low likelihood of freak-outs.

            1. While I'm no expert on Chinese food, I've read on Chowhound that Mulan at Kendall Square (in Cambridge by MIT) is Taiwanese and very good.

              1 Reply
              1. re: steinpilz

                i agree; mulan is really good taiwanese food. the one caveat is that if you are looking for someplace with a nice atmosphere/ambience, mulan is not it.

              2. I would avoid Chinese in general here. Even our best is unlikely to thrill Taiwanese palates. In Cambridge, depending on your price range, I would suggest Henrietta's Table, Craigie Street Bistro or Chez Henri. They all have good food, that is somewhat different without being way out and soemwhat upscale without being stuffy. Price range ~$30-40 per person. Also, they all offer healthier choices (especially Henrietta's).

                1. My parents sound very similar to their in-laws. When they come up, they don't want Chinese food. Instead, they want non-fried seafood, New England style. Specifically, they always want lobsters. And, they want to eat it in a restaurant. Unfortunately, Cambridge doesn't have great seafood options. My parents did love Jasper White's Seafood Shack at by the Alewife T station. But, we were there on an off night so it wasn't crowded and they got to eat lobster and have oysters on the half shell. Another option, which isn't as healthy, would be italian. Trattoria Pulcinella is great choice for Cambridge. Not a lot of red sauce or cheese (which my mom won't eat).

                  http://www.trattoriapulcinella.net/

                  I agree that EVOO and Blue Room would also be good choices.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: beetlebug

                    Weird, I thought East Coast Grill had some good seafood.

                  2. East Coast Grill does have the best seafood. But, I couldn't take my parents there because of the wait and the noise factor. As splendid as my meals have been at ECG, it has never been quiet, not even on an off night. My parents, mom especially, wanted "american" lobster and Summer Shack gave that to her as well as the pseudo picnic table "american" thing. I couldn't go wrong on a Tuesday night. Plus, it's close to my house and there is free parking. ECG would have been my personal choice though but sometimes I have to suck it up for the parents.

                    Edit: Sorry, I meant to reply to Dax, but I hit the wrong reply button.

                    1. I'll second beetlebug on ECG - NOT parental unit friendly. ;)

                      1. How about Royal East on Main Street? The owner is from Taiwan, and he has a really good rapport with many of the MIT parents that visit.