MuLan chowdown report
Overall: a good meal. I don’t think anybody was blown away, but I was pretty happy. Six of us ordered kind of randomly:
A tofu and shrimp dish that I think was the “Sauteed Shrimp with Chive and Bean Curd.” The tofu was cut in thin squares for a pasta-like effect. Nice in an understated sort of way, in a light sauce.
Smoked Pork with Leek: My personal favorite. Savory pork, leeks, shreds of sweet red pepper, small chunks of green chili for a respectable kick.
Fish Fillet in Dry Bean Sauce: A good-sized piece of moist fish with a thick coating of what I assume was ground toasted soybeans. Similar to the Shangri-La version but the coating was darker and more savory.
Eggplant with Basil: A nice rendition, not too oily, with a distinct anise flavor.
A pork dish that I remember as “Spicy Salty Pork”—was this the Crispy Spiced Pork from the “Deep Fried Dishes” section? A chunk of roast pork coated in lightly spiced salt and dunked in the deep fryer, then sliced thinly, is how I remember it. Very tasty.
A shredded beef and bamboo shoot combo that I didn’t catch the name of—was this the “Shredded Beef with Crispy Well Vegetable”? Mushrooms in there?? It arrived late and I don’t remember it all that clearly, except it was pretty good.
An order of Chinese squash w/mountain nagaimo and bamboo never arrived, but due to a miscommunication we had an extra meat dish, so the orderer decided not to press it.
It’s a big menu with a lot of interesting-looking dishes. Will be back.
MuLan Taiwanese Restaurant, 228 Broadway, Cambridge
I've ordered takeout from MuLan twice based on posts from this board. I have to say I'm not falling over myself with enthusiasm for their dumplings. They're certainly above average as dumplings go, but I don't think Qingdao Garden took a major hit, comparatively speaking. Flavor range is similar but more limited than at Qingdao Garden, and the skins at Qingdao strike me as just that bit less chewy.
Eel with sticky rice and gravy (O15; shanyu migao) - never had anything like this before. The eels are cooked, sort of come out looking like sardines with a brown sauce on top, rice is glutinous rice (nuo mi fan) darkened brown by a micro shrimp-and-soy based sauce. Not bad, but not what I was hoping for (which is the eel thing at Wing's) for flavor.
Sliced lamb with scallion (M10; congbao yangrou) - good, solid job with the lamb and the scallions.
Shredded pork with dry bean curd and baby chives (M34; jiuhuang xianggan rousi) - shreds of pork and pressed dried bean curd. Not bad, but a little bland in flavor and perhaps lacking a little salt?
smoked pork with leek (M32; suanmiao larou) - this is the one that chowhounders have been raving about. I did like the lotus root slices mixing up the texture, but both my wife and I were disappointed -- the "smoked pork" seemed more like sausage than anything else. Have had much better smoky flavor in the unidentified Hunan chicken thing at Zoe's, and much better "la-rou" at the St. Mark's Grand Sichuan in NYC (the latter was simply outstanding).
bean curd with spicy sauce (V1; jiachang doufu) - Chinese name translates as "home style bean curd." Don't ask me why I keep ordering this, I keep hoping somewhere along the way I'm going to come across some real home style cooking with this dish. Have never been impressed with it anywhere that I've eaten. These are triangles of bean curd, of the orange skin from slight crisping or deep frying, in a spicy sauce which is not bad, but not something to write poetry over.
soft bean curd with green mustard (xuecai mao doubaiye) - this is silken doufu with pickled mustard greens and some sort of softened bean - possibly soybeans? Astonishingly bland flavor, as though badly undersalted.
I may have to try that shrimp thing, but for the moment, Wing's, Sichuan Garden and Qingdao Garden remain the reigning Boston area champs as I continue to pine with the others for New Taste of Asia.
Aromatherapy, thanks for taking the time to write this up!
I definitely agree that while I wasn't blown away, it's nice to have another option in the area before a movie at the Kendall.
Hightlights for me included:
The eggplant and basil - the eggplant stood up well and I liked the anise flavoring.
Finding lotus in the smoked pork & leek dish - their crunch played off of the smooth leeks.
Being comforted by shrimp & bean curd, which I almost never am seeing as D is allergic to shrimp.
On the other hand, the fish filet's bean sauce could have been a touch crunchier, but overall the taste was good. Next time I would probably try the salted duck - they were out of it this time.
The shrimp with chive and bean curd is pure comfort food - a mildly spiced and pleasant dish.
The eggplant and basil is another veggie dish I would order again. Agreed - not too slimy and oily like so many other versions of this dish I have had have been.
The fish fillet with the dry bean sauce is delicious (is it served on a bed of cilantro?); however, I had the misfortune of biting into something REALLY hard and tough on the first serving of fish I had (scales or fins?). Obviously, that didn't stop me from eating that chunk of fish, nor did it stop me from helping myself to a second one. A tad on the salty side, but the dry bean crust was quite nice.
An added bonus - they have beer and wine, which I didn't expect. Nice to have a Sapporo with my meal.
re: a l i c e
The texture of the eggplant *was* very nice, a rich feeling soft chewiness rather than the slime eggplant too often is (I think asian varieties of eggplant are less prone to that in the first place though) and I really liked the flavor. The anise taste faded noticeably as it cooled off (or was that taste bud overload after so many dishes?) but those first bites were rich and redolent and wonderful. I also liked the thin tofu sheets in the shrimp dish - looked like rice noodles but with some unexpected (because of how they looked) extra body and chewiness. Very nice and yes, comfort food. A great thing to get someone who insists they hate all tofu to try. Was ecstatic to try to smoked pork after hearing it raved about here. I really liked that, including the nice mix of veggies it comes with - a nice dish of contrasts spiked with some intense flavor. Fish was beautifully moist and I kept nibbling at the leftover beans after it was gone. Probably the one I was most underimpressed with was the shredded beef, which I guess I expected to be more crunchy like a dry fried dish. Everything had the same texture and no taste in it really stood out.
re: MB fka MB
Well, Taiwanese is not my forte. But I thought everything was DAMNED good...except, I agree with Psora, the beef, which lacked oomph. But the two pork dishes and the cod were memorably delicious. And if I wasn't blown away, well, I was this close...Thanks for writing it up, Aromatherapy!