where to go for birthday dinner: PHO 99, PHO YAN, FULOON, or CHILLI GARDEN?
the guest of honor loves authentic asian. spice, duck, pork (especially braised pork dishes and pork belly), soup, and the unusual are favorites. dining companions are a tad adventurous, but mostly enjoy the comfort of americanized chinese and the like. no seafood fans. atmosphere and price are irrelevant
comments, suggestions, and opinions are appreciated. particularly by those that have dined at the aforementioned restaurants. many thanks!
Friends and I recently had dinner at Chilli Garden (Medford) and were really wowed. There was a braised pork dish with bamboo shoots that was just amazing. There are two menus -- Sichuan and Cantonese -- so everyone's tastes can be accomodated.
Have yet to eat at Fuloon. At Chilli Garden half the menu is Chinese-American ("for American taste," I was informed); on the Sichuan side the double-cooked pork is indeed belly (a more austere version than elsewhere, I like it). They have home-cured bacon with leeks; dried mushroom preps; rabbit; and a spicy braised chicken, among less-common dishes. (Gretchen--was that the aromatic pork ribs? Yet to try it.) They also have beer & wine. Menu at http://www.chilli-garden.com/
Pho 99 has a more extensive Vietnamese menu than Pho Yan, which has a lot of Chinese-American on the menu (can't remember whether Pho 99 has that or not). Neither has wowed me but they are great to have in the neighborhood.
I would add Anise in Kendall Square to your list of potentials. It has gotten some mixed reviews, but I think if you are looking for the unusual, you cannot beat this place.
My man and I have been to Chili Garden 4 or 5 times with mixed experiences. It can be great, and it can be just ok. Once we had a meal where my mouth was numb and my tastebuds dead for the remainder of the night due to the sichuan pepper effect. Really not what I was looking for. Definitely a great variety of dishes from tame to unusual. I am wary of the pepper problem though - if it's not to your taste or overdone, it's pretty awful.
I really, really like Fuloon's food but we always get delivery, so I can't comment on what service is like when eating in. They have a great selection of chinese specialties that are very unusual and usually delicious. Only down side is that it can be a tad greasy.
Pho 99 is great. Good variety of soups. I ordered one which featured beef and pork leg, and it came with a pig's foot, no "leg" in sight (good, though). It can be an adventure.
I think Pho Yan is owned by the pho 99 people, but not sure. Decent food, but I think the menu may be reduced a bit from Pho 99's? I've only been there once, shortly after it opened. Had a great(though standard) vermicelli bowl.
Since the guest of honor is into authentic asian but there are those who like the americanized chinese, I personally would pick Fuloon. The chef's specialties would satisfy the adventurous, but they have pretty standard choices too.
I would suggest Sichuan Garden in Woburn. The place is very nice and if you have a large group you can reserve one of the small rooms for your party. The restuarnt is in an old colonial house and has nice atmosphere compared to most Chinese places. The food is also very good and quite authentic Sichuan style food. They have Chinese menu that has items on it that are not on the regular menu. I have taken many Asians to this place because it is relatively close to my work place and they have all seemed to enjoy the authenticness of the food. Before this place openned I always went to Chilli Garden but I definitely think Sichuan garden is better.