MuLan dumplings - YUM!
Tried MuLan for the first time and had a hit and miss experience. I may have ordered badly. I'm pretty new to Taiwanese/Chinese non-pupu platter junk and I'm exploring and figuring out my preferences.
Got the pork and leek dumplings. So flippin' good!!! I must try more dumplings pronto! I devoured these.
Also got the scallion pancakes and salty crispy chicken. As I mentioned I have zero expertise in this food realm but I wasn't thrilled about the scallion pancakes. While I really liked the texture I found them to lack scallions. Should they be bursting with scallion goodness? The chicken was not my thing at all. I can't put my finger on what my problem was but I didn't enjoy the fried basil with it and I thought the chicken was really dry. The whole dish was really dry but maybe that's the point?
The dumplings were so fantastic and I'll be ordering again soon. Any recs for authentic spicy dishes would be great. I read that folks have tried the pumpkin noodles but I didn't see them on the menu and I'm really interested to check this out.
I saw that I could buy in bulk... Terrifying! I think I would seriously pig out and they would be gone instantly. I think they have the potential to be for me what donuts are for Homer Simpson. Have you tried any of the others? I also think I need to try the dumplings at Wangs. I recently tried Zoe's dumplings but the MuLan ones are far superior.
I like Wang's dumplings just a little bit better -- the skins are thinner. But I really enjoy the rest of the food at Mulan. That chicken dish is one of my favorites in town ... I've never known it to be dry but it certainly isn't saucy, as it's a dry fried dish.
I love the pork and leeks rolled in pancakes. I've ogled other people's plates and really like the look of the hot pot/casseroles going by.
My recommendation for "authentic spicy dishes" would be to go to another restaurant -- Anise is the closest to MuLan, is pretty good and has the advantage of round-eye-friendly menus (no mastery of Mandarin required, and the wait staff are helpful in explaining what's what). Be prepared to pay a bit more for what you get, and not necessarily to get the authentic Real Deal, but a good way to do it if you don't have a tour guide.
Alternately, the other decent places in town for spicy stuff are Sichuan Garden in Brookline Village; Szechwan Bay in Teele Square (though you'll need to ask the chef to deliver the goods if you want real four-alarm spice); Anise and Chilli Garden in Medford Center; Zoe's on the Somerville/Cambridge border and in Brookline Village (though latter is wildly inconsistent). Fave dishes include chili pepper chicken (la4-zi3 ji1-ding1; Sichuan Garden has a Chengdu variant on this that is one of the most lethal things I've ever eaten), "boiled beef" (shui3zhu3 niu3rou4), boiled in chicken broth with lots of chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns which give a lovely numbing sensation as your tongue burns off -- quite a high when the balance is right; ma2-po1 dou4-fu3 (which many restaurants have, but only a select few do authentically. Many are fond of a dish called double-cooked pork (hui2guo3 rou4) though this dish is a little fatty for my taste.
For the best Peking ravioli in town, my recs are Qingdao Garden in North Cambridge, MuLan in Kendall Square; Beijing Star in Waltham. These guys get right the basics of a skin strong enough to not fall apart when steamed or boiled but not so thick as to be the focus of the dish, and a tasty juicy filling. Qingdao Garden also does a Shandong variant of the potsticker, which is presented as an open-mouthed dumpling that is pan fried. Yum. Honorable mention to Sichuan Garden for a Sichuanese variant called chao-shou which is wonton-like and served up in a divine spicy-salty-numbing sauce. Oh, and Wing's Kitchen in Chinatown for the best xie-fen xiao-long bao (Shanghai style soup dumplings, and yes, I prefer Wing's to Shanghai Gate in Allston and Taiwan Cafe in Chinatown).
Wang's gets a lot of props in this group; the one time I ate there, the dumplings were soggy, the skins had disintegrated and it seemed like someone had done an astonishingly bad job of thawing dumplings that had been frozen, thawed and refrozen one time too many. It's far enough out of my way that I haven't felt inclined to give them a second chance.
To add to the places for "authentic spicy dishes" -- I'd also consider Fuloon in Malden, exceptional dry wok cooking, and further afield Sichuan Gourmet in Framingham (haven't been to the other branch).
BTW, the open-mouth potsticker is a Tianjin variant, most Shandong ones are closed. Taiwan cafe makes a fairly decent version of these, althogh the filling has shrimp and cabbage, and might be more of a Southern Chinese influence.
Haven't had the xiao long bao at New Shanghai, but the shen jian bao, a pan-fried dumping filled with minced pork, is very good. I've never been particularly fond of the xiao long bao at Taiwan Cafe, but quite like the ones at Wing's.