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Aug 25, 2007 07:45 AM

Qun Li is at Ginseng in Framingham???

According to the website of Ginseng in Framingham, Qun Li (of Rice Garden and New Taste of Asia fame) is now employed as their executive chef.

The menu on their website and the few newspaper reviews seem to indicate that Ginseng is a typical "pan-asian" crapfest of mango this and crispy that and yakitori and shabu-shabu and they probably also have pad thai. It's not clear whether Qun Li is actively working in the kitchen there, or offering any creative input. I sent the proprietors a message asking if there was a secret menu, or if Sichuan dishes could be special-ordered, but I haven't heard back yet.

Anybody have any more info? It's breaking my heart to think that there will never be another Rice Garden or New Taste of Asia because the chef is getting his paycheck lending his name to Ginseng.

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  1. Really peculiar. The Chinese name of the joint is ma-la huo-guo, or numb-and-spicy (Sichuan) hot pot. Which as is often the case for Chinese restaurants bears no relationship whatsoever to the English language name. Luther has hit the nail on the head with the rather uninspiring content of the menu, but I would have to imagine that they have brought Qun aboard to remake the menu and recast it as something real deal. The fact that the restaurant is more or less across route 9 from Sichuan Gourmet (one is at #220, the other at #271) would also tend to confirm this suspicion.

    I would also observe that Qun is a multi generation Beijing chef. He is more than a one trick pony; Sichuan food became his shtick at Rice Garden and New Taste because his wife is Sichuanese and he has learned to cook in multiple different styles. But he is capable of cooking stuff up to the complexity of Grand Hotel type cuisine. (I remember chatting up a waitress at Rice Garden who showed me pictures of some of the banquet type stuff that he has done in the past -- shades of Eat Drink Man Woman in complexity here.) So I'm willing to spin this positively, and hope that they're bringing him aboard to revamp the menu, and I'm hoping that he'll do more than just Sichuan cooking.

    And I guess I'll have to rethink that injunction about not making a side trip out to Framingham ...

    4 Replies
    1. re: Dr.Jimbob

      I think Qun Li is originally from Xian. My daughter lived there and we talked about it a few times. The menu had yangrou paomo, the Xian lamb soup (yum). He makes some Beijing pork dishes that are simply awesome.

      1. re: lergnom

        I had the pao mo at New Taste. Thought it was OK, but didn't remind me of what I had when I was in Xi'an myself. (I actually have yet to find a pao mo that doesn't make me miss at least that aspect of Xi'an.)

        The hostess that I had chatted up at Rice Garden told me that he was one of several generations of Beijing chefs, though I've never chatted Qun up myself.

        1. re: lergnom

          My understanding was that Qun Li was originally from Sichuan, and picked up a number of dishes more common in Beijing and the environs (e.g. the pao4 mo4) when he was in Beijing. Chinese hotel chefs are very broadly and deeply trained, I remember his exceptional execution of squirrel fish, a dish that comes from Jiangsu. However, in addition to a skilled chef, these banquet level dishes require a decent sized kitchen staff, because of how labour-intensive it can be (e.g. carving out dragons and phoenixes or plating shrimp to look like ducks in a lake), so there might be other factors to consider if one was hoping to score those types of dishes. BTW, at the beginning, New Taste of Asia had a second chef who was from Tianjin; he might have been responsible for some of those types dishes on their menu.

          1. re: limster

            Ah, the man's a mystery but he does roll a mean and kind of awful cigarette.

            Chinese banquet chefs. What I think of is the Wild Goose Pagoda carved out of lard. Awe-inspiring in more than one way.

      2. So, does this mean it's good?

        1. I'm wondering how Ginseng is as well. Not that this is high praise, but it just made a Phantom Gourmet "Great Ate" listing for Chinese -- though given that Kowloon's also on the list, that's no guarantee of quality.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bachslunch

            That Chinese "Great Ate" is infuriating! all sponsors! What a joke list...

            1. re: Trumpetguy

              Some on this list are sponsors, but I've never seen an ad for Ginseng. And yes, I'll agree, it's by and large a pretty weak roster. I think PG has a separate list for Boston's Chinatown, though, which would explain why there's no place from there on it.

          2. By way of reviving this thread, has anyone actually made the trip out there to see if Ginseng is any good? They got a good review in the Globe with the caveat that the review appears to be written by their MetroWest bureau chief, not by a dedicated food critic. Not that that necessarily means anything, as this board of (mostly) amateurs demonstrates.

            The menu doesn't look any different from what I saw before, and the irritating Flash animations on their web site suggest another suburban pan-Asian joint. Can anyone confirm or deny?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Dr.Jimbob

              Im confused. Last i checked this had closed down already. Has it reopened?

              Edit: I just called and phone disconnected...

              1. re: hargau

                Odd. Web site is still up (and still has obnoxious long-to-load Flash animations).

                1. re: Dr.Jimbob

                  Id say it has been closed for at least several months now.

            2. I drove by there the other day and the restaurant definitely looks closed.