MuLan report - Cambridge
I went to MuLan for dinner last night with a few friends. This is my second visit to this Taiwanese restaurant and my first time for dinner. I am shocked to say, that this place has a slight edge over Shangri La in Belmont (my usual place).
There were 4 for dinner and we ordered 6 dishes. The place was fairly full and unfortunately, we were seated at one of the smaller 4 tops. This made eating a bit problematic but as each dish arrived, we shuffled and adjusted. We also had NO leftovers.
Pork with leek dumplings - these were fairly good. The right proportion of meat/leeks to skin. The skin was a bit thicker but these were a better version than my last batch at Wang's Fast Food in Somerville.
Live fish steamed with ginger and scallions - this was excellent. Steamed until just finished, flaky white fish with plenty of ginger, scallions and cilantro. Minor quibble - there were miscellaneous scales on the fish.
Hunan Lamb - this was also quite good. The lamb was extremely tender and the sauce was tasty. This was sauteed with leeks, which were slightly underdone. I think this is a theme with Mulan though.
Mulan tofu - this was the best dish. It looks like it may be a new dish as it doesn't appear on the takeout menu and there is a "new" sign on the restaurant menu. Very tender, sauce infused tofu with more than a smattering of sichuan peppercorn for the ma la feeling. The tofu is swimming in this brown sauce with shredded pork and shitake mushrooms on top. The sichuan peppercorns were a nice surprise and they were quite potent. This was especially tasty on top of the rice to soak up all the sauce.
Yellow chives with shredded pork and dry bean curd - my bench mark dish in a restaurant. Last night's version didn't disappoint by there weren't enough chives in the dish. Also, the knife work for the dry bean curd was rougher than my last lunchtime version (it changes the texture of the entire dish). But, this version is superior to Shangri La's version because of the knife work in the tofu. Shangri La's while I enjoy it, has thicker pieces of tofu.
Eggplant with basil - probably the weakest dish of the night. The flavor is better than Taiwan Cafe's version since it is not as sweet. The problem with last night's eggplant is that it wasn't wokked enough. The eggplant was soft but it hadn't reached the mushier stage where it would absorb the sauce itself. The sauce sat on top of the eggplant instead of infusing the eggplant.
All of the dishes plus one huge bowl of white rice came to $80 including tax and a generous tip.
Though I am a true Shangri-La diehard, there are definitely some dishes that Mulan excels at. One additional favorite is the pork with scallion wrapped in pancake. And there are definitely a few others that are just superb.
On the eggplant front, I have not found any place that does eggplant better then Shangri-La including Taiwan Cafe and Mulan.
I had the pork with scallion/leeks wrapped in the pancake and it doesn't float my boat. It's more personal preference though v. any fault of the restaurant. The meat was delicious and the pancake was fried well, although the leeks were underdone. The pancake was a little thicker than I would have liked. But, for me, the bottom line is that I gravitate more towards noodles or rice based dishes v. the fried bread dishes.
I'm also a Shangri La die hard. It took me a long time to get to MuLan because of it (despite numerous mockings from other CHs). But, I'm really glad I went and am eager to explore the menu more. Specifically, I am intrigued by their noodle soup offerings, which is one of SL's weaknesses (another weakness is SL's dumplings).
I'll have to re-visit the eggplant dish at SL. I'm also due for northern style dim sum there soon. Love the soy bean noodles.