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potluck cafe, last night = cheap + tasty

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stopped into potluck cafe unexpectedly last night. first time eating there (despite seeing some of the reviews and delectable photos from others' visits), and i was really satisfied in a "i'm starving late night and need chinese comfort food badly" way. definitely will return. we were en route to king fung garden for some awesomely chewy and greasy noodles around 10:30pm, but got distracted by potluck and decided to stop in once and for all.

my DC and i ordered: fried taro cake ($1), fish balls stuffed with meat soup ($3), rabbit soup with thin noodles ($5.50) and shredded beef with basil ($8.95). all in all our feast (and we were stuffed) came to about $21.

the taro cake came out first, piping hot. (actually, everything came out REALLY hot, like immediately taken from the kitchen. this is a great sign, meaning things are freshly taken out, but sometimes the impulse to chow down is tempered by the fear of throat burns.) it's the size of a piece of pizza with a super crunchy crust, soft tenderness inside, and minimal grease. it's really addictive, and i'm quite fond of taro (so i'm familiar with the flavor and texture), but i guess i would describe it as reminiscent of a chinese-style hash browns, and a bit of sweet spices with the saltiness to make it almost doughnut- or fritter-like. super cheap + filling snack.

the fish ball soup (8 or 12, i cant remember) was a winner. i love fish balls (chewy, fishy, hearty), but the addition of saucy pork meat stuffed in the middle of the golf-ball things is awesome. the broth is clear, simple, and good, faint of ginger and garlic with a few snippets of scallions. i drank the broth until the very end-- a great clean ending to the meal. i could totally see having a bowl of this for a light lunch, a super steal at $3.

the rabbit soup is in a large, sharing tureen and the broth is BRIGHT RED. you almost think they bled the poor bunny in there, but it's actually the red dye for the barbeque curing of the meat (like the oftentimes neon-pink-red hue of bbq pork). the rabbit meat is tender and delicious, a mix of legs and ribs and plenty of small bones to pick around. quite lean, too. the noodles are the slippery, thin, mung bean silver type, slightly soft-overcooked but still slurpilicious. quite simplistic dish, but all the elements came together well.

and the beef with basil... well, i'm a sucker for anything stir-fried with basil, but it was a great heap of greasy (in a good way) beef + basil + onions, well-seasoned and excellent over rice. it reminded me a lot of (the regrettably late) quality cafe, just delicious and oily and addictive. it was a medium-sized portion but we got full before even polishing the plate off.

also noticed a sign on the door for fresh shrimp going for $13.95 a pound, and lots of wiggly sea creatures in tanks near the front: crab, lobster, some lively white fish, a fat black fish, and some really sleepy eels. also spotted some fist-sized spiral shells (i'm so bad at identification)... conch? snails? plus, i love the cozy, cheesy decor (light-up 'moving' pictures, plastic leaf garlands).

the menu was really extensive and hard to choose from, though! is there logic behind the white paper menu (one side clearly more authentic than the other) and the separate laminated pink menu?

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  1. The redness in the rabbit broth might be red wine lees, a signature ingredient of Fuzhou cooking.

    3 Replies
    1. re: limster

      ooh, thanks! you're right, it was definitely reminiscent of red wine. i'm a newbie to fuzhou stuff, so i'm glad to learn of the source of the hue. is it also the red wine lees that stain the meat red, too?

      1. re: liuliuliu

        Char siew uses some sort of red dye, but I don't think its red wine lees.

      2. re: limster

        I think there was also a duck dish with the red wine lees? One of my favorite dishes the night we were at Potluck.

        -----
        Potluck Cafe
        7 Knapp St, Boston, MA 02111

      3. Rabbit soup would be an adventurous dish for me. Love to try the fish ball soup.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sheila

          BTW, the same stuffed fishball soup (which is typically Fuzhou) can also be found at Taiwan Cafe (I'm sure during their brunch offering, but not sure about regular menu) as well as China Gourmet. They were roughly the same quality, but that was a few years ago. Hope to hear updates and comparisons to the Potluck version.

        2. Yeah, when we had our Hound outing there, I think we had three different menus placed in front of us, plus the specials menu (in Chinese) on a white board on the wall.

          Limster saved the day by being able to read the specials and order for us.

          I liked Pot Luck quite a bit. Been back twice since our dinner.

          (EDIT): Damn girlfriend logged on with her name and screwed up my username. This is Bostonbob3.

          Abby!! To the moon!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Biffy_Ditmeyer

            Just had the Shredded Beef With Basil and the Fish Ball Stuffed With Meat Soup. Both excellent items! Thanks for the recs.

            The Shredded Beef, which came with lots of onions and scallions, is right up there with Taiwan Cafe's Beef With Yellow Chives for me, onje of my fave Chinatown dishes.