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Myers and Chang - a disappointment

m
momotravel Mar 9, 2008 09:45 PM

Today we went to M & C for lunch after reading mixed reviews from CH. Well, it was a big disappointment. One of the worst restaurants I have visited ever. There is no direction in this restaurant in terms of their menu or their decor. When we arrived at 1:30pm, there was just 1 other table with 4 people. We ordered the banh mi with pork belly, that was not too bad, sauce is better than the banh mi from the Viet places in Chinatown but the bun was so small, probably half the size of regular banh mi, pork belly was way too fat. The bun was good, probably because Joanne Chang owns Flour Bakery down the street. Well now to the bad, we ordered a Thai iced tea, and it tasted NOTHING like Thai iced tea and for $6! It was VERY weird tasting, with jasmine like flavored but not really a good flavor. The dan dan noodles was like noodles with peanut sauce on top of a caesar salad.

I'm really surprised, or rather disappointed with the restaurant, especially when it is a combination from two great owners. I loved Flour Bakery, which is owned by Chang and Radius, where Myers is partial owner. I would think with such resumes under their belt, they could do so much better. This restaurant lacks direction because it tries to serve Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese food but each dish lacks authenticity or creativity. Hmm... When I came to this restaurant, what I was hoping for was paying higher prices for Chinese/Asian food in exchange for food made with the freshest ingredients, less oil and much tastier dishes. Coming from Cali, I was thinking Slanted Door in Ferry Building in SF, which serves great Vietnamese fare with better ingredients so I am willing to pay much more for pho there than at a hole in the wall pho place. Sadly, M&C is nothing close to that.

  1. MC Slim JB Mar 10, 2008 04:00 AM

    I don't like that banh m, either -- weird dressing, wrong pickles, to my palate -- and the menu has other misfires, like the apparently scallion-free scallion pancake. I do like the dan dan noodle salad: it's fiercer and fresher-tasting than I often see this dish. Daytime at M+C is weird. The place definitely loses something by being brightly lit, being mostly empty, and playing bad music (80s Top 40 last time I was in by day, like Victoria's Diner). The nighttime vibe is much more appealing and adds a lot; you tend to notice less that the portions are small and that the prices reflect a South End premium. I was tempted to dislike the place as all atmosphere/no substance, but I've found most of the menu to be very, very good, and some dishes (e.g., Hokka-style eggplant, dumplings, bao, bo la lat wraps) are superb. (As an aside, I loved the Slanted Door v1, think it lost something in its second incarnation, and find it much less appealing and think that the food has taken another big step down in its current locale.)

    4 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB
      k
      kenjigoodeater May 4, 2009 12:46 PM

      I totally agree. Had the Banh Mi for the first time yesterday, and it honestly made me feel physically sick eating it. I really had to force down half of it so as not to look toooo rude (the waiter, who seemed a little flustered, had taken his time, so made up for it by sending over some spring rolls - also virtually inedible, by the way - but seemed so genuinely sorry about the wait that I didn't want to offend him by not eating either).

      Basically everything was wrong about it. The carrot/daikon slaw was shredded on a box grater and mixed with the sriracha aioli. It was totally soggy and limp and completely lacking the crisp, fresh bite that properly julienned carrots and daikon have. There was only a single sprig of cilantro in it, and it was completely wilted by the time it arrived at the table. Rather than a properly savory sauce or the great mayo in a normal banh mi, it had a horrible lobster-roll-like buttery flavor, which when combined with the fatty pork belly, was just overwhelmingly heavy.

      And the bun - oh God, what an atrocity. A soft, sweet, split hoagie roll. The best part of a banh mi is the crispy crust of a really freshly baked rice-flour baguette. And to add insult to injury, it costs $9!!!

      I disagree about most of the menu being very good. There are rare exceptions, like the Tiger's Tears and the ribs, but their wokked dishes are awful across the board ($15 for burnt noodles and overcooked chicken?). The cooks don't seem to understand that the way to get that nice smoky "wok-hai" flavor in a dish is NOT to burn and char the crap out of everything. And their dumplings, though pretty good, don't touch what real traditional places like Qingdao do for 1/10th of the price (literally).

      This place completely reminds me of Momofuku in NY - overpriced, sub-par pseudo Asian food that people still pay lots of money for. It's really baffling to me - the only reason I can think of why people continue to patronize these places is that the (attractive) waiters all speak English.

      I've never been a big fan, but things seem to have gotten much worse since Allison Hearn left as well.

      1. re: kenjigoodeater
        yumyum May 4, 2009 01:16 PM

        Interesting timing. I have been following M&C on twitter and finally decided I want to try it after reading tweets about their organic miso carrots, fried oyster bahn mi, etc. Your post makes me want to get there to try it out even more. I like a dive as much as (okay, maybe more than) the next hound, but I also love Momofuku in NY. Glossy pan-asian can be a drag if you are looking for the real thing, but if you are in the mood for glossy pan-asian, it can be good to great.

        1. re: kenjigoodeater
          MC Slim JB May 4, 2009 01:36 PM

          Do you happen to know how long Allison has been gone? I haven't noticed a decline in the food over the last few months.

          More broadly speaking, there's room in my heart for both Myers + Chang and all the cheaper, more authentic places up the road. (I happen to like Momofuku quite a bit, too.) My understanding of wok technique is hardly authoritative, but I've never detected the burnt and charred flavors you cite.

          In any event, I definitely find M+C useful: it's fun and lively, serves beer/wine/sake, plays great music, and provides an attractive destination to take friends of mine who are timid about Chinatown. I can understand how folks might not value the premium associated with this place, but I don't think anyone is really confusing what they're trying to do vs. what Qingdao et. al. are about.

          I haven't had a banh mi there since that really terrible one from May 2008 (the original thread here is pretty old). I am tempted to agree and draw the same line: I just had another unbelievable $3 banh mi in Dorchester, and that's one dish I may remain a traditionalist/purist about. Nobody has yet served me a creative/upmarket version I liked, though some of the stuff being done in NYC sounds promising: www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/dining/08banh.html . Last year, M+C committed the unpardonable sin -- getting the baguette wrong -- and it doesn't sound like they've fixed that issue.

          On another note, whatever happened with the R.F. O'Sullivan burger throwdown, anyway?

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          1. re: MC Slim JB
            k
            kenjigoodeater May 7, 2009 06:04 AM

            That was the banh mi talking, not me. I've calmed down a bit. Yes, there is space for M&C, and I have nothing against either M or C (in fact, am big fans of both).

            I do, however, still think that their Thai-inflected dishes (like their som tom and Tiger's Tears - even with the red peppers) are much better than their attempts at Chinese food, or dishes that require more specialized East Asian cooking techniques. The Thai inspired dishes are mostly about good flavor balance, which they are quite adept at (the exception being that god-awful banh mi), while the wok dishes require technique and years of practice. It's a bit conceited to think that some euro-trained line cook can just pick up a wok and start cooking food worthy of serving to customers, and in those cases, I think the amateur-ishness shows.

            R.F. O's throwdown was an easy win. Even millions admitted that the burger didn't live up to his memories of it.

            There should be a post up about it at <a href="http://aht.seriouseats.com">A Hamburger Today </a> at some point in the near future.

      2. d
        deglazer Mar 10, 2008 08:05 AM

        Re: better ingredients. Does anyone know anything about the meat they use? I don't see any info on their myspace. Specifically, I'm wondering if they use Niman, Berkshire pork, Bell and Evans or equivalent (or better) chicken, or any other higher end meat (local, organic, pasture raised etc.) For me, that would make it easier to justify the higher prices (assuming deliciousness, of course.) If it's the same old commodity meats then I'll stick to Chinatown etc. If a person want to eat "natural" meats, there are zero options for Asian in greater boston, that I can think of (I only say Asian because that's what we're talking about here. Actually almost zero options across the board outside of a few high end places.)

        5 Replies
        1. re: deglazer
          9
          9lives Mar 10, 2008 08:16 AM

          I don't know what specific brand/pedigree of beef M&C uses; but whatever they use in the Tiger Tears is of much better quality than Floating Rock uses...and FR makes a good dish.

          1. re: 9lives
            t
            teezeetoo May 5, 2009 10:16 AM

            sorrry, but from the get-go i've found this place silly, pretentious, over-priced and not very good. can't hold a button to Shanghai Gate, Jo Jo Taipei, and its only virtue is its hipper than most asian places in design and in the bar. go if you want for the bling but don't expect to be well-fed.

            1. re: teezeetoo
              j
              jylze May 5, 2009 04:44 PM

              hear hear

              1. re: teezeetoo
                9
                9lives May 5, 2009 05:55 PM

                You're replying to a year+ old post.

                In fact, I was well fed. Went back for the Tiger Tears a few times, both for lunch in an basically empty restaurant..so no bling or hip factor.

                M&C may not hold a candle to the places you mentioned but it's Tiger Tears (if they are still the same) do hold a candle to Floating Rock's excellent dish. Better quality beef (and less of it) and fresher ingredients. More of a salad than a beef dish.

                Overpriced? Curiously it cost the same as the more authentic Floating Rock in Revere when I add in a few r/t T rides.

                I think there's room in the Boston area for a Momofuku type place which may be a little less authentic with a nicer atmosphere/higher prices (as long as they are still serving good food) as well as the many more authentic "Chinatown" type places...which offer great food with less ambience.

                http://www.flickr.com/photos/61246842...

                1. re: 9lives
                  alwayscooking May 6, 2009 02:49 PM

                  9lives

                  I was just going to respond to this in very much the same way. I like Myers+Chang. The restaurant is not one particular country, dish, or ingredients - each dish IMO seems to be rethought as something entirely new, borrowing tastes and techniques from around Asia. It does not pretend to be authentic and it produces great flavors with very fresh, lightly cooked ingredients.

                  My only criticism is that the line chefs vary in their execution so that sometimes dishes are inconsistent. I've eaten there a lot as well as much more typical places.

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