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Denian's -- Chinese Bao.zi and Bubble Tea Shop in Lexington

lipoff May 30, 2009 08:07 PM

Saw a new Chinese bun (bao.zi) shop opening in Lexington, at the intersection of Waltham Street and Marrett Road.

It's evidently not open yet, but the owner's son told me today that they plan to open sometime next week!

  1. gansu girl Jun 20, 2009 10:02 AM

    We just ate lunch at Denian's, and agree with most posts here that it's solid, but not a destination spot. The owner is extremely nice. The reason there are no tables is b/c that strip isn't zoned for tables. She is thinking of appealing but it would be at least a year - so for now, the counter w/three stools. I liked the pork bun the best, then the chicken. My chicken bun was only barely warm - the pork were nice and hot. The red bean was good, but not outstanding. We didn't have any tea w/boba - made with cow's milk and there wasn't an option for soy milk. My daughter had *just* noodles - no veggies no meat - and it was not a problem for them to do this. They were fried up in the wok and they were tasty.

    Sauces are definitely there - the spicy was tasty and nice & vinegary, but definitely not that spicy. The ginger/soy/can't remember was good, but tasted more like salad dressing. Sauces are something like $.30 extra for a little cup and you have to order them . . . if I were them, I'd make a vat of real soy sauce w/ginger, etc. and serve that as the default, for free - very cheap to prep. Then have the others as "specialty" sauces. And then have jars of chili-garlic sauce to spice things up for those of us who like it hot.

    I will definitely give them business when I'm in the area, which is fairly often. It's a much appreciated alternative to the suburban sea of bagels, pizza & McDonald's.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gansu girl
      Tir_na_nOg Jun 30, 2009 05:52 AM

      Had takeout last weekend: chicken, pork, beef and veggie baozi, pork potstickers and pineapple bubble tea.

      I'm no baozi expert, but I thought they were pretty good. Liked the chicken the best, although I can't say there is really much to choose between the meat ones (seem to have different spices). The veggies also have tofu cubes in them, which I thought added a nice texture.

      Not sure if the fried potstickers were handmade or not (they seemed machine-like in their perfection), but definitely tasty.

      No spicy sauce in sight, just soy or ginger/vinegar.

      The bubble tea was from powder and just OK.

      For a tiny place, this is very attractive, clean and professional. Just how I'd design a hole-in-the-wall! 3 chefs in back, and only one person in front, who was swamped when I was there trying to keep up with the bubble tea orders. For a Sat afternoon, they seemed to be doing a good business. Only 3 stools along a counter and a bench for waiting (I don't know why they didn't make the counter longer, and they might be able to put in a small table in as well [ah, I see from above that is a zoning issue]).

      1/2 mile down Waltham St from Lexington Center on the corner in a small strip mall, with easy parking out front.

      All in all, I'll go again when I'm in the area and want something different for takeout.

    2. l
      LStaff Jun 19, 2009 12:27 PM

      I stopped in for lunch last week after reading the post here. I ordered 4 buns - pork, beef, chicken, and green veggie. The place was empty at 1pm on a weekday. Although this is my first experience with them, I enjoyed the flavor and somewhat fluffy, yet filling nature of the bun - would be good hangover food. I thought the pork was the best followed by the beef. Chicken was just ok and the veggie was dissapointing. I had to ask for sauce - and thought the "spicy" sechaun was a really good complement. I would try again - as well as try the potstickers and maybe a salad sometime. Seems like they are keeping and serving the buns in the temperature danger zone? Maybe they are made fresh periodically, so they aren't held at that temp for more than 4 hours?

      1. litchick Jun 19, 2009 11:57 AM

        Went last night for take-out dinner. Yum! Got 6 buns (2 chx, 2 pork, 1 carrot, 1 taro) -- all were delicious. The potstickers were the highlight of the meal -- very nicely browned on the bottom, juicy inside. We got both sauces upon request, and preferred the chili sauce, whcih was very tatsy. The only low point: the dan dan soup was not great -- very bland. I recommend skipping it.

        The owner is so sweet -- this is her first restaurant venture. She said everyone thought she was crazy for opening this place, but I am so glad she did. It's a quick jaunt up Rte 2 from Arlington, and is a great fast option for tasty fare.

        PS: as lipoff reports, the taro bun was awesome.

        1. y
          y2000k Jun 16, 2009 03:38 PM

          We also went very recently. Like others have reported, Dan Dan noodle is not available.

          We tried another noodle dish - beef noodle. This was decent, good quality beef with red & green bell peppers. And it's a dry stir-fry, no sauce.

          We had 4 buns: chicken, pork, red bean, and taro. I'd say chicken is the best. I don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but the bun dough is of the Northern China style. I don't think it goes very well with sweet fillings, but I'm partial to Cantonese/S China bun dough.

          Bubble tea is not that great.

          To confirm the seating situation mentioned above, there is a small counter with 3 bar stools. That's it if you want to eat-in.

          Bottom line: I won't bother to return unless we happen to be driving in that direction. It's not a place I would go specifically just for it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: y2000k
            n
            newyorker1 Jun 19, 2009 10:13 AM

            Just went today for the first time -- I got the lunch combo, which is 3 buns (your choice), and a small salad or cup of soup; including tax it was $7.09.

            The buns were probably about 2.5 - 3" in diameter, northern style. I was fine with the dough/filling ratio, but they are definitely not overflowing with filling. Had the veggie, chicken and pork; all thought all were good, obviously homemade; as with the others, I think the chicken was my favorite. A little more of the sichuan spicy sauce on the side would have helped the veggie one, but overall I liked the veggie flavor of it so left it mostly unadorned.

            I chose the chinese noodle salad as my included small salad -- a bit of a curious dish, homemade noodles (slightly wide), cold, tossed with strips of romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, cooked ground pork, served with the spicy sichuan sauce. I like the salad because it gives me a painless way to eat more veggies but with a distinct asian flavor profile (I don't miss the fat-ladden dressing I put on "normal" salads at all.)

            Overall I'm very happy to have Danian available as a choice in my lunch rotation; it's a big improvement over some other nearby options, both in terms of the healthiness of the offerings, and the quality and value. There was a pretty good sized line when I went today, so hopefully they will do well at that location!

          2. Eatin in Woostah Jun 16, 2009 03:08 PM

            I went back on Sunday night and got the dinner for 4 - two salads, 12 assorted buns, scallion pancakes, potstickers.

            The potstickers were really good. Nice thin wrappers, tasty pork filling. Very nice.
            Pancakes were also good, though not as thin or crisp as I like, but very scallion-y.
            Salads were sort of boring. I got the noodle salad with sichuan sauce, and it wasn't really very spicy. Green salad with ginger dressing was very basic.

            Assorted buns - chicken, pork, beef, green veggie, taro. All of the fillings tasted good, but the amount per bun had a fairly wide variation.

            They didn't have the Dan Dan soup yet - the young woman working the counter said that they hadn't perfected the recipe yet but it should be available soon.

            I requested sauce, but sadly did not receive. Should have checked the bag before we left.

            Trying not to be too critical because they've just opened and seem to be still a little uneven. I've got high hopes that they'll work on the bumpy spots and we'll have a nice little bun shop close to home.

            1. lipoff Jun 13, 2009 05:06 PM

              So I finally made it there myself yesterday.

              It's a nice little storefront with a clever entrance. Very elegant, clean interior. You order from a counter, and currently there is a wide counter on one side with three chairs and also a couple seats at the window.. It looks like there is room for a couple tables, although there are none there, yet anyway.

              I had three buns, a scallion pancake, and a bubble tea for lunch, which was just perfect. The chicken bun in particular was excellent --- the chicken was almost ground, with a great texture and a bit of "kick" to it. The green vegetable bun I found a little disappointing, with a filling that didn't really click and a top that was a little too doughy. The scallion pancake was thin, crisp and very good, although not quite as strongly scallion flavored as I prefer.

              I liked everything so much that I ordered a dozen more buns to take out. Those who ate them really liked the pork and chicken buns, and confirmed my lackluster assessment of the green vegetable buns. They were out the carrot buns, which I wanted to try. I also tried the red bean and taro paste buns --- I liked them both, although the taro paste buns in particular are exceptionally good. I had some cold buns on the train later that day and they were almost as good cold.

              Peach bubble tea was fine, with especially well textured boba. The bubble tea is made from a powder though.

              There were also some noodles, soups and salads on the menu.

              All in all, a very promising start! It's a bit far away for me, although I hope to return.

              -----
              Denian's
              315 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA

              3 Replies
              1. re: lipoff
                Eatin in Woostah Jun 14, 2009 08:42 AM

                Thanks for the update, lipoff! Can you describe the taro paste buns and why they were exceptional? I've tried in them in a couple of other spots and always found them a little too heavy and sticky. Are they worth another try at Denian's?

                Shame about the powdered bubble tea flavors. I noticed they didn't have a durian, either. I'm just happy that we have a spot in Lexington now to get buns and noodles, so I'm not complaining!

                1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                  lipoff Jun 16, 2009 04:36 PM

                  This might be a matter of taste, but I do love the flavour of taro. In particular their bun had a really deep taro flavor, and a terrific texture that I can only describe as "lip smacking". There was nothing wrong their bean paste bun, but it didn't have the same mouth feel or strong flavor. Incidentally, the best sweet red bean bun I've found has been the giant red bean buns at Wang's in Somerville.

                  I agree with some other posters that the chicken is (by far) the best flavored that I have tried so far, and that the filling to dough ratio varies a bit but tends to be a little low. Everything there is very northern style (lu3 cai4), which happens to be my preference. The bubble tea isn't anything special, but it's good, and the tapioca pearls themselves were a fine texture, which isn't easy to ensure. I'm looking forward to trying it out again.

                2. re: lipoff
                  peregrine Jun 16, 2009 07:22 AM

                  I went yesterday and got four different buns and a scallion pancake.
                  The fillings, chicken, beef, carrot and green veg, were OK, but pretty scant for the amount of dough.
                  The scallion pancake, cooked to order, was very tasty.
                  I asked for and received the ginger sauce.

                3. m
                  makonna Jun 12, 2009 05:18 PM

                  We did take out of all the buns without nuts (allergic) and also got the potstickers and scallion pancake. No sauce came with their food. But the food was very good. The buns were very tasty and obviously homemade. My favorite being the green veggie. The buns themselves are on the smaller side. But they are definitely buns and not dumplings. The potstickers are a must get. Flavorful with thin skins. I would say it didn't need a sauce. But we did try to get other things. They were out of the dan dan noodles. Apparently I got the last black tea with bubbles. Fantastic. The bubbles were nice and soft.

                  I hope this place is successful! Thanks for letting us know about this place!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: makonna
                    y
                    y2000k Jun 12, 2009 08:03 PM

                    Is this place mainly for take-out? Or does it have tabletops for eat-in? how many tables if there are any? Thanks.

                    1. re: y2000k
                      Tir_na_nOg Jun 13, 2009 07:01 AM

                      quoting above: "They have a simple set-up with a bar height table with stools, and two comfy benches; the benches look like they're for waiting, but I sat there because I had my toddler in tow, and we shared dumplings while he sat in his stroller."

                      Looking forward to trying it...

                    2. re: makonna
                      Eatin in Woostah Jun 13, 2009 07:02 AM

                      They have two sauces - ginger soy and sichuan. You have to ask, though.

                      1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                        m
                        makonna Jun 13, 2009 07:12 AM

                        My husband did ask. They said they are a mistake in the menu. So maybe they've removed it.

                        1. re: makonna
                          Eatin in Woostah Jun 13, 2009 07:17 AM

                          That's weird - we ate there on Thursday night and got the ginger sauce. I wouldn't doubt if they're working through some first-opening menu and training issues.

                    3. t
                      taterjane Jun 5, 2009 01:35 PM

                      Has anyone been yet? I found a website for the place and I'm curious if it's any good.

                      http://suofamily.org/

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: taterjane
                        r
                        rscolao Jun 8, 2009 05:23 AM

                        Not yet but I drove by last week and it looked busy! The website is a bit buggy right now.

                        1. re: rscolao
                          r
                          rscolao Jun 11, 2009 02:48 PM

                          Update: I tried it out yesterday. Very simple menu, pick how many steamed dumplings and what filling. There are a few other dishes (salady things). We tried chicken, pork, beef, sweet bean. They were good, clearly homemade, perhaps nothing to travel across the state for, but a nice stop if you're close by. Also had dinner combos on the menu-- I think aimed at takeout. Would love to hear other opinions! I had a black tea bubble tea, which was good. They gave me a free lemon iced tea because they were experimenting with the recipe, also quite tasty. Prices were reasonable. They have a simple set-up with a bar height table with stools, and two comfy benches; the benches look like they're for waiting, but I sat there because I had my toddler in tow, and we shared dumplings while he sat in his stroller.

                          I have to say the dumplings were not hot enough, but I didn't say anything because my son was eating them too, and I didn't want them too hot either.

                          So all in all, I'll go again, might get attached, might not. A pleasant place.

                          Staffperson and owner were very friendly, place was clean (and stylish). No regular tables or anything like that.

                          There's a pastry shop next door- royal pastry. Kind of curious if they're any good, could make a fun lunch combo!

                          1. re: rscolao
                            y
                            y2000k Jun 11, 2009 02:55 PM

                            Thanks for the report. When you say "dumplings", did you actually mean "buns"? They mean different foods to me.

                            1. re: y2000k
                              Eatin in Woostah Jun 12, 2009 11:52 AM

                              They mostly do buns, though you can get potstickers as well. I picked up 3 pork buns last night - delicious.

                      2. m
                        makonna May 31, 2009 03:43 PM

                        Thanks for the heads up. I'm excited to see what they have!

                        1. barleywino May 31, 2009 03:35 AM

                          Will it have giant (softball sized) steamed vegetable buns (tsai-bao)? I'm thinking like the ones at New Green Bo (NYC) which I can't seem to find around Boston

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: barleywino
                            kobuta May 31, 2009 08:30 PM

                            Not pure vegetable, but you can find cai rou bao/choi yook bau (meat & veggie) pretty readily in a lot of the chinese bakeries here (you may need to ask for it) and they do come softball sized.

                            1. re: kobuta
                              barleywino Jun 5, 2009 10:44 AM

                              thanks, i have seen those mixed ones--if you do happen to see the pure vegetable ones, please post here!

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