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Recs for visitor (and food snob) from Tianjin?

We'll have a guest from Tianjin for the next several months who professes to like *no* western foods beyond mashed potatoes, and that no Asian food can surpass that of his own region.

Having established that he has an open mind, can any one offer suggestions that might please him? He's debunked anything I thought I ever knew, so while I've reviewed postings here, I'm not feeling too competent to judge.


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  1. From what you say, anything you might suggest will doubtless fall below your guest's standards. The only way he is going to come to enjoy anything he is served here is to discover it and convince himself that it is good.

    So, assuming he has Internet access and can read English, why not let him peruse the discussions here? As a gracious host, you can support his quest for decent food by offering to take him out to some number of restaurants that he chooses himself.

    Also, I am wondering if your guest cooks? You can offer to hook him up with the requisite ingredients. No doubt we can help you there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      Thanks-he has already decided his English isn't up to the board, and while he has said he would like to cook some night, tonight he stated that I simply couldn't provide either equipment or ingredients to his standards.

      Frankly, I'd like to hit him over the head with a rolling pin.

      1. re: BarefootandPregnant

        Exactly! Force him out of his envelope and he'll be quite distressed.

        1. re: BarefootandPregnant

          Yes, it sounds like your best strategy will be to go to places that you love and wear earplugs, so at least you get a great meal out of it.

          What about some place that sort of defies categorization, like East Coast Grill? Perhaps if he can't easily place origins he will be more hard pressed to complain.

      2. Folks, if you have chow advice to share, please do so, but comments on how BarefootandPregnant ought to deal with this visitor on a personal level are just out of the scope of what we do here on this site.

        1. perhaps salvadorian or italian food?

          other than that, just go somewhere that has really awesome mashed potatoes.

          3 Replies
          1. re: jylze

            Italian is not, as of yet, flying. We have done okay with Anna's and Viva Mi Arepa. He's shown mild interest in Pollo Campero, as well.

            I'll admit to some reluctance to try much that digs deep into my pocketbook given the negativity, but this hostess with the mostest can't live on multinational fast food, either.

            1. re: BarefootandPregnant

              Since he seems at least somewhat open to Latin American-influenced food, maybe a really good Spanish place like Taberna de Haro? Lots of small dishes there to try, with great flavors.

              1. re: BarefootandPregnant

                I have eaten at Pollo Campero and honestly, while it is tasty fast food, it IS fast food and does not pretend to be any more than that. So, one might really wonder how it might be acceptable while any sit-down restaurant would not be!

                There is an interesting variety of South American restaurants in Chelsea; there are also some good (sit-down) alternatives for Latino grilled chicken (various nationalities). What do you think is attracting your guest's interest, the concept of grilled chicken or the adventure of central- (or south) American style food?

            2. Maybe you'd best stick with foods where the preparation is minimal- like a trip to a raw bar where he can enjoy some oysters or steamers. Since the varieties we have here probably aren't going to be anything like what he gets at home, he might be able to enjoy it at that level. Or maybe a Brazillian steakhouse like Midwest Grill? My thought is going with that sort of approach would allow him to appreciate the foods without getting hung up on the preparations, and with a place like Midwest Grill, if he's open to trying new sides, he might find something he likes. Plus they have a liquor license so you can get yourself to the point where you don't really care what he eats.

              You could also try a classic steakhouse, where the steak is prepared simply but well, and he can get mashed potatoes as a backup if he hates it.

              Alternately, how about going for food that's not at all American, but he's not likely to encounter in Tianjin, like perhaps The Helmand for Afghan food, Indian food or perhaps an Ethiopian restaurant?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Chris VR

                Excellent ideas (and thinking), Chris-thanks.

                I may need to fix myself a rum punch now, just to face breakfast tomorrow.

                1. re: BarefootandPregnant

                  Do report back and let us know if anything flies!

              2. Hmmm...
                I grew up in Asia, so I kinda do get your situation. I'd say, you should avoid chinese food, I'm sure none would be good enough for him.

                Since he likes mashed potatoes and he prefers his food to be more flavorful, how about Blue Ribbon Bbq? It's American food, but they do have tasty sauces (and mashed potatoes!)

                I agree with the suggestion for brazilian food, but I think home-cooked would be more appealing than the churrascaria kind, so Muqueca?

                I bet he wouldn't hate Helmand or Kathmandu spice either. I think if he "can live with" Anna's, these places would be better.

                Does he like sushi? if he does, I think sushi in Boston would be as good as the one he has back home.

                1. don't know how far a field you are willing to go, but Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica will probably be OK (my rec, "sell" it as a work-a-day lunch place, rather than a great restaurant, and down play the sichuan angle, but up play the chines clientelle), also the cooks/owners at wang's fast food in somerville, might be able to come up with food he likes (shangdong's not too far from tianjin, and wang's doesn't use much sugar in their food, which is usually a big buggaboo for tianjinese), in theory the same would apply to qingdao in cambridge, but if memory severves me right, they do use some sugar in their dishes. and if you can stand more chinese options, beijing star in waltham and fu loon in medford are acceptable and have kitchen's that cook in the hebei/henan/beijing/tianjin style. most of the food in chinatown will be to southern chinese for a true tianjin starlwart. and finally, writing as someone who has often had to entertain not-so-culinarily-adventurous-mainland guests, french toast, and separately anything with mayonaise often are hits (go figure), and for northern chinese any not sweet asian food (burmese, north indian & etc) can work out ok. good luck!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: qianning

                    Quick reply: thank you (all) for so many wonderful, and thoughtful, suggestions.

                    qianning, I didn't ask my question well, but you really nailed my intent; thank you!

                    1. re: BarefootandPregnant

                      hope it all helps, and do keep us in the loop...i'm really curious to know what (if anything) works...i find myself in the same boat pretty often...

                  2. I have these types of relatives - drives me nuts. I usually avoid Chinese food, since I can't stand to hear them complain about how it's cooked and how they think it can be better. But if they also don't enjoy any Western foods, then I will defer to other Asian cuisines. I find they will find the food more palatable with a better chance of sitting through the meal and possibly enjoying it rather than just wondering what the heck someone has served them. So maybe one of our better Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese or even Taiwanese places?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kobuta

                      fresh simply cooked seafood is also sometimes an option.

                    2. I also have Asian relatives, so I feel your pain. To that end, I suggest that you take him out for simple traditional American food in a large fairly fancy restaurant setting - seafood (e.g., Legal Seafoods) or steak (e.g., Gill 23).
                      Small restaurants, fancy food, or ethnic food will fail with this type of visitor, IMHO.

                      1. I think you should line up a bunch of places that do differnt mashed potato variations, and while he's busy with them, you can eat whatever you want off the menu...

                        He may actually become cusious as other dishes go by, or as you snarf up the good stuff on your own plate..

                        1. Does he like highly flavored and.or spicy food? The bon chon chicken from Privus is so delicious- especially the soy garlic. If he likes spicy, the spicy is over- the- top spicy. i would take it out and serve it at home with the nice pickled daikon they give you with it and some mashed potatoes.

                          1. I just want to say how much I'm enjoying this thread. I am particularly fond of the ear plug, rolling pin and rum punch suggestions.

                            Several MONTHS???

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: yumyum

                              Rum punch (apparently) helps everything.

                              Yes, 9 months; I host ESL students. He's the first who has been resistant to cultural exchange of the culinary variety.

                              1. re: BarefootandPregnant

                                I think you deserve a gold star for your grace and patience.

                                Or a BIG old rum punch, stat.

                                1. re: yumyum

                                  Oooh, and to bring this back round to theme, I should mention that the rum punch I'm working my way through was illicitly carried from Deon's on Martha's Vineyard. Ta da!

                                  1. re: BarefootandPregnant

                                    FYI to make a qutie nice rum punch at home - put some dark rum in a glass, add guava juice (availble for sale in cans in the Hispanic section of most large supermarkets), orange juice, and ice. Sprinkle nutmeg on top if you want and enjoy!

                            2. I will buy bags of frozen dumplings and feed the guest dumplings at every meal.

                              Qingdao Garden's dumplings are pretty good. They serve Northern China Food. They claim they were from Shandong province, which are not far from Tianjin, right?

                              1. Update: Latin is still the only successful restaurant food for our visitor. Cachapas and arepas from the excellent Viva Mi Arepa, Anna's burritos, Peruvian chicken. He has also looked at couple of menus for chinese places and begrudging admits that maybe he could try Doris' homemade noodles from King Fung Garden II.

                                The biggest hits so far, though, have been bread pudding and a Nigerian stew and rice that I have cooked at home.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: BarefootandPregnant

                                  Well, the Chinese do love home-made above everything else. Maybe that's the secret.

                                  1. re: BarefootandPregnant

                                    Oh, he's darn lucky to be able to live with such an accommodating exchange chow-host! When I lived in Spain, we either ate what was made, or didn't.

                                  2. I struggled with this when my parents were up for a quick visit. They only eat chinese food and sort of tolerate other ethnic foods. They'll eat the other foods, but don't enjoy it as much. They don't like South American or Indian but they do like italian if they have to eat out.

                                    But, it turned out to be easy because they only wanted american seafood, specifically, lobster. They've enjoyed Seafood Shack (lobster) and Atlantic Seafood Company (lobster). Do you see a theme? So one day, I drove them up to Chauncey Creek in Maine for an outdoor lobster feast. They loved it and still talk about how much fun they had sitting by the water. The best is that it's byo anything that isn't on their menu.


                                    In their 4 day visit, they had lobster on 3 of those days. Not realistic for you and your house guest, but it could be an option on a beautiful fall day.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                      And, you can bring plenty of wine for yourself.

                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                        Dang, if this child wants lobster, he's in trouble-but thanks for the tip!

                                        1. re: BarefootandPregnant

                                          I hadn't realized this was a kid. While you certainly should try things to make him happy, I think you also have to take a stand sometime and just offer him things you would normally eat. This will be part of his cultural education! If I was studying in China I would never expect to eat hamburgers and roast beef all the time. My son went to China with a school trip last year. He is a very, very picky eater, but survived very nicely eating Chinese food and was exposed to some new flavors he really liked. Of course there were a couple of trips to Pizza Hut and Outback, too.