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Anyone Been to House of Chang in Cambridge?

Has anyone been to House of Chang on Concord Ave. in Cambridge? I believe it's in the spot where Lucky Garden used to be. The restaurant's website says the owners served the people of Newton and Lexington in years but I haven't been able to figure out the names of their former establishments. What's the food at the new place like?

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  1. Menu looks VERY Americanized. Hard to compete with Shangri-La.

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    Shangri-La
    149 Belmont St, Belmont, MA 02478

    5 Replies
    1. re: StriperGuy

      The menu is very disappointing. It only opened yesterday but according to neighbors, the owners are very nice and the interior is a big improvement from Lucky (yucky) Garden.

      I'll probably check it out in the next week or so but I don't have high hopes since neither Newton nor Lexington has ever had a great Chinese restaurants (the exception being the northern breakfasts at Chung Xin Yuan).

      1. re: beetlebug

        I certainly agree that Chung Shin Yuan is special. But I also think Denian's in Lexington is quite special for Chinese buns, and in the old days Hunan Palace on Galen St (maybe this is technically Watertown but was right on the border) was special, and there were certain dishes at the now departed Ru Yee and Golden Star that were special too. Also, isn't Green Tea 2 in Newton?

        I am nit-picking here, because I agree that the great Chinese restaurants seem to be in further-outlying suburbs.

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        Chung Shin Yuan
        183 California St, Newtonville, MA 02458

        Denian's
        315 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA

        Green Tea Restaurant
        2 Beacon St, Framingham, MA 01701

        1. re: lipoff

          I disagree about Denian's being a special for Chinese buns. The buns I've had there were fine but not particularly noteworthy. I love the idea of a bun place and Lexington needs better than decent Chinese restaurants. To me, Denian's isn't worth a special out of the way trip.

          As for the other places, I can't comment on the special places and it doesn't look like I'll be able to since the restaurants are no longer there. However, I'm looking for a great Chinese restaurant, not just a mediocre restaurant with a couple of special dishes. Especially because fickle me may be in the mood for other dishes than the special ones.

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          Denian's
          315 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA

          1. re: beetlebug

            For the record, Denian's is closed. The big loss, IMO, is their fabulous pot stickers, succulent and flavorful like none I have had elsewhere.

      2. re: StriperGuy

        I went there yesterday for a second time and got a taste of their Chinese New Year special menu, which I found on their website. The food was pretty authentic and tasty. It is absolutely worth checking out.

      3. I went for lunch today. Although a spiffy awning doesn't quite cover up the old cinder block, the interior is much improved. The solid-color walls, spare decor, and wood tables remind me a bit of Shanghai Gate. The food all looks very Americanized. I had the Chung-king spicy pork, which was pleasant but bland and had too many green peppers, although some thick bamboo shoots were a plus. The vegetable spring roll, tasteless and greasy, arrived long after the pork. The owners were extremely solicitous, and a fellow at the next table recommended (correctly!) that they add soup to the lunch specials. Also, weirdly, someone ordered a lunch special with brown rice, and they brought the plate with white rice, and then another bowl of brown rice.

        So the House of Chang, unlike its predecessor, may be "above the line" for an occasional visit by those of us who live in the neighborhood, but earns no higher marks than that.

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        Shanghai Gate
        204 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

        1. I checked it out the other day during lunch. The food was excellent and the service was good. No complaints.

          1. I stopped in for a quick lunch today. The interior and service were great. The owner has been working so hard to bring this restaurant into being, with the lovely awning and re-doing the inside.

            That being said, this isn't a special Chinese restaurant. That may not be fair for me to say since I went for lunch and it was mostly lunch specials. I did order the suan la chao shou which is on their dinner menu. The dumplings themselves were very good, clearly home wrapped dumplings with a nice filling (just the right amount of filling v. overstuffed). But the suace was a bit one dimensional.

            I also order the kung pao chicken. The food was very fresh and made just for me. Perfectly diced chicken pieces with freshly fried peanuts and not an overabundance of celery. But, again, the sauce lacked something. Actually, it lacked a great chili bean paste to bring out the flavor.

            But, I do think if you are looking for American Chinese food, this could be an excellent place to get it. There may be a banquet room upstairs - I forgot to ask. There are a couple of dishes on their special menu that I'm curious about so I may try them for dinner. This would also be a good place to go if you are in the area and you don't want italian food (Gran Gusto, Pulcinella, Armando's or Village Kitchen). It's many steps above Lucky Garden and I do wish them well.

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            Village Kitchen
            359 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

            1. We had a wonderful dinner there a few days ago.

              Dining room is very pretty and calm; clean and modern -- a vast improvement over it's former incarnation as Lucky Garden. Food was excellent -- we had "the classics" -- hot & sour soup, won-ton soup, scallion pancake and General Gao's chicken. The soups were served very hot and both were tasty. The General Gao was some of the best we've had -- very tender chicken and crisp-tender broccoli. The scallion pancake was perfect -- tasty, very hot and just a teensy bit greasy. YUM!! Brown rice (yay!) Service was attentive but not intrusive.

              A GREAT addition to the neighborhood. Of course take-out is always great and (drumroll please...) they deliver to Cambridge!!

              Is it the most authentic or most gourmet of Chinese restaurants around? I'll leave that for others. For me -- it was pretty, low-key, reasonably priced and the food was quite good. And sometimes that's all I need.

              2 Replies
              1. re: zisseh

                Sounds like tasty American Chinese food, which is the very best comfort food when it is great. Was the General Gao's dark or light meat? And did you find it too heavy? I don't order it much anymore because it seems like if it often just too heavy, though I love it when it is done well.

                1. re: hckybg

                  Disappointed but not at all surprised to read this is mediocre Chinese food, but will give it a try as it's in the neighborhood. BTW how come noone mentions Sichuan Garden in Brookline? In my mind the best Chinese hands down in the Boston area. Order off the special menu.

              2. The ambience gets a big thumbs up from me, and the food, for what it is, as well. Is it authentic regional Chinese? No way. The ingredients are top notch, though, and the kitchen treats them with respect. As for the interior, it was designed by the same architect who created Changsho in its current location (but before Lotus Blossom bought it and made changes). Thankfully, there's no sign of the atrocious interior that came before it at Lucky Garden...

                The owner, who goes by Kathy, among other ventures co-owned Changsho in Porter Square back when it was good (late 80s, early 90s, before Lotus Blossom, Inc. cut corners and quality). The chef at House of Chang was the chef at Changsho, and the food is similar, identical in some cases.

                So far, I've tried Pork with Black Bean sauce, which was nicely flavored with fermented black beans and balanced veggies and meat nicely. Kung Pao Chicken (ordered as a lunch special, which comes with a spring roll and did come with soup, even though that's not stated on the menu) was pretty much the perfect American version. Slightly spicy, garlicky, nice mix of textures, and the knifework was impeccable. It did not have the sweet/sour/salt balance a real Sichuan Kung Pao would have, but that's okay... The accompanying hot and sour soup was good, but nothing to write home about. The spring roll was made with good veggies and was remarkably grease free, considering the cooking method.

                Service was efficient and friendly, with no major snafus, though water could have been refilled more quickly.

                Considering what was in the location before and the other eateries in the area, I'm happy they are there.

                1. House of Chang is a place I want to like, and I want to see succeed, but I'm afraid that it's terrible. I've eaten there once, and I promised myself I'd never eat there again. I've kept my promise so far -- H of C made it easy to do. I had the wan-est wonton soup I've ever had -- gluey dumplings in a tasteless liquid, almost colorless except for a touch of pale gray. I also had a chicken and mushroom dish that was so bad that I suspected it was off in some way. I left it mostly untouched. My wife has eaten there two or three times since that awful first visit and reports that pretty much everything she's had ranges from poor to mediocre.

                  You can't mention H of C in the same sentence as Shangri La (except for sentences that say not to). You can't even compare the food to Chang Sho's. The food at C S, although overpriced, is edible, and occasionally tasty.

                  1. So are there any more recent reviews of this place? I've never tried it, but I live close enough to walk. I also live close enough to Golden Garden in Belmont to walk. Is there anything about thius place that would make it worth a visit (like enough dishes worth trying for a family of 5), over say Golden Garden, Shangri-La, or Mulan (those would be our usual choices)?

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                    Shangri-La
                    149 Belmont St, Belmont, MA 02478

                    Golden Garden
                    63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: little.tiger

                      No.

                      1. re: beetlebug

                        Good to know. Thanks :)

                    2. I noticed that they are doing Dim Sum on Saturdays and Sundays.....anyone try that yet?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: FoodLush

                        I have. It's a bit south of mediocre. It's a mix of northern dim sum and southern dim sum. All ordered from the menu and nothing really memorable. It's not worth the trip. Why can't this place be like Golden Garden or Shangri La? Sigh.

                        I really wanted to like this place because it's so close to me and the owners are wicked nice. I just wish they had a menu and chef more towards my taste.

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                        Golden Garden
                        63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

                        1. re: beetlebug

                          Ditto on all counts.

                      2. Just to add my voice to the general opinion - I live a few blocks away and tried H of C a couple times. Without a doubt the worst Chinese I've had in the Boston area. Chow fun noodles that were undercooked, stuck together, greasy, with absolutely no flavor at all. The hostess (I think one of the owners) came over and inquired after I barely touched them. I said they weren't what I was expecting. She got very apologetic for the fact that they were undercooked but clearly didn't get at all that they were tasteless and greasy as well. My DCs' dishes were similarly unappetizing.

                        It's too bad; I'd like some decent Americanized Chinese in the area. For the real thing I hit Quingdao pretty regularly, which is reliably awesome, but it's not the same concept.

                        1. One amazing thing that House of Chang does is that they will use a gluten-free soy sauce on special request.
                          However lousy you may have found their food (I personally thought it was perfectly fine), for people on a gluten-free diet it is like a Christmas miracle. I had not had Chinese food in five years with the exception of P.F. Chang's (they also have gluten-free options, but it's not great).
                          So if you need authentic Chinese flavors, and you can eat whatever you want, this place probably isn't worth traveling out of your way for. But if you are Celiac or otherwise gluten intolerant I whole heartedly recommend it.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: caserole

                            You might also like to know that I brought a friend who can't eat gluten to East by Northeast earlier this year, and while they didn't appear to have a soy substitute, Philip Tang, the chef, was extremely accommodating about making adjustments so that everyone could enjoy most (if not all) dishes. Also, in the same line of modern Asian, Myers+Chang is also well known for their gluten-free dishes.

                            -----
                            East by Northeast
                            1128 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                            1. re: caserole

                              I also am surprised at the negative reviews here, as I have always had wonderful experiences at the House of Chang for the style of food they provide. Especially since like caserole, I have been getting treated to such an extensive variety of tasty gluten free chinese! They will gladly adapt practically any dish on the menu to be gluten free!! I have been in heaven going down such a list of dishes! Thank you House of Chang!

                              Also, thank you hckybg for mentioning the others to try!