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Worthwhile Chinese food in the Boston Area?

I moved away from the Boston area 3 years ago and am in town for a visit.

Since moving away, I've had some great to absolutely phenomenal Chinese meals in Flushing New York, Philly, LA and SF. And I'm wondering whether there are any places in the Boston area that might compare.

To give some more info, before leaving, I tried a number of Chinese places in the area: Qingdao Garden (Cambridge), Chili Garden (Medford), Shangri La (Belmont), Beijing Star (Waltham), Zoe's (Somerville), Taiwan Cafe, Victoria's, China Pearl, and fairly recently, Hei La Moon & Hong Kong Eatery. To put it lightly, with maybe a possible exception of the dumplings at Beijing Star, nothing really sticks out in my mind as being all that memorable.

So did I miss any place while I was here? Have any new places opened up since I left? Or does Boston come up short wrt Chinese food and I should concentrate on other cuisines?

I'd also be curious to know if there are any places in Quincy worthwhile going to, which had a growing Chinese population when I left.

Thanks in advance! I look forward to what you have to say.

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  1. Vinh Sun BBQ, Chinatown: http://www.menupix.com/boston/restaur...
    Jo Jo Tapei, 103 Brighton Ave., Allston: www.jojotaipeiboston.com

    1. How well did you explore the menu at Shangri-La? There are some truly superb dishes there. Beijing Start you really have to order off the Chinese menu or have Dim Sum. The rest of your choices are only middling. For Dim Sum Try Winsor or Shangri La. Jo Jo mentioned below is worth a visit as is Fuloon, Best Little Restaurant, Shanghai Gate and Wang's in Somerville particularly for dumplings.

      1. Boston does not come up short with respect to Chinese food --- in fact, quite the opposite. Some of the places that you mentioned (Qingdao, Chili Garden, Shangri-la, Beijing Star, Zoe's nad Taiwan Cafe) should have been very good, but all are just slightly below the very top tier in Boston, IMHO. Here are the top tier, and some suggestions of what to order there:

        Fuloon in Malden (Jing Pao Duck, Wok Baked Beef, Whole Fishes)
        Jo Jo Taipei in Allston (Pancake with scallion and roast beef, three cup chicken, smelly tofu)
        Sichuan Gourmet in Framingham and Billerica (Sichuan food)
        Wang's in Somerville (Dumplings, Dumplings and Dumplings)
        Little Q in Quincy (Hotpot)

        I think it can depend a lot on what you order at a restaurant. For example, Taiwan Cafe has phenomenal thousand year egg with tofu, three cup chicken, pan fried cod filet with soy sprinkles and vegetarian dumplings. Zoe's has excellent sweet and sour lotus root, cumin lamb, and strange flavor chicken. But I will admit that there are also dishes at both of those restaurants that don't sing like those ones do, and Taiwan Cafe and Zoe's can be phenomenal when they are "on" and okay when they are "off". Shangri-la is much better for weekend brunch than it is for dinner.

        However, the five I mentioned above are more consistent and more of their menu items are phenomenal.

        If you like Shanghainese food, I would add Shanghai Gate in Allston. If you like Taiwanese brunch I would try Chung Shin Yuan in Newton on weekends only. For a Peking Duck feast, try King Fung Garden, but call at least one day ahead.

        2 Replies
        1. re: lipoff

          Thanks lipoff, sorry I didn't have time to reply before, but this was kind of what i was looking for. Will do my best to try out some of your suggestions.

          1. re: lipoff

            Do not overlook FuLoon's fabulous pork belly with dried beancurd leaf....

          2. What sort of dishes do you typically order?? Alot has to do with regional preferences and tastes.

            I still recall a girl I once knew telling me how all Chinese food is awful around here. When i asked for more details, it turned out that she had this opinion because when she orders fried rice (for her whole meal) it doesnt have peas and carrots in it like she used to get in the mid west.....

            Im not suggesting that is the case here but a funny story anyway..

            5 Replies
            1. re: hargau

              This is funny, and so true. We took a friend to Shangri-La (one of our favorites) and she thought it "sucked" because they "don't bring rolls to the table." Needless to say, she is a huge fan of chicken fingers w/duck sauce . . . not that there's anything wrong with that!

              GG
              http://www.semisweetonline.com

              1. re: gansu girl

                Yes there is. :)

                1. re: gansu girl

                  Here in western Maine we have some downright bizarre chinese food traditions. Needless to say, authentic chinese food is not to be found, but neither are even some of the modest developments to Americanized chinese food (more spice, more sichuan flavors, etc.). It's straight up 1950s style Americanized cantonese, heavy on the duck sauce and the egg foo whatnot.

                  My favorite thing is that all the cantonese dishes that are traditionally served with roast pork are here made with ham. Ham Lo Mein, Ham Fried Rice, Mushu Ham, etc.

                  Hilarious! Even the Kowloon would be a welcome site to me now.

                  1. re: tamerlanenj

                    Ham Lo Mein. Yuck dude.

                    1. re: tamerlanenj

                      My parents moved outside Rutland, VT in the late 70's from NYC. The local Chinese place always served rolls to start. Every lunch/dinner plate came wit your choice of French fries or rice,

                      No wonder my bro and I learned to cook..:)

                2. Please name your favorite meals in Flushing, Philly, LA and SF and people can suggest similar or complementary things.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Luther

                    Luther & Hargau, I'm very open. I have a Cantonese background, but when it comes to other regions, I'll generally stick to recommendations from others and have generally enjoyed them. I think my most recent memorable dining experiences for Chinese have been: hot oil dumplings at White Bear (Flushing), various Xi'an dishes at Xian Famous Foods (Flushing), pork bone soup at Wenzhou ZhuJi (Flushing), and just outstanding dimsum at Koi Palace (San Fran area).

                    If you do give restaurant recs, even for places I've tried before, I'd love to hear your top picks for dishes. Cheers!

                    1. re: fivefivefive

                      Fivefivefive, for Cantonese seafood, try Peach Farm. It is like ShiaoLanKung in Philly, and a little more seafood-centric. I am a reader on the Philly board and have enjoyed your posts. It is a pleasure finally posting on your thread!

                      I'd like to ask a question -- a few years ago the daipaidong Chinese places on the second floor of one of the buildings at the intersection between Beach and Harrison were closed down due to the building converting into a loft. The daipaidong place by the entrance (husband and adult son ran the Chinese food place, and wife ran the juice stand on the other side of the entrance) -- does anyone know if and where they re-opened? How was it? I miss all their dishes and their lotus root, dried octopus, little red bean with ginger soup. I have been eating there since I was a college student in the mid 90s. Please help!

                      1. re: MBACF

                        Thanks MBACF for your kind comment and your response above. It's really nice to have a comparison between Philly and Boston, since my mind has been so Philly oriented recently.

                        Btw, I'm so sad to hear about the closing of the daipaidong in Chinatown. I also grew up in Mass and the daipaidong was one of the places that my family used to visit throughout the years.

                  2. Large groups of picky eaters (who, us?) have had twenty dishes at a time at Fuloon - and really enjoyed them! Many detailed reports and recommendations on earlier threads.

                    I'm also surprised no-one's mentioned Mulan - While not always phenomenal, it's been known to be!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: fredid

                      Best Little Restaurant, Hudson St, Chinatown (2nd'd)
                      Peach Farm, Beach St, Chinatown

                      1. re: ipsofatso

                        I think without an answer to Luther's question its impossible to answer. Some of the restaurants you list above are only good for very specific things. For instance you list Hei La Moon. Really unless your going on a busy Sunday AM for dimsum it will be just average chinatown cantonese. Or Beijing Star, depends what you order and when you go. Which menu you use, etc...

                      2. re: fredid

                        my family and i have always gone to best little restaurant for dinner. it's cantonese and their specialty is squab. it's cash only and literally a hole in the wall in chinatown. joyful garden is pretty decent too out in brighton.

                        mulan is down the street from me. it's taiwanese but i've heard mixed reviews about it and that's why i have never gone. with wisteria closing on me, i need to get my chinese food fix somehow, even if it's not cantonese. i hear their cod is amazing, but what else is recommended there?

                        1. re: shirshir

                          Mulan is excellent. I'd be psyched to have it in my hood.

                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            I like to buy the frozen dumplings at Mulan and prepare them at home. I also like the dumplings at the gourmet dumpling house.

                            I prepare them and use a sauce of 80% balsamic vinegar and 20% light soy sauce and a few drops of hot sauce.

                            1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                              Grate a little ginger in that dipping sauce, and shave some scallion in there.

                              1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                I always want to drop by the Gourmet Dumpling House for lunch but it is always JAMMED with no tables available around lunch time. Place is a big hit!

                            2. re: shirshir

                              Mulan is quite good in fact. I particularly like their scallion pancake and beef with leek wrapped in pancakes, although I think these are a cut below Jo Jo Taipei. I also like their steamed vegetarian dumplings, but I think these are a cut below Taiwan Cafe's.
                              If you like smoked salted duck (yan shui ya) their version is very good. They're salted crispy chicken (yan su ji) is phenomenal. My favourite dish there is the soft bean curd with green mustard (xue cai mao dou bai ye). I also like the lamb with hot chili and their chicken in chili sauce, although the latter is a cut below Jo Jo's. I want to like the pumpkin rice noodles, but I never have. Other than that one item, I've never had anything I haven't liked at Mulan. Again, while I think it is very good, when I really want Taiwanese food I find myself heading more often to Jo Jo Taipei, unless I want fried chicken and xue cai mao dou bai ye.

                              1. re: lipoff

                                I agree re JJTP vs. Mulan. I am one of the few on this board that doesn't really like Mulan . . . and it has been suggested by other posters that it's b/c I don't like Taiwanese food (b/c I am, admittedly, a lover of heat & spice). But that's not true. We are HUGE JJTP fans, would eat there every week if the budget allowed - although not spicy, the dishes are super flavorful and well-executed, every time. Mulan is "meh" and boring to me.

                                GG
                                http://www.semisweetonline.com

                          2. Fu Loon's steamed beef szechuan style is the stuff of chilihead dreams.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tamerlanenj

                              My best meals have been at C K Shanghai though only when it is not busy and I ask the chef personally to make something of his choice - though usually I specify the main component to go with the wine that I have chosen. then I would give him 5 stars.

                              His general menu is ok perhaps even good, but it contains many mediocre dishes. If i had to chose randomly from the menu, I would give him 3.5 stars.

                              So, go on a week day or during down periods when C K is not busy; his one problem is that his kitchen is not too small for his dining room.

                              -----
                              C K' Shanghai Restaurant
                              15 Washington St, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481

                            2. I would just like to point out to the O.P. that New York and San Francisco metro areas each have more than a half million residents of Chinese heritage, compared to perhaps 50,000 in Greater Boston. The Chinese populations of those other cities is comparable to the entire population Boston. Given these demographics, I think Boston holds its own in well-prepared Chinese food with restaurants such as Fuloon, JoJo, Best Little, Sichuan Gourmet, Peach Farm, TsingTao, etc.

                              1. Just wanted to update and give a thanks for all of your recs. Due to time/logistical constraints, the only place that I (and family) got the chance to try out was Peach Farm and I thought it served some quality Cantonese dishes. I wasn't quite a fan of the garlic frog legs that were recommended somewhere else on the boards, but the lobster, steamed fish and dau miu were fresh and executed as well as you could ask for.

                                Anyways, my gf will be starting work in the Boston area sometime next year, so I'm sure I will get a chance to try out some of your other recs in the near future. Thanks again!

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: fivefivefive

                                  Where have you found Chinese food in Philly that can be described as "absolutely phenomenal"? I get there a few times a year, and usually get the da peng noodles from Tai Lake.

                                  As for Boston, an old thread shows new life.

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4305...

                                  1. re: KWagle

                                    I've since moved to yet another town, Atlanta, so you should really just poke through the Chowhound boards of Philly to get the most recent data. My favorites were: Nanzhou Hand-drawn Noodles for their hand-drawn noodles, Four Rivers for decent Sichuan, Sang Kee Duck for a decent wonton noodle soup and Shiao Lan Kung for decent Cantonese. I thought Tai Lake was passable and thought dimsum in Phily was pretty mediocre. The absolutely phenomenal was more in reference to the other cities mentioned above, but that's not to dump on Philly (there's some truly enjoyable dining to be had there).

                                    1. re: fivefivefive

                                      Ahah, that explains a great deal. :-)

                                      In Boston, you can get phenomenally awesome Sichuan food at Lao Sichuan, Chilli Garden, probably "New Shanghai" and according to lipoff, Top Garden. That's between food and six places depending on how you count and rank the three Laos. You can find good to decent Sichuan at another handful of places, most notably "Thailand Cafe". I think that means the Boston area is *still* better than NYC for Sichuan.

                                      It's a lot harder to find great examples from the other regions, but we have a dozen or so good examples, and people I tend to trust say Fuloon is at least very good if not great. And we hace at least one Dongbei restaurant ("Golden Garden" which is actually Golden Mountain) now, so the only thing missing is good Hunan (or any Hunan) and great Cantonese.

                                      However, these being Chinese restaurants, they don't stand behind everything they make--some of it is just there to pay the rent--so it pays to know what to order and to cultivate a relationship with the owners/managers.

                                      -----
                                      Chilli Garden
                                      41 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

                                      Top Garden
                                      1921 Main St Ste 1, Tewksbury, MA 01876

                                      1. re: KWagle

                                        Your posts are interesting, but I think that you should use the English names of restaurants along with the Chinese names. How many people will know that Lao Sichuan is Sichuan Gourmet? Even Chinese may not recognize that.

                                        -----
                                        Sichuan Gourmet
                                        1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                                        1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                          Their web site is laosichuan.com, and if you Google "lao sichuan boston" they come up as the first result.

                                  2. re: fivefivefive

                                    Just outside of Chinatown:

                                    Chinatown Cafe
                                    262 Harrison Ave
                                    (between Curve St & Marginal Rd)
                                    Chinese Comfort food at great price

                                    Royal Palace Restaurant II
                                    70 Tyler St
                                    (between Harvard St & Tai-tung St)
                                    Chinese Comfort food at great price

                                    Slightly overlooked in Chinatown:

                                    Asian Garden
                                    28 Harrison Ave
                                    (between Beach St & Essex St)
                                    Chinese Comfort food at great price

                                    Wai Wai Restaurant
                                    26 Oxford St
                                    (between Beach St & Essex St)
                                    walk down stairs
                                    Pork, Chicken, or Duck rice plate.
                                    You can get some greens too.
                                    Economy of words is best way to proceed here.
                                    I also like the chili sauce/paste.

                                    Café de Lulu
                                    42 Beach St
                                    (between Harrison Ave & Tyler St)
                                    walk down stairs
                                    $19.95 All Day Dinner Special is good starting point.

                                    The NEW, NEW, New Shanghai Restaurant
                                    21 Hudson St
                                    (between Beach St & Kneeland St)
                                    Best Spicy Beef Noodle Soup I have had on
                                    either Coast. My main reason for going here.
                                    Bamboo is a start here too.

                                    Bubor Cha Cha
                                    45 Beach St
                                    Malaysian food is just ok, this is really a
                                    Hong Kong/Singapore style eatery, stick with the Cantonese comfort food.
                                    Best chicken feet in Chinatown.

                                    The Best Little Restaurant
                                    13A Hudson St
                                    walk down stairs (see trend here?)
                                    Casseroles (* Nam Bo), Salt and Pepper anything

                                    Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant
                                    63 Beach Street
                                    Bakery is average. The restaurant is SF style, Tenderloin not Chinatown.
                                    Great soups, noodles. Tripe with ginger and scallion.

                                    Outside Chinatown:

                                    Golden Garden
                                    63 Concord Av
                                    Belmont, MA 02478

                                    they don't have a "secret" menu per se but, the
                                    good stuff isn't clearly marked on the menu.
                                    The Cuisine is more Dongbei than ç you mention that and you are in.

                                    Sichuan Gourmet
                                    Framingham Location
                                    Napa Beef and Cabbage, Spicy Sausages.

                                    -----
                                    New Shanghai Restaurant
                                    21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

                                    Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant
                                    63 Beach St, Boston, MA

                                    Asian Garden
                                    793 Crescent St Ste 3, Brockton, MA 02302

                                    Beach St Cafe
                                    35 Beach St, Manchester, MA 01944

                                    Bubor Cha Cha
                                    45 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                    Sichuan Gourmet
                                    1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                                    Golden Garden
                                    63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

                                  3. Apart from Peach Farm, where are the best spots for cantonese cooking these days?

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: nasilemak

                                      how about east ocean or jumbo seafood in chinatown?

                                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                        My experience with East Ocean City is almost a decade old, but at that time I found it just okay, its biggest virtue being that it was open till 4. Now, that's no longer true. The smelts in Maggi seasoning were quite good, but overall we liked other things better, including Peach Farm and Taiwan Cafe. Nowadays, "Gourmet Dumpling House" is my first choice for late night eating, if you can get there by midnight or so. ("Dumpling Cafe" will serve until their posted closing time of 2AM and are even friendly about it.)

                                        -----
                                        Peach Farm
                                        4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                                        East Ocean City Restaurant
                                        27 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                      2. re: nasilemak

                                        I don't have enough experience with dinner to say that Great Taste in Chinatown to say they have the depth that a Peach Farm or larger restaurants who cater to the true dinner crowd have, but I had some really solid dishes there when I ate there. I love that their food always comes out hot and very fresh, dinner or lunch. If you're not interested in fighting the crowds at a Peach Farm and don't mind a cafe like feel, I think they're worth a visit.

                                        -----
                                        Peach Farm
                                        4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                                        1. re: kobuta

                                          Great Taste has a variety of great HK style foods (bakery items, cold and hot milk tea, fried pork chops and fried noodles, competent dim sum items and fantastic fried turnip cakes) but if you're looking for a "nice seafood restaurant" type experience you won't be satisfied. Definitely hot and fresh though... perhaps with the exception of the fried bread in the jaa long (fried bread wrapped in noodle) which is always stale.

                                          -----
                                          Great Taste
                                          201 Main St, Milford, MA 01757

                                          1. re: Luther

                                            Exactly -- it's not your traditional dinner place. I've eaten there several times for lunch and brunch and have had great food. I was quite surprised when my mom and I decided to pop by for a dinner one night. We ordered "simple" food - sweet and sour pork, a seafood dish and some veggies, and then rice. Everything was nicely prepared and a fine meal if you're not looking for the Peach Farm experience.

                                            People seem to enjoy their other foods, but don't think people think of it for dinner, but there's no reason they shouldn't if they're not shooting for a 'fancier' dinner (so to speak). They have lobster specials, and some other interesting dishes on their walls. I think the place offers fine examples of Cantonese food.

                                            -----
                                            Peach Farm
                                            4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                                            1. re: kobuta

                                              It's definitely a good place to go for HK-style sweet and sour (at least the chops, I don't know if they make a small pieces or boneless version).

                                              1. re: Luther

                                                I think of Great Taste as a place to go for comfort-food rice plates: beef with bean curd, that sort of thing.

                                      3. I've been feeling somewhat Chinese-food-deprived since moving from California, so I did a little exploring based on this thread . Peach Farm was amazing. Based on recommendations, I had the hot and sour soup, which was light and tangy and very good. Also got the shrimp in lobster sauce since it's a Cantonese favorite of mine. Peach Farm's may be the best example I've had. Kind of looks like a soupy mess, but it was very complexly seasoned and the shrimp were perfectly done. I didn't try the ginger scallion lobster, but the table next to me did, and were audibly moaning over it. :)

                                        Mulan was less exciting. Scallion pancakes were tasty enough but far from being the best I've had. I tried the soft bean curd with mustard greens and I have to say the appeal of the dish eludes me- in general, not just Mulan's rendition. I found the bean curd wrappers sort of like eating wet paper. However, the veggie dumplings were very good (I was having a veggie day). I would try different dishes at Mulan again, but nothing blew me away.

                                        Thanks for the tips! Might try Sichuan Gourmet next....

                                        -----
                                        Peach Farm
                                        4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                                        Sichuan Gourmet
                                        1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: fatty_mouthfeel

                                          There are at least a dozen places worth trying. You should start a chowhound mob.