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Formosa Taipei

justbeingpolite Feb 22, 2010 06:00 AM

The former Denien's site on Marrett Rd in Lexington is now Formosa Taipei, a mostly takeout chinese restaurant, with a Taiwanese slant.
I gather the owners used to own, or part own, Jo Jo Taipei in Allston.
Don't know much about Taiwanese cuisine, but I enjoyed pan fried pork buns, sticky rice with pork in bamboo leaves, hot and spicy minced chicken (pretty spicy!) and got a bag of pork and cabbage dumplings which I havent tried yet, but look good.
They also bought the bubble tea equipment from the former owners, and are shaving ice and making bao bin, which I didn't try, but looked good and was being bought up by many chinese customers.
Maybe someone with more experience can chip in.

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  1. j
    jayk RE: justbeingpolite Feb 22, 2010 06:21 PM

    Really? Can we eat in here? Thinking about heading here with some friends but not sure about the atmosphere. Doesn't need to be fancy but if there are only a couple of tables, don't want to have to wait.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jayk
      justbeingpolite RE: jayk Feb 23, 2010 03:55 AM

      No tabkes, but some counters and stools around the edge of the room. Not a "sit down" atmosphere, but you can eat in.

    2. PinchOfSalt RE: justbeingpolite Feb 25, 2010 05:30 PM

      Just picked up a portion of Taiwanese wonton soup, an order of three-cup chicken, and some rice to go. The verdict? Definitely a very nice choice for take-out. I very much enjoyed the chicken. The soup had some nice delicately formed wontons (goldfish shaped, not the usual envelope fold) and was surprisingly peppery (black pepper, not chili). The menu is limited but that's not a problem as far as I am concerned. The person who took my order recommended the beef noodle soup as being very Taiwanese and a good choice for next time. I will be back!

      The seating arrangement is the same as the previous business - a counter along the wall with a few stools. If you are looking for a quick meal as you are on your way from one place to another, eating there could work out very well. However this is definitely not a formal restaurant with table service.

      For what it's worth, I was told that Formosa Taipei is a spin-out of Jo Jo Taipei. One of the partners came from Jo Jo Taipei and took the kitchen staff along.

      My only regret is I wish this place had been open when I was working in Lexington Center. It is right along the path between there and my house and would have been perfect for picking up dinner on the way home.

      1. lipoff RE: justbeingpolite Mar 18, 2010 06:12 AM

        Just went to Formosa Taipei last night. Nice menu. We had bubble tea (okay, but unremarkable), very nice three cup tofu (a very thin sauce, but really nice balanced flavors), the flounder fish filet (chuan1 wei4 yu2 pian4) which were very beautiful soft pillows of fish in a pleasantly spicy sauce. Nothing too fancy, but someone definitely knows what he's doing in the kitchen! Most interestingly, we had the "sesame biscuit" a strange name for zhi1 ma da4 bing3, a kind of big puffy layered bread, topped with sesame and stuffed with scallions. I've had this made by a Chinese grandmother before, but never in a restaurant. It was great!

        We ended the meal with the shaved ice ("bow bin") dessert. The shaved ice itself was refreshing, the boiled peanuts and red bean were flavorful, and there was lots of condensed milk. But there were also these odd little gummy fruit cubes, which were unpleasantly hard and way too sweet.

        I recognized one of the women for the early days of Jo Jo Taipei. We chatted for awhile and I rather got the impression that one of the original partners left and now has started this restaurant, rather than it being an amiable spin-off. But that's okay. They are also opening another branch in Nashua, NH very soon.

        Since we had come from Cambridge, we wanted to eat in, and that we did, sitting on stools at the counter. There's about room for four people to eat, although they are obviously set up for take out. Our food was served in take out containers, which certainly made it easy to pack up the leftovers.

        JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
        103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

        Formosa Taipei
        315 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

        1 Reply
        1. re: lipoff
          justbeingpolite RE: lipoff Mar 18, 2010 08:43 AM

          When I was there, everyone (all the chinese customers) was getting the bao bin, and appearing to love it! Gotta try that next time.
          The pork and cabbage dumplings I bought frozen to take home were great! Better, I thought, than those from the Chinese Spaghetti Factory. Plumper, better tasting dough that held up well to pan fry/steaming at home. The filling was also excellent meaty with nice cabbage flavor. They're also made with a flat side that the CSF dumplings don't have, makes them pan fry with a nice crispy side.

          Chinese Spaghetti Factory
          73 Essex St, Boston, MA 02111

        2. j
          justauser RE: justbeingpolite Mar 21, 2010 07:55 AM

          I have been here twice and find the dishes that I've tried very authentic. The twice cooked pork is terrific but not what you'd expect unless you've eaten in CHina or somewhere like the Grand Sichuan in NYC.

          1 Reply
          1. re: justauser
            Ferrari328 RE: justauser Mar 22, 2010 10:16 AM

            Tried the twice cooked pork today and while everything was good with a nice spice I found it very similar to your run of the mill chinese restaurant. The pork seemed to be the same over tenderized meat.

          2. t
            tigerswims RE: justbeingpolite Mar 25, 2010 12:38 PM

            We went to Formosa Taipei last weekend for a quick bite between errands. We ordered the lo bo gao (turnip cakes), chive "boxes", and vegetarian dumplings. The skin of the dumplings was unremarkable but they were stuffed with a surprising array of colorful and very thinly sliced veggies. The chive boxes (eggs, glass noodles, and chives encased in a pastry shell) were as delicious as anything deep fried should be. And the lo bo gao was excellent - I have high standards for this, as it's my favorite dim sum dish and I've eaten it all over the country and in Hong Kong/China - but it exceeded my expectations for a takeout joint. The turnip was smooth, fresh, and flavorful.

            The one thumbs-down was the soybean milk (savory version, which includes vinegar, chili, etc.). My husband's family is from Taiwan and they love their savory soy milk. I tasted some of my husband's and we agreed it was among the worst we've had in Boston - insipid, really. The chunks of fried dough had been sitting in the soy milk in preparation for takeout and so they were all soggy. It was also pricey ($3).

            Formosa Taipei
            315 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

            4 Replies
            1. re: tigerswims
              galleygirl RE: tigerswims Mar 25, 2010 06:02 PM

              Oh god, it's hard to find good savory soy milk...Where do you find one you like?

              1. re: galleygirl
                barleywino RE: galleygirl Mar 26, 2010 05:41 AM

                i'm partial to the version at Chung shin Yuan (Newton), not so much for the flavor but for the way it thickens up into curds as you stir it (if you add a few drops of vinegar) and also for the fried cruller there (order separately) which is the best around imo...for meat eaters, the (rice flour coated) steamed spicy spare ribs are also a rare treat and the jia jiang mein (peking meat sauce noodles) are good comfort food

                1. re: galleygirl
                  tigerswims RE: galleygirl Mar 26, 2010 06:29 AM

                  My husband says he likes the version at Shangri-La in Belmont the best, I think because it's solidly reliable rather than hit-or-miss. It's got good flavor and body, if you can talk about soy milk that way.

                  149 Belmont St, Belmont, MA 02478

                  1. re: tigerswims
                    qianning RE: tigerswims Apr 12, 2010 08:42 AM

                    i second the shanggri-la rec.

              2. yumyum RE: justbeingpolite Mar 29, 2010 07:58 AM

                I picked up a mountain of food from Formosa Taipei on Friday -- I wanted to try a little of *everything* to see how it stacks up to Shangri-La, and my favorite MuLan. But I focused on ordering dishes that would travel relatively well back to the Ville.

                Ordered the beef pancakes, spicy Taiwanese beef noodle soup, pork with bamboo shoots and bean curd, and flounder in spicy sauce. I was also really jonesing for the turnip cake others here have mentioned. I didn't find it on the menu, but did find "Tulip cake" on the weekend dim sum menu. There are enough other lulzy typos on the menu (see: "deep fried Doug") that I figured that must be it. When I asked the lady if tulip cake is only offered on weekends, she said she'd be happy to make some up for me. I was elated.

                15 minutes later I was taking an enormous bag of food to the car. This would be enough for lunch, dinner, and leftovers all weekend. The smell was driving me nuts on the way home but it was a pretty quick drive back to Somerville (um, sorry officer, I was going 80, but for god's sake man I have steaming Taiwanese food here!).

                First thing's first. The Tulip cake is not turnip cake, but it is a deep fried pastry with a light and delicate filling of bean sprouts, diced pork, and other veg. Cut to look like tulip petals, the flaky pastry was a good representative sample of what great Taiwanese chefs can do with a deep fryer. Not creamy turnip cake, but very good. Made me worry about poor Doug though. ;-)

                Beef scallion pancake roll was okay, but not even close to Mulan's version. A little too sweet, sloppily rolled and a touch greasy, I'd avoid it next time. Pork with bamboo and bean curd was tasty but also a bit haphazard. The "knife work" as Limster would say, was lacking. However, the beef noodle soup was totally legit, with fatty chunks of beef and gnarly bits in a spicy rich broth. The noodles and attendant veg were held separately and the broth was poured on top at home. Best thing was the flounder ... thanks to Lipoff for that tip-off. Lightly cooked chunks of fish in a serious spicy sauce that I couldn't get enough of. The sauce was also excellent spooned over the pork dish later. I'd travel to Lexington for that dish alone.

                That said, I wouldn't travel for the rest of it. I still give the edge to Mulan and Shangri-La is nipping at its heels for a close second. FT is a great option to have in Lexington I'm sure, but IMO not worth a special trip. Unless you are really craving Doug.

                149 Belmont St, Belmont, MA 02478

                228 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

                Formosa Taipei
                315 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

                12 Replies
                1. re: yumyum
                  yumyum RE: yumyum Mar 29, 2010 08:14 AM

                  I took some pictures, but please excuse the fact that everything looks the same color. Blame it on the Droid, not the restaurant.


                  1. re: yumyum
                    Dinsdale45 RE: yumyum Mar 29, 2010 08:26 AM

                    I see another one opens up near Costco in S. Nashua this week. That's closer to me, so I hope to give it a try soon.

                    1. re: yumyum
                      barleywino RE: yumyum Mar 29, 2010 08:36 AM

                      great report, thanks yumyum! the "tulip cake" does indeed look like shredded turnip inside (lo bo sze bing) and is a favorite of mine when you can get a fresh and flaky rendition (too often they are hard like hockey pucks, maybe even reheated from frozen?)

                      1. re: barleywino
                        tatsu RE: barleywino Mar 29, 2010 04:06 PM

                        Formosa Taipei is the best type of cheap eat conundrum - excellent take-out, yet, a kind of food that doesn't travel well. So, unlike 90% of Formosa's other patrons...I eat off a 12" shallow ledge, with or without a stool. The upshot? If you stand and bend your knees a bit, you'll be at the perfect height to rake this delicious food towards your tonsils while it's still hot!

                        The space is new, sunny and tidily designed, spotless and full of energetic pride -- auspicious signs to think it will stay well maintained and operated. It's rumored that Formosa's staff forked, err, splintered chopsticks, from Jo Jo Taipei and already have plans to open in Nashua, NH.

                        While Formosa won't take you to the heights of Eat Drink Man Woman it does everything on it's modest Taiwanese menu with technically pristine yet simple execution. I have yet to try anything on the "American-Chinese" menu, but I'm sure it's all good, like a McDonalds "Happy Hapa" menu, which is pretty popular with kids in SoCal, I hear.

                        "Turnip Cakes" had the correct pan-sear, right thickness of turnips shreds, nice balance of softness to shape and size. Good as the best Dim Sum places in Chinatown. (Turnip Cake here is weekend only.) I order it and pick out the meat bits since I'm vege, which is absurd, but that's my problem. When else are turnips this delicious? Oven-roasted? Ha ha, silly celebrity chefs.

                        "Sesame Biscuit" is a sesame seed encrusted deep-fried dough. A thin crisp golden light pretzel-gold-brown shell, sesame seeds not scorched a bit. The aroma of sesame is heightened to perfection by flash fry. The bread itself? A generous round of layered Char Siu Bao type dough, flecked with scallions within it's folds. This ends up more like a thick and fluffy, yet toothy inside and crackly on the outside, Taiwanese-style scallion pancake. (Already superior to any other style of scallion pancake.) The dipping sauce, is a nice condiment. Chili pepper flakes tastes so fresh, bright and pleasingly caliente. Even after brushing my teeth, that garlic is still on my breath, so lay one on me and put some tongue in it. This is better than any corndog, doughnut, beignet, crueller, whatever. Dough in oil, this wins. Win win win winny win win.

                        They have perhaps 4 kinds of steamed dumplings, which are ok for Taiwan, but tops around here. Definitely in the same league as another Suburban Chinese Gem, Qingdao of North Cambridge. Steamed dumplings vary quite a bit in quality from serving to serving and no two are the same, like snowflakes. But that's just my personal opinion and how much I respect...Les Dumplings.

                        Taiwanese pan-fried dumplings/pies/cakes/ravioli/potstickers/rolls are basically, foodsex. Claimed unique to Formosa is the "Seafood Roll", which is not pan-fried but in the same group. They start with a normal fish cake, shaped in the rather Taiwanese fashion, an oblong shape, and condomize it with Fu Zhu, or bean-curd skin and frite those lovely fish ding dongs! Quickly chopped into thirds on the bias and served with another lovely dipping sauce (ask for freshly diced bird's eye chili if you dare, I can't live without, and oh ya, real men have Banh Mi with bird's eye, not jalapenos.) I'm sure the "Chives Pocket" is amazing. The cilantro garnish sorta ameliorates for the take-out container fest taking over your small ledge. **I'd like to see permanent dishes and utensils.**

                        Hot & Sour Soup a la tupperware is vegan, (serves me well :P) which is common of a lot of Chinese places these days because of us faux-hipster faux-localvore fo' sissies. But, Hello! It actually tastes good! Taiwanese-style H&S is white and clear, loaded with fresh White Pepper Again, their spices are really fresh for some reason. Good variety of mushrooms, lily, slivered bamboo shoots and julienned soft tofu, which I imagine is a ridiculous mise en place involving children and very small knives. If you ever stuck leftover chicken stock based H&S in the fridge, the result looks like Dick Cheney's arteries before bypass surgery leading up to a coup d'etat. Gross. Chicken stock is generally just gross. I think that's why they give it to sick people.

                        I've described pan-frying, steaming, soups, deep-frying, and haven't even gotten to the wok dishes. This is not remotely a wok chop shop. No styrofoam, it's REAL plastic. Since making salads is basically too time-consuming and overtaxing for most people these days, no doubt we'll be slinging hamburgers and pizzas in "White Devil Towns" all over China in 20 years. Badly.

                        Yes they have bubble teas. Rolls eyes. I'm like, Chinese like white on rice, but not that Chinese or 12 years old or a girl and not really white or rice. But I'll do shaved ice with you! (Bao Bin)

                        Formosa Taipei
                        315 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

                        1. re: tatsu
                          Nab RE: tatsu Mar 30, 2010 05:28 AM


                          One of few vegetarians I'd look forward to hearing more from. ;)

                          Description of the seafood roll has me slobbering like a rabid mastiff this morning (tho I could've done without the condomization descriptor). Same thought occurred to me as well though - driving way out to the Lexingburb hinterlands to order an array of probably terrific buns and pastries and such, only to have to scarf them on the spot standing. Sounds like it could be worth it.

                          1. re: Nab
                            tatsu RE: Nab Mar 30, 2010 10:05 AM

                            Ha ha, thanks! Gotta front for us non-omnivores!

                            Well, a new habit of mine is to hang out in "Brewed Awakening", a coffeehouse two doors down. It's never crowded, the wifi is free and I get a lot of work done. A lot of times they don't even bother to play music, very quiet. And they have some really comfy full-grain leather armchairs, aaaaahhhh armchairs.

                            After geeking out, I stuff my face! There's a decent Italian-American bakery in between the two shops as well.

                            1. re: tatsu
                              Eatin in Woostah RE: tatsu Apr 10, 2010 04:51 PM

                              Yes, Royal Pastry Shop, an outpost of the one in Cambridge. Excellent cakes and decent lobster tails.

                              Just got takeout from Formosa Taipei tonight. The food scene is looking up for us Lexingtonians! The pan fried pork buns were delish, as was the beef with hot peppers and wonton soup. With the additions of Cake, Formosa and Rice Cube we're actually getting some chowish options in town. And the lovely Taiwanese food stands up just fine for the 5 minute ride back to my house. Not rubbing it in or anything - it's just that the tables are normally turned, with us trying to make it back from Arlington, Cambridge or Somerville before the food gets cold and soggy.

                              tasu, I didn't know the wifi was free at Brewed Awakenings. Will have to start hanging there on my "work from home" days instead of Starbucks. I just never remember it.

                              Brewed Awakening Cafe
                              321 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

                              Formosa Taipei
                              315 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

                              1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                bear RE: Eatin in Woostah Apr 10, 2010 05:14 PM

                                Yes, a wonderful addition to the area, and less than ten minutes from my house. So far we've had takeout twice, with my niece and nephew visiting so there was a chance to try some Chinese-American choices.

                                Highlights have been: Pan-fried pork Buns, Beef with Hot Peppers, Sesame Biscuit (as my son said, that deep-fried hot dough with crunchy sesame topping beats dinner rolls any day), delicious Three-cups Eggplant and Tofu, Wontons with Spicy Peanut Sauce (a bit sweet, but not over-the-top), Hot and Spicy Minced Chicken, Pork Potstickers, and Chive Pockets.

                                General Tsao's Chicken and Chicken Lo Mein were fine.

                                Less successful was Broccoli in Garlic Sauce (not on the menu, but my son asked to substitute broccoli for eggplant since we were getting another eggplant dish). We asked for extra spicy, but there was very little heat, and it was sickly sweet.

                                I'm looking forward to trying that Szechuan flounder dish mentioned above soon. So glad it's not tilapia!

                              2. re: tatsu
                                Eatin in Woostah RE: tatsu Apr 16, 2010 01:36 PM

                                tatsu, I did the "lunch at Formosa Taipei's counter, working at Brewed Awakenings" today. Had the hot and spicy flounder lunch special., then a cafe Americano at BA. It was all very, very good, and uber-convenient. Thank you so much for the tip!

                                Brewed Awakening Cafe
                                321 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

                                Formosa Taipei
                                315 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

                                1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                  yumyum RE: Eatin in Woostah Apr 16, 2010 01:43 PM

                                  Mmmmm, that flounder. I'm still thinking about that flounder.

                                  1. re: yumyum
                                    Eatin in Woostah RE: yumyum Apr 16, 2010 02:05 PM

                                    The lunch portion is really large! I could only eat half.

                                    1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                      tatsu RE: Eatin in Woostah Apr 19, 2010 09:02 AM

                                      hey glad you liked! i'm working either there or bruegger's today!

                    2. Tir_na_nOg RE: justbeingpolite Apr 11, 2010 01:53 PM

                      Went to FT a couple of Friday evenings ago for takeout. Still the same ex-Denian's cute, shiny, little hole-in-the wall with 3 counter seats and a couple of low benches for waiting. Unlike Denian's, I give them more of a chance to succeed, if only because they are not so specialized (not being located in high-traffic Lexington Center).

                      However, I can't say I was blown away. My Beijinger companion did the ordering (spelling from menu):

                      Pork Pot Stickers -- Not bad, with nicely crispy bottoms even by the time we got home.

                      Steamed Pork Cabbage Dumplings -- OK

                      Basil Eggplant -- Mediocre at best, not remotely up to Taiwan Cafe standards. Not worth reheating so tossed the leftovers (which I never do!).

                      Noodle with Sha Cha Beef & Water Crest -- Noodles were on the firm side of al dente; dish was completely ruined by pronounced burnt oil taste.

                      Flounder Fish Fillet -- Easily the best dish, with light battered portions of flounder in a mild-moderate spicy, sticky sauce. But really pretty mild; wouldn't even register at Billerica's nearby Sichuan Gourmet.

                      Overall, I wasn't impressed (amusing that the person taking the orders suggested Denian's failed because their buns were "awful"--living in glass houses and all). But I'll give them a few more tries given that it is so close to work.

                      Sichuan Gourmet and Beijing Star are still only Chinese places of particular note in the area (liberally defining "area" as extending from Billerica to Waltham!). Given SG is ~15 minutes drive away from FT, I rather drive in the wrong direction for good takeout.

                      Beijing Star Restaurant
                      835 Main St, Waltham, MA 02451

                      Sichuan Gourmet
                      502 Boston Rd, Billerica, MA 01821

                      Formosa Taipei
                      315 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: Tir_na_nOg
                        tatsu RE: Tir_na_nOg Apr 11, 2010 09:26 PM

                        I haven't really dived into their entree dishes, but I'm not surprised. I stick to the small items and find those to be very good.

                        I still think Taiwan Cafe is pretty much the standard bearer here. So damned consistent and good after 15 or so years.

                        Eggplant makes horrible leftover, yuck! Chinese leftovers are just wrong, IMO, ha ha!

                        1. re: tatsu
                          StriperGuy RE: tatsu Apr 12, 2010 12:11 AM

                          Hmmm, I don't agree, Shangrila, Mulan, and Jo Jo Taipei (at least prior to the change) all outshine Taiwan Cafe.

                          75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, MA 01803

                          JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
                          103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                          1. re: StriperGuy
                            tatsu RE: StriperGuy Apr 12, 2010 09:17 AM

                            ppl say Jo Jo isn't the same. And obviously they split to start Formosa. I haven't tried Shangrila yet. MuLan I never liked, I tried it 3 times before. Maybe I got the wrong things.

                            228 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

                            75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, MA 01803

                            228 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

                            1. re: tatsu
                              barleywino RE: tatsu Apr 12, 2010 09:38 AM

                              Perhaps Taiwan Cafe is indeed tops from a vegetarian's point of view? (Can't comment on that personally since I always order non-vegetarian dishes at Mulan and Jo Jo Taipei, both of which I prefer to Taiwan Cafe...)

                            2. re: StriperGuy
                              yumyum RE: StriperGuy Apr 12, 2010 09:47 AM

                              While I agree the Taiwanese scene has widened and improved since the days that TC was the only game in town, there are still dishes there that I think are superior to other versions around town. The beef with longhorn peppers is one particularly noteworthy example. Tried the same dish at Gourmet Dumpling House last week and Taiwan Cafe's is still better, IMO. The clams with black bean and basil at GDH were pretty darned stellar, though.

                              Gourmet Dumpling House
                              52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                              1. re: yumyum
                                Nab RE: yumyum Apr 12, 2010 10:09 AM

                                YES. Totally share that perspective - there's room for everybody to play in the sandbox. It's not about one Taiwanese restaurant ruling all. I am really liking how the scene is flourishing now. We have places that focus on breakfasts, buns and dumplings, Taiwanese blue plate comfort food, home cooking and finer dining. If we can get a soup noodle specialist, we'll be in terrific shape.

                                1. re: Nab
                                  barleywino RE: Nab Apr 12, 2010 10:31 AM

                                  3 woks for the dumpling kings under the sky
                                  7 for the soup lords with their bowls of stone
                                  9 for the spice kings with food that makes you cry
                                  1 for the bun lord on his bun throne
                                  in the land of Boston where the Red Sox lie
                                  One wok to rule them all, one wok to find them,
                                  One wok to bring them all and, with cornstarch, bind them
                                  In the land of Boston where the Red Sox lie

                                  -- with apologies to JRR Tolkien

                                  1. re: barleywino
                                    tatsu RE: barleywino Apr 12, 2010 10:41 AM


                                    1. re: barleywino
                                      Nab RE: barleywino Apr 12, 2010 10:44 AM

                                      LULZ. Love it, BW. Pinning this up on the office bulletin board now.

                                      1. re: Nab
                                        barleywino RE: Nab Apr 12, 2010 10:51 AM

                                        you can sign it, " JRR Protein"

                                  2. re: yumyum
                                    tatsu RE: yumyum Apr 12, 2010 10:43 AM

                                    it's strange how GDH is not as consistent as TC, seeing it's basically the same operation.

                                    1. re: tatsu
                                      yumyum RE: tatsu Apr 12, 2010 10:49 AM

                                      Is it really? Had no idea. Even stranger that the same dish (beef with longhorns) is quite different. TC's version is straight up beef and pepps -- usually pretty spicy; the GDH tosses in some onion and the sauce is wetter. Hm. Very curious.

                                      Oh, and nice post barleywino!

                                      1. re: yumyum
                                        barleywino RE: yumyum Apr 13, 2010 04:07 AM

                                        i was going to say "One for the bun lord, sitting on his buns" but it doesn't rhyme ;)

                                    2. re: yumyum
                                      StriperGuy RE: yumyum Apr 12, 2010 12:24 PM

                                      Funny thing is that I had that beef with longhorn dish somewhere else and it was amazing... only I can't remember where... oh well.

                                      1. re: StriperGuy
                                        yumyum RE: StriperGuy Apr 12, 2010 01:42 PM

                                        Think man! THINK!!! (I love that dish.)

                                        1. re: yumyum
                                          lipoff RE: yumyum Apr 13, 2010 12:02 AM

                                          Qingdao Garden does an outstanding version.

                                          Qingdao Garden Restaurant
                                          2382 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                  3. re: tatsu
                                    lipoff RE: tatsu Apr 13, 2010 09:25 AM

                                    I don't think Denian's closed because of financial trouble, although a restaurant so specialized may have done better in a higher traffic area. Chatting with the owner before she closed, she said how "her dream had turned into her nightmare" and she was happy to sell the space for more than she paid for it. I think that's not uncommon when people (including me!) dream of owning a restaurant, but sometimes the reality is not quite as much fun.

                                    I also disagree about Taiwan Cafe. I mean, don't get me wrong, I like it a lot. In fact, I had dinner there last night! And it's my favorite restaurant in Chinatown. But I think it's anything but consistent. I think it's the least consistent restaurant I go to --- when it's "on" it can be truly great, but I've also had the same dishes there that can be awful. I think Jo Jo Taipei has to be considered the "leading" Taiwanese restaurant in the area, but I'm also grateful that there are so many, each of which has its own strengths and unique character.

                                    JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
                                    103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                                    1. re: lipoff
                                      Eatin in Woostah RE: lipoff Apr 14, 2010 08:01 PM

                                      Thanks for the Denian's insight, lipoff. The owners were always so nice and friendly, and their buns were certainly NOT awful. Glad to hear that they got out without losing their shirts.

                                2. Dinsdale45 RE: justbeingpolite Apr 16, 2010 05:35 AM

                                  Has anyone been to the Nashua location yet?

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Dinsdale45
                                    ChooseYrPoison RE: Dinsdale45 Apr 16, 2010 08:38 AM

                                    Taiwan Cafe is by far the best of these Taiwanese places..we eat there a lot..too much actually and its by far the most consistent restaurant of those mentioned here...JoJo Tai Pei has dropped off a bit but even when it was at its best its food didn't provide the same kind of consistency and depth of flavors as Taiwan Café... it was good but never truly hit it out of the park…Formosa Taipei has been good on a few visits but still not on Taiwan Cafés level.

                                    1. re: ChooseYrPoison
                                      lipoff RE: ChooseYrPoison Apr 16, 2010 10:35 PM

                                      What do you like at Taiwan Cafe?

                                      As I said, I like the place a lot, but the last word in the English language that I would associate with it is "consistent."

                                      1. re: lipoff
                                        tatsu RE: lipoff Apr 19, 2010 09:05 AM

                                        i politely disagree, i have been eating at TC for over 10 years, i have my usual plates there. i've eaten there prolly like 60 visits or more. it's really really really consistent.

                                        1. re: lipoff
                                          tatsu RE: lipoff Apr 19, 2010 09:08 AM

                                          TC is crazy consistent. McD's consistent!

                                      2. re: Dinsdale45
                                        qianning RE: Dinsdale45 Apr 16, 2010 10:47 AM

                                        went to the nashua location last saturday for lunch/brunch. imho, it was ok, the luobo gao was very good, so was the oyster omlette, and i liked their xlb (an item i don't care for at either shangri-la or taiwan cafe). i was less impressed with the shao bing, you tiao & the soy milk (i much prefer shangri-la's versions of these), and i didn't care for the zhong-zi, although others at the table did. the service was friendly, but a bit disorganized, it definitely still felt like they were in learning mode. most of the patrons (90+%) were chinese and ordering from the special brunch menu. the space is nice, clean well lit , roomy and tastefully decorated, but the accoustics are awful.

                                        i've never been to formosa taipei in lexington, so can't offer a comparison to that location. overall, i'd much rather go to shangri-la belmont or taiwan cafe chinatown, but since formosa taipei is about 40 miles closer to where i live, i'm sure i'll go again.

                                      3. n
                                        nonaggie RE: justbeingpolite Apr 17, 2010 02:26 PM

                                        We had lunch at the Lexington location today. We ordered luobo gao (not on the menu, but we asked if they had it, and the woman taking our order said they did), xiao long bao, and three cups tofu. To echo others, the three cups tofu and luobo gao were both very good (although one side of the luobo gao was slightly over-fried). The xiao long bao were some of the better ones we've had in the Boston area; I found them better than the ones we had on our most recent trip to Jo Jo Taipei about a month ago. We thought we'd grab a bag of frozen dumplings to take home, but unfortunately they were out.

                                        Overall, we enjoyed it and will definitely be back.

                                        JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
                                        103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                                        1. Tir_na_nOg RE: justbeingpolite May 11, 2010 05:05 AM

                                          Was there on Friday evening for a second visit.

                                          Flounder Fish Fillet: still good, although less sauce, and seemed even less spicy than on my first visit. This needs to be kicked up a couple of notches to be perfect, at least for my palate.

                                          3 Cup Tofu & Eggplant: I've been to Taiwan many times and I can never remember having "3 Cup" anything, which probably shows how clueless I am. So I don't know what this should taste like, but for the second time I'm not impressed with their eggplant cooking skills. Otherwise OK.

                                          House Special Fried Rice: Lots and lots of "stuff" in it, so good.

                                          Lady at the counter said evening business has been good, but lunch hasn't. Not surprised, given the distance from Lexington Center and their lack of seating. But they probably get good takeout business from the rush hour traffic on Waltham St.

                                          Need to remember to stop by on the weekend and try the Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings).

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Tir_na_nOg
                                            qianning RE: Tir_na_nOg May 11, 2010 12:15 PM

                                            three cup chicken really is a classic taiwanese home style dish. its been a long time since i lived in taiwan, but i don't remeber it being a big restaurant dish, much more a cook at home dish.

                                          2. tatsu RE: justbeingpolite May 28, 2010 08:16 PM

                                            I took some shots of a meal I took there. Not much to look at but I did put in captions this time.

                                            Basically it's their White Hot and Sour (I've described it before), Turnip Cake (also described before) and the Hot Basil Salt and Pepper Squid. Usually I am grossed out by calamari types apps, never mind entrees by the end of the plate, but I ate absolutely everything, it was really quite good.


                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: tatsu
                                              Prav RE: tatsu May 28, 2010 08:51 PM

                                              Great pics! That turnip cake looks delicious and crispy. My pet peeve is when it's not properly browned and crisped up.

                                              1. re: Prav
                                                Tir_na_nOg RE: Prav May 29, 2010 04:37 AM

                                                tasu, you should start a business shooting food photographs for restaurants! Or at least join our Chowcrew and take photos of us.

                                                1. re: Tir_na_nOg
                                                  StriperGuy RE: Tir_na_nOg May 29, 2010 08:18 AM

                                                  I concur the boy has a knack.

                                            2. m
                                              michelleats RE: justbeingpolite Jun 19, 2011 05:11 PM

                                              Here's a perspective from an outsider, who doesn't often eat in the Boston area (these days, anyway). I don't know how this place stacks up to local Taiwanese restaurant competition. I do happen to be of Taiwanese descent on one side of my family, though, and it's safe to say I was really impressed with some of the food at Formosa. So for what it's worth, my review:

                                              (A few, but not many, photos here: http://www.girleatscity.com/2011/06/f...


                                              Although my dining companion and I don't agree on much when it comes to Chinese food -- I go for the nasty stuff like stinky tofu and he gravitates towards white rice and Americanized General Tso's chicken -- one dish we do always agree on is luo bo gao (蘿蔔糕) / pan fried daikon radish cake (not pictured). Formosa Taipei's version had a very soft, tender texture with tiny dried shrimp and occasional small chunks of daikon radish. In our case, they did not have that lovely, crispy, golden, fried crust that we so prize in luo bo gao, though. This crust is something that takes time to develop in a hot pan and perhaps the very pleasant staff did not want us to have to wait long for our order. (We were waiting outside with our dog.) The other downside was that the luo bo gao were very greasy (not blotted) and undersalted by themselves, though excellent with the well balanced gingery, not-too-sweet sauce that came with them. (3.5/5)

                                              Niu rou mian (牛肉麵) / spicy beef noodle soup (pictured at the top of this post), a quintessentially Taiwanese dish, was very nicely executed, here. I was impressed. The broth was strongly flavored with five spice, but the spice was not overly strong and not used as a means to cover up the lack of richness in the broth. To the contrary. This broth was unquestionably excellent all around and clearly developed in the pot for a long period of time with an adequate amount of collagen. It is very difficult to find broth this well made in a restaurant in the US. The beef in the soup was also beautifully braised to the point where chunks were falling apart and they came with attached tendon for textural contrast. If I were to nitpick, I would note that the noodles were too soft and not the kind I grew up on and love most: My mother's version uses thicker, hand cut noodles, not Formosa's thin, spaghetti-like noodles. These are probably subjective preferences, though. (4.5/5)

                                              Ji juan (雞捲) / crispy bean curd "chicken" roll (not pictured) was made with thin, crisp and beautifully deep fried tofu "skin", though again, it was not blotted, so it was excessively oily. For those who don't know, the roll is actually not made with chicken; it's made with a mixture of ground pork and fish paste, which resembles chicken in appearance (hence the name). Often, there are additional vegetables added, though not in this case. (3.5/5)

                                              Shao long tang bao (小籠汤包) / little steamed soupy pork buns, more a Shanghainese specialty, I think, were nonetheless well made with thin skin encasing very rich, savory filling with that particular mouthfeel that can only come from good, collagen-y aspic. Soy sauce and garlic dipping sauce was a well made classic formulation. There was not much soup inside the dumplings, but what was there was excellent. (4/5)

                                              The qing chao qing jian cai (清炒青江菜) / sauteed Shanghai greens were my least favorite dish, though in general, I love greens. The greens, which I think are commonly called "Shanghai bok choy", were stirfried with large pieces of undercooked garlic. Despite the garlic, the dish was bland, without any wok hai or other distinguishing flavors, really. Thankfully, it was not overly oily and was not served with gloppy, sweet brown sauce, as they might be at more Americanized restaurants. (2.5/5)

                                              My dining companion's favorite dish was the niu rou juan bing (牛肉卷餅) / beef in scallion pancakes, the Taiwanese equivalent of Indian kati rolls. The pancakes were thin and redolent with scallion, really very nicely made, but again not blotted and excessively oily. They were filled with thinly sliced raw scallion, nicely marinated sliced beef with great texture -- tender, but with some retained bite from tendon -- and what I think was a thin layer of hoisin sauce. (4/5)

                                              Overall, this was a wonderful, lucky find, despite the excessively greasy fried items. I think we may have scared the nice lady behind the counter with our order, who tactfully asked whether all this food was for two people. (Yes! We're haochi gui (好吃鬼)!) I admit, we're still trying to wade our way through the leftovers, even after three meals. But sometimes, gluttony is oh so worth it.

                                              Formosa Taipei
                                              315 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

                                              1. f
                                                FoodDabbler RE: justbeingpolite Aug 29, 2011 09:36 AM

                                                Had back-to-back lunches here last week. Spicy fish (recommended above by lipoff and yumyum and others), pork buns and daikon cake the first day; beef sirloin with noodles, and pork buns with mustard greens the second. The fish dish was decent, but not as fiery as I was hoping. The beef with noodles (I talked to a knowledgeable and charming fellow luncher the first day who was having it and who highly recommended it) was really very good: large chunks of rich tender beef, some connective tissue, a very flavorful broth, topped with a few chopped mustard greens, scallions and cilantro. Both versions of the pork buns were very goood: freshly steamed, nice, springy dough, and tasty fillings. The mustard greens in the one had a bit of an overcooked quality, though.

                                                The daikon cakes were a decent rendition, but they solidified into a dense congealed mass as soon as they cooled slightly. They are no longer the "tulip cakes" that yumyum encountered on her visit (described above), I asked for tulip cakes and they insisted the daikon cake was the same thing. But what they served were the conventional pan fried squares. They still have Doug on the dim sum menu, both in "wheat" and "fried twist" forms. The rest of the dim sum menu looks interesting too: rice vermicelli with intestine, sweet soy custard with ginger and crushed peanuts, little dried anchovies with peanuts, shredded pig ears, etc.

                                                If you're nearby, this place is well worth a visit. It's even worth going a bit out of your way for.

                                                1. f
                                                  FoodDabbler RE: justbeingpolite Sep 19, 2011 04:29 PM

                                                  A few of us had dinner there this weekend. Knowing that they have really only two tables and a few counter stools, I phoned ahead and asked if they could seat six. They said "yes". When we got there we found that they had put aside the round staff table for us, set for six with chopsticks and plastic plates. I know that they serve lunch in takeaway containers, and it was amusing to have dinner served that way too. The staff, I should make clear, was warm and friendly throughout.

                                                  The food was excellent. We had several things from the dim sum menu: daikon cake (a little lacking on crust, I agree), soup dumplings, beef wrapped in scallion pancake, soy custard with ginger and peanuts, red bean buns. On the phone I also hesitantly ordered fried Doug. They did not understand me. I tried "Fried dough". They were still baffled. I went back to "Doug". It worked the second time. "Ah", they said "Fried Dung." Nevertheless, the dish turned out to be beautifully airy, terrifically crisp, twists of fried dough. The beef in scallion pancakes was very good as well, but the pancakes were a little thicker and more "rustic" than the versions I've had at Taiwan Cafe and Mulan. The soup dumplings were probably my favorite selection from this part of the menu: delicate skin, lovely broth, but slightly low on the soup.

                                                  From the main menu we had the spicy flounder filets (again very good, but somewhat lower in heat than I'd have liked), the 3-cup eggplant and tofu (with the eggplant cooked to a consistency of perfect creaminess), and an off-menu dish of soft tofu with broccoli in a ma-po-like sauce.

                                                  Living in Cambridge, as I do, we're so blessed with excellent Taiwanese options (and Taiwan Cafe is just a hop and a skip away), that we won't be going out of our way to eat at Formosa Taipei. But it's a very good place.

                                                  Formosa Taipei
                                                  315 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: FoodDabbler
                                                    michelleats RE: FoodDabbler Sep 19, 2011 06:11 PM

                                                    >> On the phone I also hesitantly ordered fried Doug. They did not understand me. I tried "Fried dough". They were still baffled. I went back to "Doug". It worked the second time. "Ah", they said "Fried Dung." Nevertheless, the dish turned out to be beautifully airy, terrifically crisp, twists of fried dough.

                                                    This is hilarious! (But I'm quite sure their English is a helluva lot better than my Mandarin or Taiwanese.) Were those fried dough crisps you2 tiao2, the savory crullers you eat with congee? (i.e. http://www.china-on-site.com/pages/co...


                                                    Nice writeup in general, FoodDabbler. I'll add Taiwan Cafe on my list of places to try next time I'm up that-a-way.

                                                    1. re: michelleats
                                                      FoodDabbler RE: michelleats Sep 19, 2011 06:33 PM

                                                      Yes, they were precisely those crullers and I have had them with congee. There's no congee on the menu at FT.

                                                      Thanks for the comment on the writeup. Mine doesn't have the weight of knowledge that your writeups do, however, both this one as well as on the Manhattan board.

                                                      Let me stress that although the Doug interaction was amusing, I meant no disrespect to the owners. They are terrific people and very warm and accommodating.

                                                      1. re: FoodDabbler
                                                        michelleats RE: FoodDabbler Sep 19, 2011 08:46 PM

                                                        Oh, I didn't think you were disrespectful. I'm giggling about it far more than I should because I happen to know a Doug who could use a good frying and I'm considering handing him a printout of the menu as a veiled threat.

                                                        Always enjoy reading your writeups, too, FD. Keep 'em up!

                                                    2. re: FoodDabbler
                                                      yumyum RE: FoodDabbler Sep 20, 2011 09:57 AM

                                                      I'm happy that you're still laffing about Fried Doug. I sure am. Poor Doug.

                                                      After Mulan this weekend, I think my spicy fish filet itch has been scratched for a bit, but I do want to get back to Formosa, if only to try the Niu Rou Mian again (beef noodle soup.) The pancake I remember being too sweet but I'd like some 3 cup as well.

                                                      Thanks for posting and reminding about this place Dabbler.

                                                      1. re: yumyum
                                                        justbeingpolite RE: yumyum Sep 24, 2011 07:12 AM

                                                        I'm sad they don't sell the 50 piece bags of their dumplings anymore. Apparently, even without the Nashua branch, they couldn't keep up with the orders. The good thing is they will sell the 8 piece orders on their menu frozen, the bad thing is that it's at the retail price.

                                                        1. re: yumyum
                                                          tatsu RE: yumyum Sep 24, 2011 11:55 AM

                                                          Have seen that Beef Noodle Soup several times and it always looks great. They have vegan chicken 3 cup which is great, the seitan they use is much higher quality than you can buy in stores. I asked about it and it's a NYC Chinatown import product. I think it has been pulled out into strands, put back together and then cut into little sections, so it does have the consistency of say roasted lamb or goat. My favorite vegetarian Chinese place in NYC makes something simliar in a dish called "Lamb Casserole", except theirs is house-made and incorporates enoki mushrooms inside the seitan for even more texture.

                                                      2. r
                                                        rknrll RE: justbeingpolite Oct 19, 2011 04:24 PM

                                                        Wow this place has a great "dinner for 2" thing.
                                                        It's listed on the menu...one entree (excluding house specialties), lo mein or fried rice, two homemade spring rolls, 2 soups (egg drop, wonton, or hot and sour.)


                                                        I know this place has some way more adventurous offerings...but I don't really think that deal can be beat, for the quality of the food. Homemade hot and sour too.

                                                        1. s
                                                          silent129 RE: justbeingpolite Jul 7, 2012 07:08 AM

                                                          Has the owner / chef of Formosa Taipei changed? i went there a year ago and it was serving great and authentic tasting Taiwanese food. Went there again last week and the liang mian (cold noodles) and other dishes had changed significantly and for the worse. Instead of the Taiwanese lady at the front counter, there were two people servicing the front that were clearly not from Taiwan and a bunch of new Shanghainese specials on the menu.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: silent129
                                                            Ferrari328 RE: silent129 Jul 7, 2012 07:58 AM

                                                            They opened Asian Gourmet in Concord a while back and both the hostess and the chef moved there so I'm not sure who works in the other place. Asian Gourmet has an extensive menu with a big dim sum selection on weekends. Beautiful menu and interior.

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