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Chinatown Recs Needed: I'm new andintimidated. Special circumstances. Help a sister out.

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Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 11:14 AM

Hi,

So, I've lived in Boston for 5 years and never been to Chinatown. To be honest, I'm scared. It looks intimidating and as though if I don't know what I'm doing the whole thing will be a disaster. I know you 'hounders can help.

I am sure you get this question on the board a lot and I tried to search old posts to find the info myself, but that just made me more indimidated. Where do I go in Chinatown, when should I go, and what, specifically, do I order.

Anyway, here's the situation: My parents are in town for my mom's milestone birthday. She recently read that Boston's Chinatown is one of the best in the country and has asked to go here for her mileston birthday dinner (she'd kill me if I said how old she'll be).

I have no idea where to start. It doesn't need to be fancy, just good, fresh, and not scary (you know, like people yelling at me in a foreign language or a crazy crowd that's impossible to navigate through).

I'd like to maybe do dim sum. That seems fun. Another catch-- we don't eat pork. My mom is an adventurous eater and will probably want squid or something. My dad and I are a little more reserved in our tastes. In fact, he has very specific dietary restrictions about what oils he can eat. Should we just throw the hope of that being addressed out the window?

We can go for any meal between tonight (Friday)'s dinner through to sunday around 10am or 10:30 (they have an afternoon train). I'm looking for very specific recommendations... where to go, at what time, and what to order (no pork). If we do dim sum, what kind of crowd should I prepare myself for? I need a roadnmap here. I really really really really appreciate it.

Please help me not be totally anxious about the dinner. I'm sure it will be really good if I can go in confident.

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  1. h
    hargau RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 11:35 AM

    I love chinatown and have been going for most of my life but in your case im tempted to say go somewhere else like fuloon perhaps. Dimsum will be VERY tough for you i think. If you have never been you will have very little idea of what is what on the carts. The cart ladies can usually speak very very little english and will tell you the basic main ingredient (if your lucky) such as "pork" or "shrimp". However this doesnt mean that an item they call "shrimp" wont have some pork as well. Also for the oils your going to have no clue. What oils specifically cant he have? Are we talking he "shouldnt" have them or he will get sick or worse if he does have them?? Most of what is at dim sum is either pork or shrimp with a few exceptions. There are some other seafood offerings such as clams, squid and a few veggie offerings. Even with the veggie offerings sometimes they have a oyster sauce or something on them that makes them not vegetarian. Or a popular item like Turnip Cake or the stick rice have small bits of pork based sausage in it that someone unfamiliar may not realize.

    What sort of items do you invision liking at dimsum? do you eat shrimp? I can steer you into a list of items to be on the watch for and can even provide photos of those items so you can recognize them. There are several shrimp only items.

    4 Replies
    1. re: hargau
      m
      Melmybelle RE: hargau Mar 19, 2010 11:44 AM

      I appreciate your feedback. I do eat shrip, so that would be helpful. My mom has her heart set on Chinatown. So maybe Dim Sum is not the right answer. Do you have recs for somewhere to go for dinner tonight then and what to order? I don't want to get something crappy like Lo Mein. We like good food. I just don't know anything about "real" chinese food to know what to order.

      With the oils thing-- it's just what he shouldn't have too much of. He won't get ill.

      Oyster sauce is ok. I'm envisioning like various dumplings and buns (Shrimp, chicken, seafood, and vegetarian, I guess). But, again, maybe Dim Sum is a bad idea in this case and you can guide me towards a better approach to help my mom experience Chinatown.

      Thanks for your help. I look forward to seeing your further thoughts.

      1. re: Melmybelle
        barleywino RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 11:48 AM

        A pretty safe bet would be Peach Farm on Tyler just south of Beach. Some dishes to consider would be Peking duck, ginger scallion lobster, salt and pepper (dry fried in the shell) baby shrimp, beef chow fun (wide flat rice noodles), stir fried pea leaves with garlic (similar to spinach but much better, generally)...

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

        1. re: Melmybelle
          h
          hargau RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 01:10 PM

          OK. Well there are not really many chicken things. There is chicken in the rice but also pork. There are chicken feet but im thinking thats not for you! I have seen a chicken bun before but thats usually hit/miss and not that great in my experience. Sometimes there is sliced duck on a plate but not always.

          Not really much of anything for beef. We sometimes order beef chow foon. And there is "beef" in a white rice noodle but it never really seems like beef to me, more a mystery substance!

          For shrimp there are hagau (steamed shrimp dumplings), Fried shrimp/chive dumplings in a wonton skin, shrimp in tofu skin with celery inside, shrimp in white soft noodle (chowfun), salt/pepper shrimp (with heads/shells), shrimp on tofu, shrimp on green pepper, eggplant stuffed with shrimp. Those are some i can think of off the top of my head that are non-pork/shrimp dishes.

          For Veggie there is usually chinese brocoli with oyster sauce, and usually at least one veggie dumpling but it could be tough to find.

          Other seafood includes snails in shells, clams in shells, fried salt/pepper squid, sometimes a curry squid dish.

          Then there are some dessert type items. Various pastries/buns with yellow or red bean inside and egg tarts. Also some jellos such as mango or coconut.

          But i think i agree with others that peach farm is a good bet!

          1. re: hargau
            m
            Melmybelle RE: hargau Mar 19, 2010 01:55 PM

            Thank you for such a detailed and thoughtful reply. I'll definitely keep this in mind!

      2. yumyum RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 11:49 AM

        For a first timer, I'd go with a tried and true regular spot like Peach Farm Seafood, where you can get salt and pepper fried squid or shrimp, lovely green pea pod stems, and delicious oysters with black beans or "safer" food like scallion pancakes. The servers here speak good English and can help you out.

        Don't be intimidated, just let them know you can't have pork (they will get it) and go from there. Most of all, enjoy mom's birthday.

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

        5 Replies
        1. re: yumyum
          BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: yumyum Mar 19, 2010 11:58 AM

          Yeah, especially if you can't do pork, dim sum is right out, but that wouldn't be a problem at Peach Farm. I particularly recommend the fresh seafood of the day, whatever it is, in the ginger-scallion sauce.

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

          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
            m
            mgcmonkey RE: BarmyFotheringayPhipps Mar 19, 2010 12:12 PM

            Melmybelle...i would skip dim sum if its your first time. In addition to the cons already mentioned for a first timer(language, adventerous offerings), parking is terrible during the morning/afternoon hours and the atmosphere is festive to say the least. I would definitely opt for an early dinner instead.

            Peach Farm is a great restaurant and one of my favorites, but a couple negative things about the restaurant is that its in the basement, space is tight and may seem dirty to some people. An alternative that I highly recommend is East Ocean City. The food is just as good as peach farm, their space is brighter, roomier and on street level. They're also located across the street from a parking garge which they may validate for evening parkings for $8 (call b4 hand..i may be wrong). Peach Farm and East Ocean are the 2 restaurant my family frequents most often in Chinatown.

            As for types of dishes..I can provide suggestions if you list what types of food you like to eat. Both these restaurants make excellent seafood dishes. Also how much are you looking to spend and how many people?

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

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

            East Ocean Restaurant
            3704 Washington St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
              greenzebra RE: BarmyFotheringayPhipps Mar 19, 2010 12:49 PM

              I'd also recommend Peach Farm, although I've never been at peak weekend dinner time so I can't speak to the crowds (although if you go early it should be fine). I certainly don't find it dirty.

              I particularly love the salt and pepper squid and ginger-scallion lobster, but as others have said there are many good dishes here, and don't be afraid to ask for recommendations.

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

            2. re: yumyum
              i
              ilovedessert RE: yumyum Mar 19, 2010 12:11 PM

              I adore Peach Farm, but I think it might be a little crowded and intimidating for a first-timer. First, try to avoid peak dinner hours, as the space isn't big, and many local Chinese families love it. Also, it can get pretty boisterous and hectic when the dining room gets full. Like yumyum said, the food is amazing and the service efficient, but from personal experience, my non-Chinese DCs have been a little overwhelmed by the place on the first try, albeit for weekend/holiday dinners.

              A good alternative would be East Ocean City. The dining room is nicer and calmer. The food is almost as good as Peach Farm, and I would recommend the twin lobsters, salt and pepper crab, steak with black pepper sauce, dry scallop and black mushroom yee mein (a noodle dish), and roast duck. The service is attentive and accommodating.

              Whichever restaurant you choose, feel free to ask for the server's recommendations. Enjoy, and let us know how it goes!

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

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

              1. re: yumyum
                t
                Taralli RE: yumyum Mar 19, 2010 01:15 PM

                Some of the items we had last weekend were: corn with shredded chicken soup, deep fried scallops, stir-fried watercress, steamed oysters in their shells w/black bean sauce, spicy salty shrimp w/heads on & half a roast duck. They brought around a live, giant Alaskan king crab that I think a table of 6-8 guys ended up ordering.

              2. enhF94 RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 12:48 PM

                Melmybelle, you get my "best person ever" award for today. Great question, and I'm sure a lot of people are glad you asked so they didn't have to. Like, uh, my friends. Yeah, that's it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: enhF94
                  m
                  Melmybelle RE: enhF94 Mar 19, 2010 01:54 PM

                  Thank you for the kind compliment!

                2. r
                  rsucre RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 01:34 PM

                  Your group might also enjoy Penang, a Malay restaurant in the Chinatown environs.

                  1. m
                    Melmybelle RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 01:54 PM

                    Thank you all so very much! You are the nicest and most helpful bunch. Having some recommendations is a big relief. I'm going to show my mom the posts and let her choose between Peach Farm and East Ocean City for dinner.

                    Please feel free to keep the recommendations coming, especially for good dishes. I'll keep checking until we go and then will report after my experience. You've definitely all helped shift me from anxious to excited!

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

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

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Melmybelle
                      g
                      gimlis1mum RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 02:57 PM

                      Shabu-Zen, a hot pot restaurant, might be fun for lunch or dinner one day. They have some booth seating but mostly everyone sits around a counter, with their own pot of boiling broth in front of them. It's very easy to customize your meal, and the platters of meats and seafood come with plenty of vegetables. You can watch what other diners do to figure out how to cook and eat your dinner...It's a lot of fun.
                      http://www.shabuzen.com/

                      This is an old post, but it describes the dining experience pretty well:
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/141953

                      1. re: gimlis1mum
                        barleywino RE: gimlis1mum Mar 19, 2010 03:23 PM

                        Shabu is fun, despite being very simple food...if you do go, the beef short rib seems to be the most marbled/ juicy cut of the ones I've tried (have not tried the Kobe). At Peach Farm, you might also consider the razor clam with garlic vermicelli in the shell as an appetizer (order by the piece)

                        -----
                        Shabu
                        397 Hancock St, Quincy, MA

                        1. re: barleywino
                          Food4Thought RE: barleywino Mar 20, 2010 07:52 AM

                          There are some fantastic suggestions in this thread. I would second the idea of a hot pot restaurant like Shabu-Zen or Kaza. With these places you are very much in control of what you are getting. The hot pots themselves tend to be broth based so that makes the oil intake issue minimal, it's also a very communal dining experience to enjoy with your family. Basically you order your proteins and vegetables and cook them yourselves to your desired doneness ( think fondue), often noodles are involved so you can make your own soups with the broth(s) too. In your case I would give the nod to Kaze as they would be more likely to be able to provide a booth for your family and while I like SZ- there seems to be a bit more focus on the counter service where it might be a bit more logistically difficult for your family to dine.

                          I'll be the first to admit that a hot pot/ dim sum experience is an apples to oranges comparison, but I think the hot pot places might provide the least intimidating experience and help you build your C-town courage. For non hot pot, non dim sum, New Shanghai is also a great choice for all the reasons MC Slim JB mentions below. If your Mom's definition of adventurous includes spicy, the Szechuan side of the menu is great (do a search on "New Shanghai" to find board favorites)

                          Regardless of your decision, please do post back on how it went.

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

                          Kaze
                          41 Essex St, Boston, MA 02111

                      2. re: Melmybelle
                        Quine RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 04:35 PM

                        What a great idea! I am sure that your Mom will be delighted to read how you asked others for advice to make her Milestone Birthday Dining wish come true! I AM sure she will love the posts. Now, you might consider choosing one for Fri. or Sat dinner, then one for lunch! That way after lunch you can stroll around and look/shop at the various places as well!

                      3. lipoff RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 03:24 PM

                        Great post!

                        For Dim Sum, I'd recommend the Winsor Dim Sum Cafe. Not only do I find the Dim Sum quality better, but you can order from a menu, and thus don't have to deal with hectic crowds, jostling carts, and little English spoken. For the record, I don't eat pork either, and I have no problem at all with Dim Sum. You do have to know that dishes like the pan-fried turnip cakes often have little bits of pork in them. If you are not super-strict, you can pick them out.

                        However, dinner is a fine bet as well. But I don't like Peach Farm or East Ocean City. To be fair, my favorite style of Chinese food is not Cantonese, which these restaurants specialize in, but even among Cantonese food, I don't like them. I'd much more strongly recommend Taiwan Cafe. Especially the thousand year egg with tofu (not as intimidating as it sounds), three cup chicken, pan fried cod filet with soy sprinkles, vegetarian dumplings, and stir-fried beef and tomato with egg.

                        King Fung Garden is great if you call the day before and order a Peking Duck.

                        New Shanghai is also good, now serving Sichuan food (very spicy).

                        Many people like Gourmet Dumpling House, although I've never been a big fan. If you go, stick to the entrees --- despite the name, the dumplings are not their forte.

                        -----
                        King Fung Garden
                        74 Kneeland St, Boston, MA 02111

                        Peach Farm
                        4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                        New Shanghai Restaurant
                        21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

                        Gourmet Dumpling House
                        52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                        Winsor Dim Sum Cafe
                        10 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

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

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lipoff
                          MichaelB RE: lipoff Mar 19, 2010 04:18 PM

                          I would strongly agree with the Taiwan Cafe recommendation. As much as I like Peach Farm (and several other Chinatown places like Best Little Restaurant and New Shanghai and Hong Kong Eatery), I think it's one of those places that is wonderful if you order the dishes that they do well, but will leave you scratching your head if you order the "wrong" things - there's a lot of standard Americanized dishes on their menu that aren't their specialty and aren't likely to be cooked with as much care. If you do go there (or East Ocean City, which I haven't tried yet), do follow the excellent dish suggestions above - I'm not arguing with those, just the idea that Peach Farm will please all comers.

                          Taiwan Cafe, on the other hand, has a long menu but *only* of dishes that they actually do well - no Kung Pao chicken, no mu-shu, etc. There are now more Taiwanese restaurants in the area than there once were, some of which do certain dishes better than Taiwan Cafe, but I think TC still holds it's own. Some things I like there include the Five-spice Cold Cut roast beef on the appetizer menu (a thinly-sliced piece of slow-cooked beef - the gelatin running through it looks scary but the whole thing is delicious), the home-style braised eggplant with basil (on the sweet side and maybe a little oily, but not too much so), the sauteed littleneck clams with basil, the sauteed beef with poblano peppers (it may be "longhorn" peppers on the current menu - fairly spicy but not crazily so), the 3 cup chicken (on my takeout menu it's listed under Chef's Specials and is called "simmered chopped chicken leg with 3 essences in hot pot" - very good but note that you'll be picking the meat off many small bony pieces, which may or may not be part of the attraction), and the sauteed pork (but they also do this with beef) with special mustard greens and fresh bean curd. Okay, that's my slightly obsessive take on the menu. The atmosphere is no-frills but bright and clean, and the service is usually friendly, occasionally a little brusque, but they're generally happy to describe dishes if asked. I think it's an ideal restaurant for someone trying to conquer their fear of Chinatown. Wherever you go, have a great time.

                          -----
                          Hong Kong Eatery
                          79 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111

                          Peach Farm
                          4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                          New Shanghai Restaurant
                          21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

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

                        2. p
                          Pegmeister RE: Melmybelle Mar 19, 2010 07:33 PM

                          I was somewhat hesitant about Chinatown for years, and yet once I made the effort, I regretted not having visited earlier. One of the first restaurants I visited was Shabu Zen on Tyler St. Absolutely love shabu shabu; staff is extremely helpful. There is a huge variety and I always leave there happy. Penang is another great spot. You won't be disappointed in any of the shrimp dishes, and I can never go there without ordering the Indian pancake with curry sauce. I do, however, often feel somewhat rushed there though. I so miss the Noodle Alcove. My point is, keep an open mind, go for the dim sum, but understand there may be a language barrier. It can be fun trying something that you think looks good, but you don't know what it is. That's the way I discovered I liked jelly fish!!

                          -----
                          Shabu Zen
                          16 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Pegmeister
                            barleywino RE: Pegmeister Mar 20, 2010 03:36 AM

                            Peg, if you like jellyfish, you might enjoy the fish filet w/ jellyfish at Mulan (not on menu, but available by request), one of my favorite dishes there (ask for "no celery" though)

                            1. re: Pegmeister
                              galangatron RE: Pegmeister Mar 20, 2010 06:24 AM

                              i miss the noodle alcove too

                              1. re: Pegmeister
                                c
                                Chocomom RE: Pegmeister Mar 21, 2010 07:57 AM

                                Peg, have you tried Bak Fawn Yeu Seyw Chow aka Silver fish (batter fried like salt & pepper) stirfried w/garlic chives and jelly fish with some toasted garlic.

                                It's one of my favorite dishes introduced to me by my niece who was only 3 at the time.
                                I like it at New Golden Gate restaurant the best.

                                -----
                                New Golden Gate
                                66 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                1. re: Chocomom
                                  p
                                  Pegmeister RE: Chocomom Mar 21, 2010 08:11 AM

                                  No, I haven't but it definitely sounds interesting. Isn't it great that children can be so open to trying things. I was always amazed when my niece was that young, she loved steamers and had no problem pulling them apart and dunking them in broth and butter. I don't get into Chinatown as often as I would like, as I really only have one friend who is open to it. Guess I'm do for a trip. I'll make note of that dish. I absolutely love garlic and even grow my own.

                                  1. re: Chocomom
                                    barleywino RE: Chocomom Mar 24, 2010 06:25 PM

                                    chocomom, i tried that silver fish dish, very nice dish although the silver fish wasn't quite as warm/crisp as I would've hoped. any other recs at New Golden Gate? thanks! i like that they will add pea leaves (dou miao) to a dish for a few bucks.

                                    -----
                                    New Golden Gate
                                    66 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                    1. re: barleywino
                                      c
                                      Chocomom RE: barleywino Jul 25, 2010 10:49 AM

                                      Sorry, I'd just saw your post.

                                      I actually prefer New Golden Gate over Peach Farm (had mom's b-day dinner there 2 weeks ago) and I thought the Peach Farm food was just too salty for my taste and feel some of the portions were small compare to New Golden Gate's.

                                      Seafood:
                                      salt and pepper calamari, the seafood birds nest (there's conch in this dish :-D)
                                      Twin lobsters ginger scallion is always a winner with seafood lovers

                                      Meat:
                                      the fried chicken is good if marinated enough.
                                      appetizer of fried pork intestine is great too.
                                      If you like beef their rendition of Hong Kong style steak is what my family considers one of the best and even better than Hong Kong's.
                                      Also their "roast beef" with chinese broccoli is delicious (they use ribeye steak for this dish).
                                      The sizzling plate of ginger scallion chicken is nice and light.

                                      Their veggies are not bad either but I always asked which is the freshest that day: dou mui (pea shoots/leaves) are best with just garlic and the spicy green beans are great if you find out the green beans are tender.

                                      Note: as in most asian restaurant the head chef is usually off Mon-Tues and I've gone and these days and the food can tend to be "off" at times.

                                      So these are just some of our favorites and will always take the managers or wait staffs suggestions to see what new creations the chef comes up with.

                                      I'd wonder if the silver fish dish was just a fluke that day. Give it another try. I've always gotten it hot and crisp or it might have been a different person cooking it that day.

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

                                      New Golden Gate
                                      66 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                      1. re: Chocomom
                                        barleywino RE: Chocomom Jul 25, 2010 01:15 PM

                                        thanks, choco, i'm also a fan now of their "roast beef", maybe i'll try their Hong Kong steak, seafood nest and your other suggestions next...

                                        1. re: Chocomom
                                          barleywino RE: Chocomom Jul 26, 2010 03:57 PM

                                          Choco, i went back and asked for the Hong Kong style steak and they said they had no such thing. Are you referring to the roast beef or to some other item on the menu? Thanks for clarifying.

                                          1. re: barleywino
                                            c
                                            Chocomom RE: barleywino Jul 26, 2010 04:34 PM

                                            Really! I'm gonna have to find out what they are calling nowadays in English.

                                            In Cantonese, it's Jung Sic Au Lau and they have it as a rice plate too but it's not on the menu. The dish consist of thin tenderized steak sauteed with onions in a red sauce that is like sweet and sour but not quite.

                                            email me Connie@purpleprincessbakingco.com see if I can explain more without taking too much space here.

                                  2. MC Slim JB RE: Melmybelle Mar 20, 2010 06:40 AM

                                    I second the New Shanghai rec for a number of reasons: a) excellent food; b) white tablecloths, making it a bit nicer-looking than many Chinatown restaurants; c) a good English-language menu of both Beijing and Sichuan specialties, so plenty of range for folks who like it hot and spicy and those who don't; d) lots of non-pork options; e) beer and wine.

                                    Chinatown is actually great fun and the food is often extraordinary. I expect you will wonder why you didn't go sooner. Lots of folks who only speak English are well taken care of there. I wish I spoke some Chinese, too, but there are only a few places where having none is a real liability.

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                                      maillard RE: MC Slim JB Mar 21, 2010 06:08 AM

                                      Just out of curiosity, which are the places where speaking no Chinese is a liability?

                                      1. re: maillard
                                        MC Slim JB RE: maillard Mar 21, 2010 11:57 AM

                                        I hope other Mandarin- and Cantonese-impaired hounds like myself will chime in, but I see a few types of problems for us pitifully unilingual Anglophones in Boston's Chinatown:

                                        1) The Hong Kong seafood place that doesn't list its daily live-tank specials in English. This is manageable, as you can always get a nice close look at what's available in the live tanks. But there have been times when I really wanted to know what that critter I just ate was, and no one had a good English equivalent.

                                        2) Less common: the English language menu that clearly omits all the good stuff, is full of Americanized Chinese food that looks nothing like the rest of the food being served there; this really makes you feel like an idiot tourist.

                                        3) The most common: the whiteboard of specials written only in Chinese. You may actually figure out roughly what a few of them are: Server: "That guy over there is eating that one." Me: "Okay, bring me that." But you won't be able to describe it or order it again on a later visit. The general adverse reaction to customers taking pictures doesn't help with the research.

                                        I've run into these problems variously at Hei La Moon, China Pearl, Chau Chow City, Great Taste, Best Little, China Gourmet, Big Fish, Jade Garden, and I'm sure a bunch of others past and present that don't readily spring to mind.

                                        It's not a lethal problem, more of an annoyance, but one that definitely puts off first-timers. I would love to find a way to learn enough Chinese or have a portable pocket reference that would help me get by a little better on Chinatown menus without the benefit of a bilingual friend.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        -----
                                        Hei La Moon
                                        88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                        China Pearl Restaurant
                                        9 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                                        Chau Chow City
                                        81 Essex St, Boston, MA 02111

                                        Great Taste
                                        201 Main St, Milford, MA 01757

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                                          y
                                          y2000k RE: MC Slim JB Mar 21, 2010 01:27 PM

                                          Of the places you've listed, I only go to Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant regularly. I agree that the specials on the wall are in Chinese only. However, the waitstaff - esp the 2 men who work there - speak reasonable English. Of course, they would have to be willing to translate for you... the many times I've been there, they were very friendly.

                                          FWIW, several of the wall specials are clay pot rice, my favorite food in winter. And there are several frog dishes.

                                    2. gansu girl RE: Melmybelle Mar 20, 2010 04:04 PM

                                      I'm late to the table here, but just wanted to echo other's suggestions and compliments to you - you're gutsy for reaching out here, and I'm certain there are others out there in the same circumstances . . . will you post to let us know where you ended up, what you ordered, and your impressions? It'll be helpful for everyone!

                                      I hope you had/have a fantastic time and that your mom has a great b-day.

                                      GG
                                      http://www.semisweetonline.com

                                      1. enhF94 RE: Melmybelle Mar 21, 2010 08:07 AM

                                        As a jump-on, I'd be interested to hear about proper manners and whatnot - just some tokens to let restaurant folks in Chinatown know that I'm taking the experience seriously and I appreciate their work.

                                        For example, I'm told that double-tapping two fingers on the table as someone refills your tea is a quiet way to say "thanks for refilling my tea."

                                        Also: that leaving some food behind says "this was so good I ate until I was full, and you can tell I'm full because I left food behind."

                                        Also: don't eat the entire chicken foot.

                                        I know that most restaurant folks are aware of US manners and customs and won't mind if I refrain from burping aloud - but still, I'd like to make a little effort.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: enhF94
                                          m
                                          mgcmonkey RE: enhF94 Mar 21, 2010 11:07 AM

                                          a generous tip would be the best form of appreciation.

                                          1. re: enhF94
                                            gansu girl RE: enhF94 Mar 22, 2010 05:12 PM

                                            Off the top of my head:

                                            Don't lick off your chopsticks, even if they're "dirty."
                                            Don't pass food directly between chopsticks; use them to serve food to another by placing the food directly on the other person's plate.
                                            Don't spear food with your chopsticks.
                                            Don't stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice (has to do with funeral customs).
                                            When eating rice, it's acceptable to raise the bowl to your lips and push the rice into your mouth discreetly using your chopsticks. Ok to get close to your bowl of noodle soup, too, and shovel the solids in . .. slurping optional, but not discouraged.
                                            If you are a guest, it's polite to leave some food uneaten at the end of the meal to show your host was generous.
                                            If you need your teapot filled, leave the lid cocked to the side to indicate this.

                                            There are more, but I'm blanking . . . . but seriously, if you're kind to your server, it'll all be OK. And yes, as with any restaurant, leaving a good tip ensures you'll be welcomed back!

                                            GG
                                            http://www.semisweetonline.com

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