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Qingdao Garden MARCH 2ND RE-OPEN

Hey, I saw them putting up the new signage last night as I drove by, called from the car, and they said, Wednesday, March 2nd. I said "Great, I'll tell Chowhound so we stop talking about it!" We had a laugh and said we'll see each other later!

So that sounds very definite to me.

Qingdao Garden Restaurant
2382 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

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  1. So as someone who's been hearing the hype since they closed, and has been anxiously awaiting news of their return... what should I get to start with? Their dumplings, natch, but what else is a don't-miss signature dish to try?

    15 Replies
    1. re: Boston_Otter

      There's been a ton of discussion here in the past. I would just search this site for Qingdao Garden and browse through the threads.

      Our personal favorites are pork with cilantro and boiled fish fillet in fiery sauce.

      1. re: dfan

        That's the problem -- there's many threads, tons of discussions, and many people naming their favorite 10 dishes, etc. That's all wonderful, but I wanted to see if any longtime regulars would say "Oh, for your first time, definitely get the crispy hot chicken", or some such thing. The boiled fish filet that you mentioned is one that I see pop up a lot in discussions, so I'll definitely give it a shot.

        1. re: Boston_Otter

          lamb with cumin
          the vegetable platter if they have it [special only]
          pork noodle soup
          spicy fish in broth

            1. re: galangatron

              I don't really know. The owner suggested it one day, it was delicious, and now I always ask if he has it available.

              1. re: smtucker

                When I've had the vegetable platter, the vegetables in question seemed to be "whatever's good."

                What floors me, however, is that each vegetable seems to be cooked to a pleasant doneness for itself. Either they're savant-like at deciding how big to cut each different vegetable so they simultaneously finish cooking, or (more likely) each vegetable is blanched separately to its own taste. Who takes that kind of time?!

                For me, this (and excellent use of salt) sums up why I like QG.

                ETA: lotus root platter, if they have it. It's "just" cooked lotus root.

                1. re: enhF94

                  Thanks for the platter tip. I'll throw in the 5-spice pork, which is a stirfry akin to cumin lamb but I think more interesting. Definitely the sweet & sour cucumber. If they have a lily bulb special, that's worth trying. (Yes, I think this is a chef who will take that kind of time. He'll also talk your ear off if given the opportunity, and it's slow.)

                  1. re: Aromatherapy

                    I'm with you on the five spices pork.

                    The lamb with scallions is also good.

          1. re: Boston_Otter

            boiled fish fillet in fiery sauce
            szechuan chicken with chili pepper
            home style bean curd
            hot & spicy string bean
            chongqing fried hot chicken
            pork with cilantro
            lo mein and orange flavored beef are surprisingly good
            fried rice is not

            No idea which to get on your first visit. I have no idea what I'm going to get when they finally reopen. I want everything!

          2. re: dfan

            could you describe the pork with cilantro?

            1. re: galangatron

              It is sliced boneless pork cutlet, sauteed with a equal amount of bamboo shoots and cilantro. Not sure of the sauce - it's thin, an oily sheen and just pleasantly porky goodness.

              Personally, I have been craving their version of singapore rice noodles.

              I am considering hanging out outside on March 2nd and outing everyone...lol.

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  Yeah, Qingdao's Pork with Cilantro is one of their great dishes, along with the Fish in fiery Sauce, the Pork with Dried Bean Curd, their Lamb with Cumin, etc.

                  1. re: Kenji

                    Thanks, everyone! I feel more prepared for the grand re-opening now.

            2. re: Boston_Otter

              pork dumplings
              sweet and sour cucumber
              spicy pig tripe
              lily root with celery
              lamb with cumin
              red braised pork
              braised pig feet
              pork intestine with sweet peppers

            3. Hurray! Thanks for the update. As we were stuffing ourselves silly at Gourmet Dumpling House last Sat., we were lamenting the lack of good dumplings close to home . . . finally, they're back!


              Gourmet Dumpling House
              52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

              2 Replies
              1. re: gansu girl

                Yup less than 48 hours to go can't wait. Is it too early to put my bib on so the dumpling juice doesn't stain my shirt?

                1. re: lc02139

                  I have my Daktronics Galaxy Tri-Color Message Display all set up, with the timer counting down to tomorrow.

              2. I'm so excited!

                (I agree with the dishes listed in this thread, and also really like their Crispy Butterfish)

                1. I just called them and they are in fact open, but no frozen dumplings for two weeks, boo hoo!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: suzysue2

                    That was you! I was eating lunch there when you called. She's got a headset to answer the phone with, which was a little flustering as she tried to simultaneously take an in-store customer's order and answer the phone.

                    I think my theory of the individually-blanched veggies was, uh, rhapsodic nostalgic. The veggie platter was delicious and seasoned beautifully, but the broccoli was firmer than the rest as you'd expect from a mass blanching.

                    1. re: enhF94

                      so was it busy? We had hoped to stop by tonight.

                      1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                        I was there at 2 the menu hadn't changed, they had 2-3 tables in the main room open. You still can get cooked dumplings just not the frozen bag yet. They seemed to have added more space to the back left as you look in so I would think that they will be able to seat more than before, so I would think it won't be a problem. You can always call before heading over and ask.

                        1. re: lc02139

                          Is the bathroom still through the kitchen?

                          1. re: lc02139

                            Sorry looks like I might have given you some bad information, looks like they were feeling the love today, hopefully it keeps up and they make up for lost time.

                    2. So, did you hounds not pack the place tonight? Or, are you still there as I sit 200 miles away? I had imagined the place wall-to-wall with Striper Guy, gansu girl, Area Man, galangatron -- all looking smart in their costumes -- like a meeting of the Just-Eat League of America. I even imagined cambridgedoctpr there -- a name (Cambridge-Doc-Purr) that suggests a Bond villain stroking a cat -- in his ultracasuals: just jacket, no T, no jeans. And who was that in the hoodie in the shadows in the corner?

                      How is the food?

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: FoodDabbler

                        I went tonight, and the line was nearly out the door. The staff was one step beyond harried... running around looking panicked as they tried to seat people, take orders, answer the phone, etc. Even trying to get a glass of water was tough. I'm certainly glad they're busy!

                        I went with a friend and we split an order of the pork & leek dumplings, the szechuan chicken, and the pork with cilantro. Everything was excellent, especially the dumplings; the chicken was spicy and five-spiced with tons of dried hot peppers, and the pork was heavy on the cilantro (which is great, I love cilantro) with lots of tender bamboo shoots.

                        Next time, the fish in fiery sauce!

                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                          Thanks for the report. I used to like the pork with cilantro. Glad it's up to par.

                        2. re: FoodDabbler

                          hee hee! great visual! I went to Gran Gusto tonight w/some non-Qingdao-Garden types (first time, see my recent post, not overwhelmed by the pizza) but I might try to wedge my way into Qingdao tomorrow or this weekend.

                          (Shhh . . . I'll be disguised as a suburban mother.)


                          1. re: gansu girl

                            "I'll be disguised as a suburban mother"

                            You won't fool anyone. It'll be pretty clear that your minivan is in fact a gansumobile.

                            1. re: FoodDabbler

                              Oh wait wait wait, now. Let's be clear . . . this supermama ain't drivin' no minivan! : )


                          2. re: FoodDabbler

                            Thank you, I needed a chuckle this morning.

                            Area Man and Area Woman will be dining there next week, in part due to Area Mother-in-Law's availability to babysit.

                            Thank you everyone for the reports that the food is still excellent. And wow, who else is wishing they had speculated on bags of frozen dumplings before they closed for renovations?

                            1. re: Area Man

                              Just a note, if you are willing to drive 10 minutes from Quingdao, Wang's sells bags of frozen dumplings too. I have a half a bag of pork with fennel and half a bag of veggie in the freezer, and if I listen closely I hear they are calling my name..... they are just delicious!

                              1. re: Area Man

                                With the news of an opening feeling "real", I cooked up the last of my Quingdao Frozen dumplings the other night. Time in the freezer had not been kind to them, with some cracking. But, I managed to press ahead and was reminded of why I love their dumplings so much. Gosh the pork and cabbage filling was delicious, even though the wrappers had lost some of their specialness.

                                Silly that I held on to them like it was insurance that they would re-open. But a food lover has to do the right thing for the whole. :-)

                                1. re: smtucker

                                  File under "Only a Boston-area Hound would..." :-)

                            2. We got delivery from them last night. Excellent pork with cilantro and a very gingery lo mein (a favorite of a young member of the family). Also, very good pork and leek dumplings, although I think the ones we've been getting from Golden Garden are juicier on average. They sounded very busy when I called, working two phones and dealing with people walking in.

                              Golden Garden
                              63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

                              1. So we made our way to Qingdao Garden tonight for an early dinner. Well, we thought it was early, but the place was packed and the phone never stopped ringing with take out orders. [Who are all these people who eat at 6pm? The Greek Corner had a line as we walked by.]

                                The primary room, the original one, has less seating than before. The row of tables down the middle is gone replaced by 6 4-tops. For some reason an unused table is jammed up against the front workstation which made it difficult to pay the bill. The kitchen is a totally new build out. I could see four work stations where employees were using knives with cooking stations along one wall.

                                Just before you bump into the kitchen a doorway is now on the left which leads to the second space. There are 5 4-tops (or was it six?) plus a row of chairs for waiting. The interior wall is a long row of full length mirrors. The hallway [which is very large] leads to two bathrooms.

                                I think the biggest news with the remodel is that this restaurant is now handicapped accessible. There was enough room at every doorway. The bathroom was clearly designed to rotate a wheelchair a full 360ยบ. The only slight issue was the door lock which would be difficult for someone with fine motor issues.

                                On to the food. We ordered pork and cabbage dumplings, lamb with cumin and spicy sauce and the pickled cabbage noodle soup. [No pork chops, so we tried this soup.] The food was all really good. The portion sizes are distinctly smaller and each item is just a bit more expensive. We got really excited that we could order half portions of the vegetable dishes, but were told that this is for take out only. Our dinner, with tip, came to $35.00.

                                We were surrounded by some very unhappy people. There was about a 20 minute wait for dumplings. The people on one side of us complained loudly that the dumplings didn't come first. A couple that didn't call ahead with their takeout order paced and fussed for what felt like forever. I suspect that this will all calm down soon enough.

                                The staff is unchanged. I thought they were unflappable in the face of chaos. So good to have them back!

                                Greek Corner Restaurant
                                2366 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                Qingdao Garden Restaurant
                                2382 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: smtucker

                                  Agree that the portions have shrunk, would have gladly paid an extra dollar or two for more of that delicious cumin lamb!

                                2. MrLit and I haven't had a chance to make it in yet, but it's a longtime favorite, and on the list for this week. I am so glad to see so many people have flooded back. I thought I'd share a newsy tidbit (forgive me if this has been posted earlier - my quick scan didn't reveal it), reported by my good friend who went Friday night. This friend spent some time chatting with the owner, and it turns out that the owner got screwed by her first contractor, who made off with $10k. Thus the delay in the renovation. She's alerted the Better Business Bureau and is pursuing him in court, but at present, she hasn't gotten any of that money back.

                                  So, keep coming in for those dumplings and cumin lamb and everything else. This place deserves our support.

                                  1. Better than I remember it.

                                    Area Woman and I finally made it to Qingdao Garden last night and left raving about the meal.

                                    We had (in order from the kitchen):
                                    Crispy Butterfish:
                                    On the House Specialties menu. They were out of butterfish, but had whiting. It was simply fantastic. Flaky, moist flesh, which is divine with a bit of the vinegar provided at table. Eating these is a bit more involved than other dishes there, but pulling the flesh away from the bone is quite easy.

                                    Sauteed Pea Pod Stems:
                                    On the Northern Style menu. This dish never fails to earn praise. If I were a leafy green I would want to end up in this dish.

                                    Brown Rice:
                                    Area Woman and I have been trying to limit our carbs to those that are complex, so went with brown rice rather than our usual white. However, this turned out to be far from a compromise. This was a combo of brown rice and a red rice. Rather than sticky and moist (white rice), it's toothsome and sturdy (I don't want to say "dry") and a superior textural counterpoint to the meat and vegetable dishes we order. Bye bye white rice.

                                    Lamb with Cumin and Spicy Sauce:
                                    On the House Specialties menu. This is the gateway dish for those that don't like lamb. It's so flavorful, yet standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the other dishes were ordered, is amazingly delicate. Out of context few people would identify it as lamb, and probably few would identify it as a Chinese dish.

                                    Shredded Pork with Pickled Chinese Vegetable:
                                    On the Northern Style menu. This is pork with pickled cabbage (not kimchee-like). Please, for the love of Chowhound, TRY THIS DISH on your next visit. Not for the meek, this is an aggressive dish without being spicy. It earned more talk-with-your-mouth-full praise than anything else on the table.

                                    Pork w/ Chinese Cabbage Dumplings and Vegetarian Spinach Dumplings:
                                    Sadly, ironically, this was the only low point of the meal. We learned of Qingdao based on a friend recommending their dumplings about 7 years ago, and after trying them once, the 50 count frozen bags became our preferred "don't feel like cooking tonight" solution. We steam them and dress them with a sauce of soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, sliced scallion, cilantro, and lime juice. Perhaps we set ourselves up for disappointment since we've elevated these in our mind to what is essentially a savorgasm, but last night these were rather boring, cold and mushy. I suspect they were boiled and forgotten, then hastily brought out to us.

                                    As always, the owners are friendly and happy to answer questions about the food.

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: Area Man

                                      I had the butterfish recently and loved them. Very tasty and fun to eat. Thanks for the tip on the brown rice. I'd never thought to order that, and will definitely try it now.

                                      That's too bad that you had a bad dumpling experience. Hopefully it was just a one-time thing. I had those same two dumplings last week and they were great.

                                      1. re: Area Man

                                        Really great to hear QD now has brown rice - that was a prior peeve that they only offered white.

                                        When you say the Pork / Cabbage was aggressive, what was the flavor? Pickling taste? Or something else?

                                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                          The pickled cabbage was sour and pungent, while the pork was sweet and salty.

                                          1. re: Area Man

                                            Area Man - thanks for the recommendation on the pork and pickled cabbage -

                                            Got my first take-out order - I got the sense that it was the owner? who delivered it? He said, "I'm back!"

                                            Indeed. Back and better than ever...

                                            The singapore rice noodles hit that craving full on, but really loved the pickled cabbage and pork - as I ate, found that more and more of a subtle gingery taste was present, after the nose adjusted to the pickling flavors...really liked it and never would have ordered it but for your recommendation.

                                            Also, as mentioned upthread, the new menu item of brown rice is really awesome - glad they have it available now, but it's better than any I've had in the area - almost a multigrain rice, and not sticky at all - almost a little al dente, which I liked a whole lot.

                                            Also a generous helping of sauteed chinese broccoli variant - the veggie special.

                                            Welcome back, Qingdao!

                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                When I first started eating there back in 2003 or thereabouts, I dealt with a man who seemed to be, and claimed to be, the owner, who remembered me even after long absences. But I haven't been there for a few years and when I stopped by to get a menu last week, I didn't recognize the man who was working the front and doing deliveries, though he did seem to have the same friendly demeanor as the guy i knew. Nor did he seem to remember me. Now, I'm not very good with faces, so maybe someone (lipoff?) could check in and confirm whether this guy is or is not the one I remember.

                                                1. re: KWagle

                                                  We don't go back with Qingdao as far as 2003 (more like 2005 or so), but the delivery guy is the same now as they've had for many years (at least to our part of Cambridge): a largish, exuberant fellow who often scrutinized our order on delivery and offered advice on what to get next time. I don't know if he also works the front.

                                                  They were incredibly busy last night and incredibly slow with delivery. But, that's good news of sorts. Good for them, and good for us that they're doing well; but also bad for us because it means longer wait times, and bad for Golden Garden and the cause of Chinese-cuisine variety in Cambridge.

                                                  Golden Garden
                                                  63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

                                                  1. re: FoodDabbler

                                                    Based on conversations I overhead when we were last there, the man you are describing also does all (or at least a significant amount) of the grocery shopping for Qingdao. I'm not sure if he's an owner or not, but he's a significant part of the team.

                                                    1. re: Area Man

                                                      Yes, I've seen him coming in with bags of fresh produce. I think he and his wife are Qingdao's owners.

                                              2. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                I had the same delivery fella. He said "We're back! Sorry we were closed. We got screwed by contractors... twice!! And we're not getting the money back. Gotta go, very busy, haha!" and ran back to his car.

                                          2. re: Area Man

                                            Thanks for the recommendation on the Shredded Pork; I ordered it last night and loved it. My housemates ordered General Gao and Broccoli Chicken, and when they tasted my dish they flipped at how much better it was than their run-of-the-mill dinners.

                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                IIRC, Qingdao makes a pretty good version of the General.

                                            1. Went last night. Had the old favorites: pork &leek dumplings, pork with pickled vegetables entree, and the lamb with cumin and spicy sauce.

                                              Wow, I missed them.

                                              All was delicious, the new digs are nice, and the owners seemed really happy. I think the lamb could've used a bit more kick, but I really can't complain. I just wish I had more room (or dining companions) so I'd had an excuse to order the boiled fish in fiery sauce, the chonquing fried chicken, etc etc etc...

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: litchick

                                                That brings up a quick question. I've had their szechuan chicken, which is excellent, but I'm curious about the differences between it and the chonquing fried chicken and the hot chili chicken.

                                                1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                  I think I've only had the hot chili chicken once and it was a while ago, but if I remember correctly, that one has boneless chicken (maybe white meat?), bell peppers, and possibly onions or other vegetables? Anyway, it wasn't particularly memorable, but the other two I've had many times.

                                                  The szechuan chicken with chili peppers is small pieces of boneless dark meat, with chilis, and sichuan peppercorns. There's also scallions, garlic, and probably fermented black beans? It's not saucy, but not as dry as the chongqing chicken, which has no sauce at all, just stuff sprinkled on top.

                                                  The chongqing fried hot chicken is small pieces of skin-on, bone-in dark meat chicken. Maybe chopped up wings? I could never figure it out. Anyway, this has fried chilis, sichuan peppercorns, and scallions sprinkled on top. The fried skin on it is super tasty.

                                                  1. re: maillard

                                                    Had the chongqing last night. It was very good, but you have to watch those bones. Some are tiny enough to crunch through, some large enough to see and chew around, but some are sharp shards that can easily pierce a gum or cheek if you're not careful. The fried chilis they had last night were not superhot.

                                                    1. re: FoodDabbler

                                                      Yup, that's part of why I often go for the szechuan chicken now instead of the chongqing. I'm not always in the mood to have to be so careful with my food.

                                                    2. re: maillard

                                                      The hot chili chicken is indeed boneless. It comes with a lot of vegetables, chilis and bell peppers if I recall.

                                                      1. re: Kenji

                                                        Aha, that's definitely the dish I was thinking of then. Just wasn't sure if I was mixing it up with something else.

                                                2. So, I'm lucky enough to live almost equidistant from both Golden Garden and Qingdao Garden, but had never heard of QG until it popped up here on Chowhound. I eagerly placed a delivery order last night, getting two dishes that everybody here seems to love - the spicy lamb and the pork with cilantro. I was looking forward to having a second option for awesome Chinese delivery.

                                                  However, I must say - I was underwhelmed. The lamb had zero heat to it, and since it also had cilantro, I mistook it for the pork (I hadn't opened the other box yet). The pork, while extremely tender, also seemed bland - in fact, both dishes seemed under-seasoned. Also, the portion sizes were really small for the cost.

                                                  For comparison's sake - the spicy cumin lamb at GG is amazing. Good lamb taste with actual spice. I also like the shredded beef and the beef with cabbage in spicy sauce there.

                                                  I'm totally committed to going back, probably in person, since delivery isn't always a fair test. I'm just hoping for something with a little more punch - what do you all recommend? I gather from these that the pork with cabbage and the spicy chicken are good. Any good spicy beef dishes?

                                                  Qingdao Garden Restaurant
                                                  2382 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                                  Golden Garden
                                                  63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

                                                  1. The shredded pork with pickled vegetable was insanely salty tonight. I'm a salt-lover and I say insane with due deliberation.