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Surprising Menu Items That Steal the Show

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OK Hounds, let me give it to ya straight: The beef flour pie is hands-down the best thing to order at Cambridge's Qingdao Garden. It's banh mi in a pancake, not on a crusty roll, and it's delicious. But who knew? Not I, 'til my order got messed up one evening at Mr. Swank came home toting a free pie. Now it's all I order at QG. That and dumplings, of course.

What other pleasant surprises have you found on menus around town? I'm thinking of an American restaurant that *just so happens* to make a killer eggplant parm, or a Greek place with amazing French fries...you know, that sort of thing. I never would've gone to QG for flour pie but - well - my life has been forever enhanced!

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  1. Well, knowing how innovative Tim is at Strip T's, and knowing how difficult it would be for me NOT to order the Grilled romaine with sous vide egg and spicy oxtail , I never would have ordered the special burger, if CHs hadn't raved it. House-smoked miso, lemon aioli, house pickled onions, exc bun, and beef that is very special (Tim is happy to share his 'recipes' [sign of a true professional] and he explained to me that he starts w/ chuck but ,to up the flavor, adds beef cheek, and skirt steak trimmings and multi-grinds it. That's where the really unique meat flavor comes from, as the base on which to add all those other special components.) So, never having found a burger I liked anywhere before anyway, I now rely on ST's for my new burger meals.

    Also, I am not a fan or Argentinean food in general; just too plain for me; but the beef empanadas at Tango in Arlington are the best I've had in Boston (except Capone's which are way more expensive). So we specifically get a few dozen of Tango's emps every few months and store them in the frzr because they reheat well.

    1. The grape leaves at Abiata Cafe in Malden. I don't really like stuffed grape leaves, but I was getting takeout to share with friends, one of which adores them so I picked up a container. Not sure why I decided to taste them but I'm glad I did...the filling has some of that chickpea-flour-stuff who's name I can never remember, I think, and they have a really lemony dressing on them.

      Eta: Abiata is and Ethiopian rest, but they have some middle eastern food too.

      6 Replies
      1. re: gimlis1mum

        hoomus? made w/ chickpeas but not chickpea flour.

        1. re: opinionatedchef

          I *think* it's buticha. They sell containers of buticha in the deli case; it looks a lot like egg salad. I had never tried it before but now I'm in love with the stuff and get some to take home whenever I stop in.

          Anyway, there is a flavor in the grape leaves that reminds me of the buticha.so maybe they use chickpea flour as a binder for the rice stuffing in the grape leaves?

          I have tried their hummus and wasn't crazy about it. But I loves the buticha.

          (this is unrelated to the op's question but I think opinionated chef will want to know - yes they make their shwarma on a spit. We tried it and the falafel once and they were ok but not as good as what we've had from Moroccan Hopsitality down the street).

          1. re: gimlis1mum

            I had to look that up! Bengal gram is chickpeas, right?

            1. re: gimlis1mum

              mum, ain't never heard of buticha. that is a NEW one on me! i'll do some research. thanks for being so thoughtful w/ the shwarma!

              here:

              http://www.ethiopianrestaurant.com/di...

              appears to be fava bean flour. i want to get some soon, as i have in mind to play with kinako (roasted soybean flour/powder) and see if i can make crepes or pakora with it; i'll try the same w/ the fava bean flour if i find it.

              but some google sources are saying chickpea flour so now i'm confused:

              But'echa'

              2 cups chickpea flour

              1/4 cup berbere (? berbere spices? i don't think so because of quantity

              )

              2 cups water

              1/2 cup oil

              1 cup red onion

              1 tablespoon mustard

              2 tablespoons lemon juice

              1/4 teaspoon black pepper

              1/2 teaspoon salt to taste

              1 each green bell pepper

              1. Mix chickpea flour with berbere and water. Simmer 10-20 minutes.

              2. Meanwhile, wok onions without oil gently until transparent.

              3. Mix all together, adjust flavoring

              (and if you're not thoroughly confused now, you're doing better than I!!)

              https://brundo.com/uploads/CAFE_COLUC...

              on this menu, they use chickpea flour.

              what is this- some type of gruel? seems like you add flour to boiling water etc, so a polenta like thing but w/ chickpea flour? that would be kind of like socca, a specialty in Southern France...........

              In this restnt it seems to be described as hoomus-like:

              http://unpaidgourmet.wordpress.com/ta...

              how cornfusin'!

              a hoomusy recipe for it;so i guess it's made w/ chickpeas and not chickpea flour...........
              I'm done w/ this now!

              Ingredients

              1 Cup Chickpeas (cooked
              )1 Tsp Jalapeno or Red Chili Pepper Flakes
              1 Cup water
              2 Tbsp Olive Oil
              1/2 Cup Red Onion
              1 Tsp Mustard
              1/2 Lemon, Juiced
              Salt & Pepper to Taste

              Directions
              1.Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until a smooth, pasty consistency is achieved.
              2.Put in container with a lid and place in the refrigerator, to chill, for about one hour before serving.

          2. re: gimlis1mum

            Gram?

            1. re: trufflehound

              gram=chickpeas.

          3. The boiled peanuts at Hungry Mother changed my life

            8 Replies
            1. re: AngerHeSmiles

              Angel biscuits with ham and pepper jelly at hungry mother. I wish they offered them at a full size. Though I might just be the bite sizeness that makes them so great.

              1. re: AngerHeSmiles

                Gosh they sell those at the side of the road all over the south. I bought some at a Mobil station in GA once.

                In Boston you can buy fresh peanuts at many of the Asian supermarkets when they are in season. Just chuck em in a pot of really salty water and boil.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  Those Mobil peanuts don't beat the ones I got from some guy with a cardboard sign on the entry ramp of I-85, son.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    what my dad does!

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      I know that now...but before THM i had never even known it existed...and on my Florida to Boston BBQ adventure (that ended up being a bust for the most part) I stopped 3 times for another 16 oz styrofoam cup of them. Thanks for the tip about the Asian markets...didn't know how to get raw peanuts up here.

                    2. re: AngerHeSmiles

                      A bucket of boiled peanuts is great for a summer party, esp. if you are outdoors. Cold beer and a salty boiled peanut? There are few finer things.

                      1. re: bobot

                        And I thought I was the only one in the north to love those slimy little nuggets of flavor. . . . and a plus, the Mrs. hates them. All for me!

                        1. re: powerfulpierre

                          Yeah, they are just as often reviled as appreciated.
                          To me they taste a lot like edamame.

                    3. Most recently, Buffalo pork belly at the Abbey.

                      1. Higaditos Mexicanos (spicy sauteed chicken livers) at Sol Azteca. A true standout on an otherwise OK but unexciting menu.

                        1. Biscuits, BBQ beans, and broccoli cheese casserole at Sweet Cheeks.
                          Cauliflower / potato gratin at Metropolis.
                          Hakka eggplant at Myers & Chang.
                          Arrosto di pepe (not on the current menu) at Coppa.
                          Burrata con sott'oli e fettunta at Trattoria Toscana.
                          Veal scallopine at Victor's Italian in Saugus (which I hear is moving to Route 1 near the mini-golf course)

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          1. Several years ago, it was the bean-curd leaf with pork dish at FuLoon in Malden, which I believe I was the Hound who ended up whipping up enthusiasm for that dish as FuLoon became more widely known and praised on this board. IIRC from Diane Tang at FuLoon, it's a dish with roots in the Shanghai region. It's knots of dried tofu skin, with a wonderful chewy texture, with braised chunks of caramelized pork belly in a sauce with some black Chinese vinegar. It never fails to please.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Karl S

                              wow karl, glad to know you're still around!

                            2. I'm not sure if this meets the OP's criteria, but the buffalo Brussels sprouts at Highland kitchen are not so much surprising in the context of their menu as a surprisingly amazing concept.

                              I like Brussels sprouts generally, but never would have thought of them as a vessel for Buffalo sauce, but it's such a great combo that I've started making them at home.

                              1. Thanks for the flour pie tip. Braised beef in a crispy griddled flatbread with cilantro. Nice little sandwich and with one of their vegetable cold plates, a great lunch.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Aromatherapy

                                  Mulan does a nice version of that dish as well. This one is closer to us so this is helpful; thx!