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Surprising Menu Items That Steal the Show

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Swankalicious Apr 2, 2012 04:45 PM

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!

  1. opinionatedchef Apr 2, 2012 05:03 PM

    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. g
      gimlis1mum Apr 2, 2012 05:20 PM

      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
        opinionatedchef Apr 3, 2012 07:45 AM

        hoomus? made w/ chickpeas but not chickpea flour.

        1. re: opinionatedchef
          g
          gimlis1mum Apr 3, 2012 10:37 AM

          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
            g
            gimlis1mum Apr 3, 2012 10:39 AM

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

            1. re: gimlis1mum
              opinionatedchef Apr 4, 2012 12:52 AM

              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/dishes/buticha.html

              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_COLUCCI__Menu_front.jpg

              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
            trufflehound Apr 3, 2012 09:33 AM

            Gram?

            1. re: trufflehound
              opinionatedchef Apr 4, 2012 01:31 AM

              gram=chickpeas.

          3. a
            AngerHeSmiles Apr 3, 2012 01:40 PM

            The boiled peanuts at Hungry Mother changed my life

            8 Replies
            1. re: AngerHeSmiles
              viperlush Apr 3, 2012 04:21 PM

              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
                StriperGuy Apr 4, 2012 07:17 AM

                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
                  Alcachofa Apr 4, 2012 09:46 AM

                  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
                    tammyh Apr 4, 2012 10:25 AM

                    what my dad does!

                    1. re: StriperGuy
                      a
                      AngerHeSmiles Apr 22, 2012 12:16 PM

                      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
                      b
                      bobot Apr 4, 2012 07:22 AM

                      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
                        p
                        powerfulpierre Apr 4, 2012 11:23 AM

                        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
                          Bob Dobalina Apr 4, 2012 12:19 PM

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

                    3. l
                      Lmiggedy Apr 7, 2012 08:09 AM

                      Most recently, Buffalo pork belly at the Abbey.

                      1. BobB Apr 9, 2012 12:48 PM

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

                        1. MC Slim JB Apr 22, 2012 01:28 PM

                          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. Karl S Apr 22, 2012 02:42 PM

                            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
                              opinionatedchef Apr 23, 2012 01:54 AM

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

                            2. c
                              cpingenot Apr 23, 2012 11:15 AM

                              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. Aromatherapy Apr 23, 2012 02:53 PM

                                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
                                  opinionatedchef Apr 24, 2012 12:59 AM

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

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