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Chinatown Rec'ds

I've lived here for about 12 years and have never ventured down to Chinatown.
I'm ready.
Going with a friend-we are both excited but a little nervous and want to chose a place that we feel comfortable food wise.
We both dont want anything re ally exotic, but also dont want something I can order from down the street. We are looking for a sit down, some apps,some entrees.
We've never done dim sum, and I have heard it can be a little daunting for newbies.
Basically, we are newbies with no chinatown experience and only mildly interested in trying the unknown.
Also, thinking sitting down and taking our time...
help :)

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  1. im thinking gourmet dumpling house? after a little yelp research :)
    any feedback?

    3 Replies
    1. re: cookfood

      What about Q? http://thequsa.com/

      It seems like you are a tiny bit unsure of this expedition, so Q Restaurant could be a gentle introduction. Thoroughly modern and new and spacious, on the edge of Chinatown geographically and perhaps in other ways. Easy as can be for newcomers to the area or the cuisine. You could split a hotpot (which I think is the point of the place) and then, once comfortable in your surroundings, venture further into Chinatown. I'd say then go to a bakery and buy some random things, and/or pop into one of the places with ducks etc. hanging in the window (eg. Hongkong Eatery) and just order pork and/or duck over rice to go and eat it on a bench somewhere.

      1. re: deglazer

        I was also looking into dumpling cafe? I did see best little restaurant on my quick google search.
        Yes, we are a little unsure but open to the experience-a little waiting, small tables, brisk service haha. I def would love to stop by a bakery and walk around. Im open to new tastes, within reason-but not things like tripe, or ox tongue or some of these other things ive seen on the menus. :)
        ive been texting my friend and im hungry already!

      2. re: cookfood

        I would go to Best Little Restaurant - order the garlic spare ribs, shanghai (curried) noodles, pea stems, salt and pepper soft shell crab or three delights XO or perhaps the hu siang eggplant, maybe the beef chow fon? ... lettuce wraps, clams with black bean sauce...even their apps like pan fried dumplings are off the hook...I always ask for hot bean paste and mustard too.... Oh...you'll need a few more friends with that order.....If you go for dim sum you can really end up with some exotic stuff unless you know what to order.....

      3. Gourmet Dumpling House is a solid choice for food. It's often really busy, though. You won't be rushed out the door, but you probably won't be able to linger.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bear

          the soup dumplings have gotten my attention! i love a good dumpling!

          1. re: cookfood

            The soup dumplings are quite good, as are the vegetarian dumplings, which I don't usually like much. (we've only gotten the pork soup dumplings, not the pork and crab)

        2. also, are the bakeries open at night, we figure we will get down there around 5...so would they be open a little later after dinner?

          1 Reply
          1. re: cookfood

            Some of the newer bakeries are open later (after 6-7 pm), but you might want to go in and ask them before dinner if they are going to be closed pick out some egg custards or black bean donuts and eat them after dinner. The one on the corner (beach and Harrison?) seems to be open later.
            Have a great time, I've recently really liked China King for their house made chow mein, and three course peking duck (needs 24 advanced notice). If you like seafood you can't go wrong with peach farm, get the soft shell crabs if they have them fresh.

          2. Hooray for Chinatown. Good for you for branching out.

            I can see how dim sum with carts could seem a bit overwhelming, but my favorite dim sum is at Winsor where you order off a menu. They also have a picture menu so between the two you can get a good idea of what you'll be getting. My favorites there are the steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce, steamed chicken bun, and the sticky rice in lotus leaf. You can find lots more recommendations of what to get at Winsor on the board.

            2 Replies
              1. re: cookfood

                You might enjoy Great Taste, which has a restaurant on one side and a bakery on the other side. So you can eat your meal and then pop over to the bakery side for desert.

            1. I think dim sum is actually a good choice and Winsor has the best in the area. If you have a smartphone, you can find some nice apps to help you figure out what's what, and the portions are small enough that if you don't like something you won't feel too bad about not finishing it. Winsor has a nice picture menu, and at least some of the staff has good enough English to help you navigate (and the entire staff is friendly and welcoming.) In the evenings, they're not crowded and you can probably stay till closing time.

              1. I second Dumpling Cafe. It is my favorite place in Chinatown. The soup dumplings are a MUST! Watch a couple videos on YouTube for technique. They offer dishes we don't see in places around Concord, NH but also a few Chinese reastaurant standbys.

                3 Replies
                1. re: calliope_nh

                  A third vote for Dumpling Cafe -- delicious soup dumplings, best in Chinatown, and our favorite various shredded pork and noodle dishes. It's very clean, lovely staff, and my favorite food in Chinatown.
                  Have fun! And don't be nervous!

                  1. re: ebaba

                    thank everyone! I will be sure and report back! :) Headed to dumpling cafe!

                    1. re: cookfood

                      Based on your love of soup dumplings, you're more informed than most. While at dumpling cafe, try the taiwanese chicken leg on the grilled items menu. More like boneless fried chicken legs than grilled but very tasty.

                2. when you say "lived here", do you mean in town or " the boston area"? only ask because i lived in the south end for ten years, spent a remarkable amount of time eating in chinatown and still one of my favorite chinese restaurants is sichuan gourmet, on route 9 in framingham (!).

                  search the boards for reviews/recommendations but this place ( and another place, Red Pepper, a couple of miles further on 9) have plenty of parking, reasonably priced, and when you order correctly serve up quite authentic asian food in an environment where one might not be afraid to send ones mother to the bathroom and have her come back wanting to leave....immediately!

                  1. Dumpling Cafe is a great recommendation: Taiwanese, which generally means a regionally eclectic menu. Newish, so it's still shiny-looking (though you will eventually discover that a shabby dining room in Chinatown doesn't mean the food won't be brilliant). Plenty of dishes that are semi-familiar or at least unexotic enough that you won't be tempted to order General Gaus or similarly safe American-Chinese dishes (which they also serve). And they have beer.

                    I don't know if they're the best, but they serve my favorite soup dumplings in Chinatown (listed as "mini juicy buns with pork" or "with pork and crabmeat"). Definitely study the proper eating technique online ahead of time: what happens when someone pops a whole one into their mouth isn't pretty.

                    For your first visit, steer clear of stinky tofu, jellyfish, duck tongues, pork intestines, frog, bitter melon, pig's blood, pork liver, pork kidney, salty eggs, and probably pork belly (too fatty for many Americans). That still leaves you with about 80% of the menu (75% if you subtract the boring stuff you can get down your street.) It's a big menu, so you'll have plenty of choices that are tasty and new to you without getting way outside your comfort zone.

                    Whole fish from the live tank is probably not a beginner's dish: there's usually a lot of bones to navigate, and some people find a whole, head- and tail-on fish a little freaky. You will probably want to specify "no head" on shrimp dishes for which "with head" is an option.

                    Don't be ashamed to ask for and use a fork if you're not confident of your chopstick technique -- nobody cares. White rice is the traditional accompaniment to most dishes, not fried rice, which is more traditionally served as its own main course (and is available in multiple versions here, though they'll serve it to you instead of white rice with the lunch combos if you want it.) I'd say skip the "special combinations" section altogether, unless it's in the 11am-4pm window for it and you see something that is not elsewhere on the menu. In that event, order it as a rice plate (without soup). Share everything.

                    If you have the appetite, get dumplings, some noodles, a meat or seafood dish, and a vegetable dish. If you're not stuffed after that, get some soup or some fried rice to fill in the corners.

                    And come back to let us know what you liked and didn't! It's the beginning of a great adventure. I always say, you're not a real Boston food geek until you get to know Chinatown. Once you start, I suspect you'll kick yourself for not doing it sooner.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      As I consider most of Dumpling Cafe's best seafood dishes (IE. jellyfish, whole fish preparations, etc.) to be a little off the beaten path, I would recommend just sticking to a meat dish for the first visit. So, along the lines of MC's recommendations: dumplings, noodles, meat dish, and a vegetable.

                    2. Any rainy Saturday is a soup dumpling day in my book. Since I have been on a soft-shell crab kick, I was happy to see 'salt n pepper soft shell crab' on the menu at dumpling cafe. The crab and dumplings make a great rainy day lunch.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Snowflake

                        Just be sure to ask whether the ss crab is fresh or not. The last time I asked them, they said it was frozen (at least they told me)

                        1. re: barleywino

                          ok just returned from dumpling cafe! GREAT EXPERIENCE AND TOTALLY KICKING MYSELF FOR NOT GOING SOONER HAHA.
                          Ordered the soup dumplings and scallion pancakes.
                          Soup dumplings: absolutely delicious! that broth is to die for and the pork just melts in your mouth. My friend and I both wondered on the ride home why we didnt get more. Also just googled how they get the soup in the dumpling :) Through research, luckily-we had figured out the appropriate way to eat these little packages of yum. 6 DUMPLINGS AND NOT ONE DROP OF SOUP WASTED :)
                          Scallion pancakes: a little dry and meh, but def good for cooling down our mouths...and sopping up sauce.
                          Veggie Fried Rice: a ton of veg, and we both loved how "clean" it was.
                          Twice Cooked Pork: a lot of cabbage, which I liked but I was hoping it was crispy vs. smothering in sauce. Im pretty sure it had pork belly in it, which was a nice surprise and it is delish but i couldnt get past the unhealthyness of it-didnt totally stop me though :) I think it also might have had tofu in it-which was solid and had a good bite to it. Again, unsure of both these things but it was def spicy-chilis and oil. Good and a little adventurous of us!
                          Beef with Long Horn Peppers: The beef was very tender and I liked the way it was cut. This also wasn't as "saucy" which I liked too. Spicy, but it was more delicate heat-warm I guess.
                          AND ALL OF THIS WAS 40 BUCKS!
                          We will def be going back soon for soup dumplings, and we saw many noodle bowls which looked warm and delicious and noodle-y. The people on either side of us got hot pot type dishes with a spicy looking red broth and a lot of seafood, it was incredibly inviting! I also want to find a crispy not saucy dish, whether it be chicken or pork.
                          Yes, it was pouring rain but we still managed to meander into the 101bakery and get some buns-coconut and chocolate, both eggy, sweet and delicious!

                          Overall this was a total success and i love that we got so much support!
                          thanks CHers!

                          1. re: cookfood

                            I think that red-sauced dish is "Szechuan style shrimp, fish, and squid". Very popular, though I have yet to try it. Definitely belly in the twice-cooked pork there. I really like that beef and longhorn pepper dish, too.

                            Congrats on breaking the Chinatown seal in style!


                            1. re: cookfood

                              Another dish you might enjoy, light & crisp and not saucy, is the "House Special Clam Meat & Pork w/ Chives" off the Chef's Specials section of the menu. Tender slivers of pork, chinese sausage, tofu, clam meat, garlic slivers, loads of chives, a few dried chiles, all very quickly cooked on a hot wok. It's one of my favourites.

                              On the non-healthy non-saucy side, there's always the fried pork chops - always a crowd-pleaser.

                              1. re: cookfood

                                So you have 12 years of catching up to do! You should check out the discussions of the suburban places, including translations and off-menu specials. The adventure is just beginning! :-)

                                Those long-horn peppers turn up in "tiger skin peppers" if you want to try them straight-up, often extremely hot and always extremely delicious.

                                Most of the traditional/authentic Chinese food I've eaten in the past decade or so hasn't had much "sauce", though it's often oily. (I have to admit that doesn't include a whole lot of Cantonese food, though.) As for the alleged unhealthiness of pork belly, you should read some Gary Taubes or Peter Attia before you fall for that one.

                                1. re: cookfood

                                  Great report and glad you enjoyed it. 101 was a nice followup as this is a taiwanese (vs cantonese) bakery.

                            2. i tried out most of the dim sum places and found the one in the parking garage best. it's not exactly hong kong standard but for the U.S. it's pretty dam good. think it's called Hei La moon or something.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Scharn

                                HLM seems to have been getting fewer and fewer good reviews on here recently. I've never made it there since Winsor is so consistently good. if I'm ever in Chinatown during the day, I hit Great Taste for the items I can't get at Winsor, like the deep fried luobo cake.

                                1. re: KWagle

                                  will try that :)

                                  ps: i haven't been there since well, christmas i guess, but back then they were really not bad. For example they had pretty good durian balls.