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Not-so-Chinese in Chinatown?

A relative is visiting Boston and she is very taken with wanting to visit Chinatown for a meal. Trouble is, she actually hates real Chinese food and came undone when I brought her to Chow Chau City for dim sum one time a few years back. She loves American-style Chinese food and does appreciate well-executed American-style dishes. I can't think of any place IN Chinatown which might cater to her tastes. Does anyone have any suggestions? Otherwise, it's Golden Temple for us. I haven't been in over 20 years but it sounds like it might work for her, despite not being in Chinatown.

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  1. Don't most of the Chinese places in Chinatown serve the Americanized dishes she'll love?

    3 Replies
        1. re: Prav

          Yes but do any of them do it particularly well? In my limited experience in ordering faux-Chinese in Chinatown ( usually to appease a picky member of the dining party) it has never been very good.

        2. Try Shojo. More upscale that the typical Ctown offerings..in design and food...Below China Pearl.

          2 Replies
          1. re: 9lives

            Out of curiosity, I just looked at the menu at Shojo. A very limited menu and none of the Americanized dishes found in suburban Chinese restaurants.

            1. re: 9lives

              Bad call by me. I read the OP's post too quickly.

              Montien has great Thai and very good sushi.

              New Shanghai also does a good job with more Americanized dishes; as well as more authentic.

              2 of my faves in CT. Haven't tried Shanghai.

            2. I like Shojo a lot, but I don't think it quite fits this bill. It's modern, pan-Asian, inventive, with a serious cocktail program and DJs later in the evening on weekends. More in the vein of a Myers & Chang or Momofuku Noodle Bar, with pretty sleek atmosphere for the neighborhood. Nice people running it, too. It's a brave experiment that I hope succeeds.

              Best bet in my book is Shanghai Restaurant, corner of Stuart Street and Tremont: quite respectable American-Chinese, full bar, a karaoke crowd some nights. Menu: http://boston.menupages.com/restauran... My mom would be very happy here: she loves her some Golden Temple, though Shanghai is not quite as fancy as that. But it does have gentler prices.

              Don't confuse it with New Shanghai on Hudson Street, which despite the name does traditional Beijing and Sichuan cuisine. Actually, New Shanghai might be a good compromise for a crowd that wants the real deal and the Americanized stuff: it's a rare white-tablecloth place in the neighborhood, another relatively rare full bar, too. And many of the Beijing dishes, despite not being dumbed down, will be recognizable and enjoyable for the timid.


              1 Reply
              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I'm with you on New Shanghai, assuming that "Americanized" means beef and broccoli, etc.

              2. This suggestion may take the "not-so-Chinese" criteria too far, but I've found that Montien can please a pretty wide range of people. It is Thai, of course, so not what you had asked for, but if eating in Chinatown is really important to your relative, maybe it would be an acceptable compromise?


                10 Replies
                1. re: wandergirl

                  I have been working in CTown for 6 years now and I have grown to love the "Chinese" food of CTown once I realized it's not the Chinese food of my local restaurant at home. My favorite dish to eat is chow mien (the bean sprout, onion, chestnut soupy white sauced American style stuff) and there is NO restaurant in CTown that makes it like the neighborhood places. It is done with Lo Mein noodles and fresh veggies stir fried, not soupy white sauced stuff and never any bean sprouts! Once I got over my shock and many dollars of trying to find my neighborhood version of this dish in CT I came to now love the real version of chow mien. So I don't believe the food in China town reflects the "Americanized" versions- especially since you see nothing but the Chinese, Asian and Vietnamese dinning in these restaurants all day long. Now if I want my Americanized version of chow mien I now walk up to downtown crossing in the food court and get it in there otherwise I just enjoy the freshness of the Chinese version of this wonderful chow mien dish made the way the CT restaurants make it. I have expanded my tastes to an entire world of dishes over the past 6 years and each day is a new adventure in dinning here in CTown.

                  1. re: MeffaBabe

                    You're very fortunate to be right in CT every day. 1 of my favorite dishes is at East Ocean City. 8 delights chow mein. Pork and an assortment of seafood. For an extra kick, I ask them to do it in black bean sauce. I really enjoy it..can seldom finish it. I hope you give it a try.

                    1. re: MeffaBabe

                      MeffaBabe, have you tried the chow mein at the somewhat-recently opened China King? It was praised in the Boston.com review.

                      1. re: bear

                        Yes I did. they use really thick long noodles. They are very heavy (like bad gnocchi) so I haven't been back there for that. I have had their soups which are good but the noodles really turned me off.

                        1. re: MeffaBabe

                          Although they're also called "chow mein," they're an entirely different type of noodle. I can understand a sense of dismay if you were expecting something else, but I absolutely love those thick, chewy Shanghai-style noodles, and they're not all that easy to find around Boston.

                          1. re: Allstonian

                            I love those noodles, too. On my first visit, my server suggested them, and I demurred, thinking of those crunchy things and wondering if I'd wandered into the wrong kind of place, or whether I had just gotten a patronizing suggestion for dumb white customers.

                            I managed to get something I liked, but as dinner wore on I noticed all the Chinese ex-pats eating these awesome-looking bowls of noodles. "What are those?", I asked. "That's the chow mein I was telling you about." "D'oh!"


                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              Yes, the first time Jenny Ondioline & I ate at King Fung Garden we ordered the rice cake, which is another type of noodle that I absolutely love (and which were quite good.) Then we saw that every single other table in the packed little restaurant had a plate of the Shanghai chow mein, and we realized we had missed a bet.

                              1. re: Allstonian

                                Those noodles were part of the second-course stir-fry from the wonderful Peking duck three of us had last week. I couldn't decide which I loved more, the crispy skin in the pancakes in the first course, or the chewy noodles with flavorful sauce and duck meat that followed.

                            2. re: Allstonian

                              Maybe I will have to go back and try them again. I much prefer the lighter almost spaghetti type noodles better (not those crunchy fake fried things in a can), I think it was just they were so thick, heavy and just reminded me of gnocchi when not made right, they felt like lead sinkers. I may have to go there for lunch tomorrow and report back.

                            3. re: MeffaBabe

                              So as I said yesterday I went to China King for lunch and got the Shanghai Chow Mien. It was the thick noodles as I stated before, the difference was I was prepared for them when I opened the take out box... They weren't as heavy and awful as I first remembered them to be but they still are not something I can say I absolutely love. I still much prefer the "spaghetti" type noodles. The Shanghai Chow Mien had what looked like port and cabbage/onions with the noodles. A light flavor, mostly soy sauce. I still think I prefer the chow mien from LuLu's or New Golden Bridge. Still my absolute favorite meal is the Spicy BBQ Beef Bahn Mei from 163. I also love their Spicy Beef with rice dish and their dumplings and the avocado rolls... don't forget a Jasmine Tea or an Avocado Bubble Drink while your waiting...

                        1. My recommendation is East Ocean City. Their American-style dishes are good enough and their seafood options are excellent.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Gordough

                            At Hong Kong Eatery your friend could get a simple plate of pork or duck, fried rice, stirfired veggies, and a really good wonton soup (but not in a way that's at war with traditional American Chinese wonton soup.) I believe they even give you a fortune cookie at the end.

                            Meanwhile the rest of you could have the farther out stuff.

                          2. I think Golden Temple is the best idea and you should go there. Every time I've taken picky eaters to Chinatown, no matter what Americanized stuff they order, it's not to their liking. The Scallion Pancakes are too thin...the wonton soup has funny stuff in it...the sweet and sour - - is too sweet/sour/soggy, etc. And that's not even mentioning the decor and standard of cleanliness that might not be up to par for your relative in many places in Chinatown.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: mwk

                              You've hit the nail on the head. That is what will happen here. We did end up at Golden Temple after all on Saturday because there was another guest who wanted to go there. They all loved their meal. I did not, but I can please myself in Ctown any time I want so I was happy they were happy. But dear sister still wants to go into Chinatown so the continuing discussion on this thread is helpful. I'd love to broaden her horizons some, but that happens one tiny step at a time.

                              1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                So you ended up in Brookline? Home of the killer MaiTai and Stoli Doli?

                                1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                  Just out of curiosity, why does your relative insist on going to Chinatown if she does not like real Chinese stuff or food?

                                  1. re: huiray

                                    She DOES like Chinese "stuff" and is interested in meeting new people and seeing new things. It's just that her food tastes tend toward fairly plain and mild flavors.

                                    1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                      In that case, I think China King might be a decent choice. The chow mein (which I love very much) is delicious, but not really unusual tasting. The brisket chow fun is also super tasty and mild, though maybe the bok choy would be a problem?

                                      1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                        Cantonese food includes plenty of mild flavors. Fresh frog, for example, and the completely flavorless jellyfish. There must be more to her food dislikes than that.

                                        Are there any good actual Cantonese (not HK) places in Chinatown? Peach Farm is the only one I can think of, and they certainly have a fair amount of traditional but still accessible food.

                                        I would also expect you could have a good meal at Winsor Cafe; that has the advantage of small portions, and a menu so she doesn't have to look at anything weird.

                                        1. re: KWagle

                                          I'm curious as to what dishes in particular from Peach Farm distinguish it for you as good Cantonese vs HK? Not questioning your opinion, as I myself and am far more familiar with dishes from HK given my travels there. It was 30 years since I last set foot in Guangdong, so memories of those meals are few and far between. I consider HK cuisine to be a close relative though, and when I think of what HK considers it's best traditional Cantonese restaurants there is considerable overlap with dishes from actual (mainland) Cantonese dishes. Much of the Chinatown population here also have their roots in Canton (hence the heavy Cantonese food presence) so I have never seen huge differences. I also consider Peach Farm one of the best in Chinatown so there's no debate in my mind its worthiness in that respect. Just curious if your experience with certain dishes ring truer to more Cantonese rather than HK.

                                2. I think you should take your relative to Q Restaurant for some hot pot.
                                  Can get Americo-Chinese standards there too.


                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                    I love hot pot but the raw meats can definitely put some people off. I thought my Americanized Chinese-eating sister would love it but the look of horror on her face when she realized she had to put the slices of raw meat into the broth made me feel awful. She was a good sport but I could tell it was not for her. Hot pot also does not work well with people who aren't adept with chopsticks.

                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                      I quite like Q, too -- got myself a huge, beautiful, delicious lunch there the other day, the veggie hot pot with noodles and an upgrade to kimchi broth for a scant $11 -- but will note that any such place requires dining companions comfortable enough with each other that they'd eat off each others' plates without compunction. Sharing food from a common cooking vessel isn't for every party. Better for siblings or a date than, say, business colleagues.


                                    2. re: Bob Dobalina

                                      We took a friend of ours who was not very adventurous, to the Little Q when it was in Quincy. She was so disgusted that we were all fishing for our food out of the same pot of boiling broth, that she had to leave in the middle of the meal, and didn't speak to us again for a month.

                                      1. re: mwk

                                        i think that you owe people a description of what is going on. It is not reasonable that she did not speak for one month if you had given her an idea what was going to happen.

                                        1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                          What is going on with her, or that I owed her a description of what she was going to encounter when she ate there? She came along at the last minute and sort of invited herself, so I didn't really get the chance to try and make everything painfully clear beforehand.

                                          1. re: mwk

                                            I understand that you are probably exaggerating, but someone who doesn't speak to your for a month over a dining experience is probably someone you don't want in your life. So I guess the solution is to take her out to an all-offal dinner and never hear from her again?

                                            1. re: tysonmcneely

                                              I'm actually not exaggerating. She really did avoid me for over a month. She was a coworker and I ended up going to another company (not because of her, of course) so I broke off the friendship. You are correct that I didn't feel the friendship was worth saving at that point.

                                    3. Don't eat at Best Little Restaurant, all the food there is very Chinese-y, except for the steamed hacked chicken and the perking ravioli. Also avoid Great Taste, an awful spot for people who don't want authentic Chinese food. People who want non-Chinese-y Chinese food will absolutely hate it hate it hate it. Also avoid Chau-Chau City but for the Sweet and Sour Chicken which is gooey and sugary and deep fried. Almost comparable to McDonalds' Chicken Tenders but in a Chinese Restaurant environment so you think you are actually eating non-Chinese Chinese-y Cheesy food but without suffering the indignity of going to a chain operation. Let us know how your relative makes out, relatively speaking.

                                      1. Today I decided to try the Chow Foon (rice noodles) at China King. I am loving them. I know my second time getting the chow mein noodles faired much better than the first time I tried them, there is no double I love the Chow Foon noodles. This China King is really good. If you like noodles and soups I recommend trying it.