Lotus Xpress in Somerville
Lotus Xpress has been open since end of Jan, apparently. I dropped by for lunch and had the spicy beef ramen and the Szechuan spicy wontons. The ramen was a bit like the soup from say Chilli Garden's beef noodle soup but with chewy yellow ramen noodles. The wontons were tasty - thin skin (I prefer these to the thicker-skinned dumplings of Zoe's) and covered with peppery sauce.
Problems are (1) portions aren't so big, and (2) while they both tasted fine, the flavor was on the mild side. I'd say they didn't taste like anything but that's harsh. Just not so memorable. I'm still thinking of going back to try some of the other dishes - Szechuan spicy fish or the mapo tofu. Staff were very friendly.
I've been there a few more times since I posted this. The menu is indeed mostly American-Chinese dishes with a few others sprinkled in. I still feel like the flavors are lacking something, but I've liked so far:
- Szechuan beef, with potato slices. Probably my favorite dish.
- Szechuan shrimp. Decent heat on this one. Might be called spicy shrimp.
- Szechuan fish. Looks fairly close to what you find elsewhere, but again a bit weak on flavor.
Chicken wings were ok too. Mapo tofu is not traditional so be warned but it was not terrible either. I haven't tried the sushi.
The staff are very friendly and I wish them the best; they will help you out and suggest dishes if you tell them you're looking for something non-American-Chinese. Their location is quite convenient for me so I plan to drop in from time to time.
Vaguely funny story: right around the time of the great Yelp reviews debate, I went and sat next to a large group of 10 people. They were yelling to the owners as they left: "This was awesome! We loved it! Best Chinese food around Boston! Yelp is gonna be on fire tonight!"
You have to pick your spots at this place carefully. The owner is from Chengdu, and the Sichuan dishes can be good if you insist you want them traditional, with real ma la heat.
Ordered this way, the Sichuan spicy wontons (steamed pork dumplings, bean sprouts, a serious chili/Sichuan peppercorn sauce you stir into the dish yourself) and the Sichuan spicy bacon with potatoes are really quite good.
In this case, it was literally bacon, cured and smoked; I imagine the original being plain pork belly.
It may have had roasted glutinous rice powder as a thickener, but certainly none of the gritty / crunchy note I associate with Thai tiger's tears -- is it all in how finely you grind it?
It had a reasonable but not fierce ma la note, for which I was grateful -- Mrs. MC wouldn't have enjoyed it much hotter. The owner promised she could make it much more fiery on request.
In general, she bemoaned the lack of traditional Sichuan cuisine around here. I suggested Sichuan Gourmet; she agreed it was very good, the best of the bunch. Her chef chimed in with Szechuan's Dumplings, quite the endorsement for that new place.