A banner printed with tiny white fish flutters above Ma Soba's sushi bar, where chefs in pert white hats tuck ribbons of fish atop rice and seaweed. In the kitchen, stovetops sizzle with Chinese, Korean, Thai, and other Asian dishes, such as bulgogi, tempura-battered seafood and vegetables, and entrees spiced with chili-and-ginger general tso's sauce. Wine and water goblets moor maroon tablecloths in the softly lit dining room, where potted orchids and bromeliads complement a Japanese screen painted with branches and cherry blossoms. Ma Soba also packs entrees into tidy containers for carryout and delivery orders to offices, homes, and tree houses.
Xinh Xinh may be located in the heart of Chinatown, but its menu is centered around the heart of Vietnamese cooking. As one might expect, noodle soups, or pho, take center stage with varieties such as curry chicken or beef, fish paste, roast duck, tripe, and pig liver. Guests may choose any of five noodle types––yellow, rice, broad, clear, or pho––to customize any of the noodle soup specialties, though Boston.com recommends the Hu Tieu Nam Veng. The clear noodle soup is served with pork, liver, quail egg, shrimp, and "tiny, toothsome fishballs", and was dubbed, "so flavorful, we forget all about the chili paste and garnishes […] we usually heap into soup at Vietnamese restaurants." For those who shun the soup spoon, Xinh Xinh also offers up a full menu of other Vietnamese and Chinese specialties including hot pots, vermicelli buns stuffed with BBQ meatballs or grilled pork, and rice plates piled high with lemongrass chicken, stir-fried vegetables, or grilled pork. And, of course, there is the avocado shake that Boston.com called "sweet, creamy, cold, and subtly and soothingly flavored", like a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two soft jazz records.
Visit Shanghai during the Chinese New Year, and there's a good chance you'll catch most everyone eating something known as lion's head casserole. Don’t panic. There's no lion in this dish; instead, professional chefs and home cooks alike stew pork meatballs with napa cabbage, neatly arranging the leaves around the meat to form what merely resembles a lion's head. And though this savory, hearty dish is typically served around the holidays, guests of Shanghai Gate can get it year-round. In fact, it’s one of this quaint Allston Village eatery’s most popular dishes, and one that likely helps the spot land on Eater’s list of the 38 Essential Boston Restaurants time and time again. True to form, the remainder of Shanghai Gate’s menu features a host of authentic Shanghai specialties, ranging from xiao long bao (shanghai soup dumplings) to fish slices cooked in wine and ginger. The food itself is simple and uncomplicated, much like the décor. Red paper lanterns are the sole highlight of the intimate space's decoration, popping from a backdrop of blank white walls and wooden tables and booths.
Gourmet Dumpling House’s dishes span the culinary tastes of the entire country of China—and a little bit of Taiwan, too. Considering the restaurant’s name, it’s not surprising that the chefs here consider their dumplings and buns the highlight of their extensive menu. They spend 15 minutes preparing these signature bites, stuffing them with savory proteins such as pork, crab meat, seafood, and chicken. They also feature a full selection of chef’s specialties, including mango chicken, braised sea cucumbers, and whatever dish has been on its best behavior that day. Celebrity chef Ming Tsai—an expert himself in east-meets-west cuisine—even lauded Gourmet Dumpling House’s Szechuan-style sliced fish as better than his own on Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate.”
Hong Kong Eatery offers an authentic taste of China with one of the biggest menus in Chinatown. Located near Tufts Medical Center, the small restaurant is heavily populated every day during busy lunch and dinner times by the numerous nearby medical professionals. Black and white photos of Hong Kong fill the grey walls that are also adorned with bright red poster filled with gold Chinese lettering. Appetizers include the traditional finds of spring rolls, chicken fingers and beef teriyaki as well as a good variety of noodle dishes, but more adventurous diners prefer rice fish with spicy salt, sautéed frog, tasty bean curd, jelly fish with smoke hock and poached chicken. Seafood dishes span from yellow eel to jumbo shrimp, while popular beef dishes are prepared Szechuan or curry style. There is also a second location in Quincy.
Chinatown has its fair share of great restaurants and bakeries on nearly every corner, but Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant delivers the best of both worlds all wrapped into one location. Inside, black and white checkered tiles, wooden tables and a wall of mirrors fill out the rooms. Specializing in authentic Chinese foods, the cozy restaurant serves up traditional American breakfasts consisting of French toast, breakfast sandwiches with egg, coffee and green tea, but most people order up the pineapple shaped coconut buns, peach mousse cake and red bean buns on prominent display from the glass bakery cases. As the day progresses, appetites turn to ginger and scallion lo mein, shrimp dumpling noodle soup, chicken chow mein and roast pork rice dishes. There are several tables here but most people order the food for takeout.