Visitors to Tom Can Cook quickly confirm that Tom, whoever he is, isn’t just feigning confidence. He's a master of Asian cuisines, fusing Thai, Korean, Szechuan, and Vietnamese influences for a menu with dozens of different sauces and proteins. Spicy kimchi fried rice hosts morsels of chicken or beef, and the similarly Korean okdol bibimbap mixes meat with veggies and an egg in a stone pot or sturdy top hat. Cooks sauté roasted duck in curry sauce before adding in snow peas, pineapple, and basil sauce to make it siam duck choo chee, and boneless pork loin enjoys a dressing of spicy basil sauce and bamboo shoots in the wild boar basil dish.
Inside the dining room, patrons nourish their bellies at white tablecloths while casting glances at Asian screens, decorative floral gewgaws, and oblong hanging lamps stationed throughout.
At Ruyi Restaurant, towering orange flames flare up from each hibachi grill, where masters showcase culinary prowess for hungry audiences while searing up a menu of scallops, filet mignon, and lobster. At a bright blue sushi bar, knives slice through fresh seafood, preparing chef specialties such as the Lemon Tree maki, where avocado cuddles up with siso leaf and cucumber, waiting for a goodnight kiss beneath a blanket of tuna, salmon, and lemon. Classic Chinese dishes round out the pan-Asian menu, topping white tablecloths with marinated mongolian steak and spicy szechuan lamb. Behind the bar, underlighting sets bottled spirits aglow before they accompany bites and fuel wagers over how many sushi rolls a date can hold in his or her mouth.
Guests can order from the traditional Szechuan menu at Little Q Hot Pot, but the real thrill of this cozy Arlington eatery is the dish that shares its name. Akin to fondue, the Chinese hot pot bubbles at the center of the table within an arm’s reach of guests ready to cook their own food or stage an all-shrimp revival of Macbeth. When ready, diners simply spear the protein of their choice—such as USDA prime rib, scallops, chicken, or even quail egg—and dip it in the piping hot chicken, seafood, veggie, or curry beef broth until its cooked to their liking. Vegetarians can partake as well by enjoying a bounty of fresh vegetables, including oyster mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and Chinese broccoli, alongside four kinds of noodles. Those not interested in DIY dining can opt for expected Chinese restaurant favorites, such as kung pao beef and sesame chicken or split several hearty orders of pan fried pork or steamed lamb dumplings.
Chefs at Fusion Taste top white tablecloths with a mix of Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Rock-shrimp tempura and hand-tossed scallion pancakes share table space with Chinese classics such as sesame chicken and black-pepper beef. Thick stalks of bamboo rise beneath the window of the dining room, providing natural decor as well as a place to hide tuna-stuffed sushi rolls for later. The chefs also showcase Japanese flavor in cooked dishes such as aigomo-rosu teriyaki, or sliced duck meat in a sake soy sauce, and seared tuna sautéed in a wild-mushroom sauce.
At House of Chang, you can just as easily find a happy family sitting at one of the restaurant’s cozy tables as you can find one on a plate. The Happy Family, of course, is one of House of Chang’s specialty dishes, a reunion of shrimp, beef, chicken, pork, and broccoli in brown sauce. It shares menu space with other house dishes, including plum duck and sesame chicken. The rest of the menu has everything from lo mein and chop suey to moo shi, which wraps mushrooms, scallions, eggs, and meat in a pancake, much like the severance package that an omelet gets after it leaves its kitchen job. A review of House of Chang in The Boston Phoenix lauded the eatery simply for its “swell food at moderate prices.”
For more than 15 years, Dragon Star has lit up the Chinese food scene in Brookline. The staff has built an extensive menu with more than 160 selections, including chop suey, eggplant with oyster sauce, beef in black-bean sauce, and a quintet of egg foo youngs. But starring among their many traditional dishes are Dragon Star’s specialties. Slices of duck served Mandarin-style are sautéed with pea pods, water chesnuts, and bamboo, and the flavors in the Happy Family dish—jumbo shrimp, chicken, scallops, beef, and pork—work together so harmoniously they often burst into renditions of “The Brady Bunch.” Regardless of the lunch or dinner entrée chosen, guests can rest assured that the staff has prepared it as healthily as possible: they use fresh and natural ingredients and constantly seek out new cooking methods to get the most from their nutritional content.