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Dumpling House in Cambridge

21 May

Whenever I have an opportunity to visit a Chinatown, I’m completely drawn to wandering down its streets. It awakens my senses in a way that I can only compare to walking through a mercado, like the ones I visited in Oaxaca. There are so many countries in Asia on my dream list of places to visit. Until I visit those places, though, I love trying as many new flavors and dishes as I can closer to home. Boston’s Chinatown is a great place to start, and Gourmet Dumpling House is no doubt one of the more popular restaurants for xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings. However, the place is always packed and there are only about 20 seats, so trying to grab a quick lunch or dinner without a 30+ minute wait is a challenge.

Then about a month ago I saw the ‘Dumpling House’ sign along Mass Ave between Harvard and Central Square in the former Buddhist Cultural Center tea room space. Rumor says it’s a sister restaurant to Gourmet Dumpling House. I’ve enjoyed two great meals there so far- they’re still working out some of the service kinks, but the food was great and it’s hard to find a sit-down restaurant with these prices in Cambridge. While I miss the experience of going into Chinatown for Gourmet Dumpling House, Dumpling House is a good alternative.

Dumpling House mini soup dumplings

Delicious soup-filled steamed dumplings, xiaolongbao

The first time I ventured over with Renee from Eat.Live.Blog and a co-worker for lunch. We ordered the beef with long horn peppers – a dish we love ordering from Gourmet Dumpling House – and it tasted exactly the same: super spicy, tender beef, fresh green peppers. We also shared the mini soup dumplings with pork and the Sandong style pan fried dumplings (both orders are $7.25 for 7). The soup dumplings were the same as GDH, too. The interesting thing about these soup dumplings is that, while the filling is extremely moist and has a great rich flavor, the dumpling wrapper is always a little thick and slightly dry/sticky. I really love the contrast of textures while eating these, but I’ve had dumplings elsewhere that have a thinner and more delicate wrapper. I guess it comes down to individual preference; I like both.

Dumpling House has a fantastic lunch deal of an entree, soup, and white rice for $8.50 that we didn’t order, but I look forward to returning soon, because that is an amazing deal.

dumpling house pan fried udon noodles and beef

sauteed udon Shanghai style

Then about a week later I returned with my boyfriend for dinner. We ordered the soup dumplings again, plus the sauteed udon Shanghai style (above) and the sauteed flat noodles with beef (below). Both were solid choices – the udon noodles were slightly salty, but the texture of the noodles was right on and I enjoyed the mushrooms and pieces of beef throughout.

Dumpling House sauteed flat noodles with beef

sauteed flat noodles with beef

Of the two dishes, I prefer the sauteed flat noodles with beef  – I’m just obsessed with those flat rice noodles (the same kind used in drunken noodles) and the beef was perfectly tender. While I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to spicy dishes (i.e. when I ate the beef with long horn peppers I also consumed multiple glasses of water and an entire bowl of rice…), I realized halfway through the meal that I should have ordered something with a bit more of a kick. But there will be a next time!

With two overall positive experiences, I can’t wait to go back. The only warning I should include is that it’s a new place, and there is a certain amount of confusion that sometimes comes with recently opening: when we went for lunch, we asked for the dinner-size portion of the beef and peppers so we could share. They brought us the lunch-size, but charged us for the dinner portion. We asked if this was the correct size for what we ordered and they assured us it was. I didn’t believe them, but what did I know, maybe that’s the standard size? Then, when we went for dinner, the portions were huge, confirming that they over-charged us and gave the wrong portion during my first visit. It’s a small detail that I’m sure will be worked out in the coming weeks.

In summary, check out Dumpling House, and feel free to invite me.

Dumpling House, 950 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA

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South African Cuisine at Karoo Restaurant on Cape Cod

29 Nov

I love visiting Cape Cod in the fall and winter – it’s a family tradition that has taught me how to enjoy travel during all seasons. As nice as it is to wander through the Provincetown crowds and lay on the beach in the summer, the colder months represent a slower and more subdued side of the Cape that I appreciate just as much.

Interior of Karoo Restaurant in Eastham Massachusetts

My parents had been to Karoo once before and had a great experience, so I was excited to try South African food for the first time. There are two Karoo locations on the Cape: the seasonal Karoo Kafe in Provincetown (opened in 2002) and the year-round Karoo Restaurant in Eastham (opened this year). In both locations, Chef Sanette Groenewald brings flavors from the Western Cape in South Africa where she grew up,  while incorporating extensive vegan and gluten-free options.

South African cuisine is very multicultural as a result of colonization and immigration. As in all areas where people have experienced racial injustice, it is difficult to celebrate unique combinations of food that result without recognizing that people have been discriminated against or worse for decades. However, I always feel that people can appreciate and respect fusion cuisines if they understand the history that contributed to those flavors. Enjoying South African food at Karoo inspires me to better understand the history of the region.

Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer Stout

Karoo in Eastham has a great beer selection, including many local breweries on tap and imported bottles. One of their weekly draft specials was Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer Smoked Imperial Stout from Ipswich. I enjoyed the strong coffee and molasses tastes that are smoothed by a hint of sweet brown sugar  – all of these deep flavors were a nice complement to the light curry of my meal. I liked the glass that it was served in as well – a mini goblet of sorts.

Peanut Soup

The West African Peanut Soup has a pumpkin-carrot base with hints of peanut. The clean peanut taste reminds me of fresh peanuts, which I really enjoyed. This was a great appetizer, particularly for the rainy and blustery day that we visited.

Snail Rangoon

Inside the snail rangoon at Karoo

I love trying new-to-me food and I am slowly adding to my list of ingredients and dishes that I’ve tried and cooked with. One food that I had never tried until Karoo was snails! I know, I can’t believe it either. The Fried Snail Rangoons served with a soy, ginger and honey sauce are not your typical escargot. Each of the five pieces that come in the appetizer are unfortunately mostly wanton wrapper, but the creamy snail inside the middle is very pleasant. I look forward to trying more snail dishes in the future, although I probably wouldn’t order this dish again.

Peri Peri Wings

These Peri-Peri Wings, however, I will absolutely order again. The Karoo website describes Peri-Peri sauce as an “African Portuguese sauce is made from tomato, chilies, onions, ginger, and a variety of different herbs and spices. Spicy, not hot.” It is SO good and my perfect kind of heat for wings. The grilled chicken wing meat is extremely tender and it is served with the perfect amount of sauce. There are a must-try and I can’t wait to make my own.

For my meal I ordered Bobotie, the national dish of South Africa, which is a beef meatloaf (my second meatloaf after the Painted Burro Yucatan Meatloaf!). This bobotie is a very soft texture, gently flavored with curry, and completely melts in your mouth. It is topped with a thin layer of egg, baked, and served with rice, chutney, and a few banana slices. The picture I have from the meal does not do the dish justice  (it’s really not that pretty of a dish in general), so just trust me that you need to try bobotie.

The atmosphere was very easy-going and welcoming. Our server was fantastic – he seemed to really enjoyed working there and was happy to answer all of our questions. The bartender was also very friendly and knowledgeable – Karoo would be a great place for drinks (their cocktail list has some fun local flavors)  and appetizers at the bar if you are looking for something lighter.

I’m so glad Karoo was my first experience with South African cuisine and I hope to return soon.

Karoo Restaurant, 3 Main Street, Unit 32B, Eastham, MA

Salt Water Creek Cafe in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

7 Jan

SaltWaterCreekCafe_Exterior

As you know from my Saturday Short List, I’m welcoming in the new year from beautiful Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Whenever I visit I’m reminded of just how high the cost of living in Boston is compared to other parts of the country. Eating at Salt Water Creek Cafe is no exception – their early bird menu (4-6pm every day) is seriously a great deal. Every item listed below is from the early bird menu. Their regular menu features the same dishes, but with different price points and combinations.

SaltWaterCreekCafe_Interior

The interior is modern in the first section with a bar and sushi bar; the main dining room has cozy brick walls and a fireplace in the center.

SaltWaterCreekCafe_Chips

These homemade potato chips with a buttermilk chive dip are a must-try ($5). It’s a huge order.

SaltWaterCreekCafe_Cocktails

Our server was excellent – super friendly, funny, helpful, and she even makes the drinks for her tables. I ordered the bloody mary, which was simple, but with a good amount of vodka and a nice kick of horseradish. On the right is the margarita – we ordered it light on the sugar and it was quite strong! What I can’t get over is how little these drinks cost during happy hour. $3. What?! How is that possible? I don’t know, but it’s awesome.

SaltWaterCreekCafe_OysterShooters

These are the oyster shooters (oyster, vodka, cocktail sauce), something I had never tried before ($6). I’m a purist – fresh, raw oysters on the half shell, with just a small squeeze of lemon. These were fine – I mostly picked the oysters out of them and then drank the vodka separately, but the oysters were plump and had a great mild flavor.

SaltWaterCreekCafe_CaesarSalad

A salad or soup comes with the entrees – the caesar salad was simple and good. I had been craving one, so this did the trick.

SaltWaterCreekCafe_SheCrabSoup

She Crab Soup is a classic South Carolina recipe and they did a great job with it. Rich and creamy with subtle crab throughout (add $1.50 to an entree).

SaltWaterCreekCafe_Salmon

For my entree I ordered the lightly blackened salmon with basmati rice and the daily vegetable ($13). The salmon was slightly overcooked, but the seasoning was great and I enjoyed the light pineapple, tomato, and tangerine garnish. The rice was very plain and I would have liked even a bit of butter thrown in, but the carrots were great (and I would have liked more of them!). I was surprised by how large the plate was because the amount of food looks small, but it was filling.

With the name Salt Water Creek Cafe, I had no idea what to expect. Like so many restaurants in South Carolina, the atmosphere is easy-going, friendly, and the food is of good quality while still being down-to-earth. I’d love to come back.

Salt Water Creek Cafe, 4660 Highway 17 Bypass, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

Salt Water Creek on Urbanspoon

Tasty Burger in Harvard Square

2 Jan

Burgers and fries. And an inexpensive place to eat these delicious late-night necessities after 3am? Enter the newly opened Tasty Burger in Harvard Square. I had to visit.

I’ve been tweeting @TastyBurgerUSA since I heard they were opening a Cambridge location and they’ve showed me no love, but I still had to try it out (and invite friends). Tasty Burger is also in Kenmore and South Boston, but Harvard is open the latest of the three (until 4am every night).

Renee from Eat.Live.Blog, Lara from Good Cook Doris, Taryn from Sweetly Serendipity, and Vijay from NoshOnIt and his girlfriend joined me for lunch at Tasty Burger Harvard a few days before Christmas.

Tasty Burger Harvard Square menu and interior

Tasty Burger Harvard Square Interior

The space has two floors – the first is a bare-bones, cafeteria-style area, and the downstairs is a full-service restaurant with decor similar to the Fenway location.

Tasty Burger Order

It was so nice to get together with bloggers to catch up and see what the menu had to offer.

Tasty Burger's Kahuna Burger

I ordered the kahuna burger (a 1/3 pound beef patty with pineapple, grilled onions, teriyaki sauce) and a chocolate milkshake. The burger was average. Each component felt thrown together without care: the pineapple was too thick and wasn’t grilled enough; the onions weren’t as flavorful as they should have been.

I had been looking forward to the milkshake because I’ve had shakes at their Fenway location, but this one fell short. It was too thin and tasted like plain chocolate ice cream – not nearly as flavor-packed and creamy as what I’ve had before. Plus, when a milkshake costs just about as much as my burger, it should be something to remember.

Service was fine. We were a group of six putting in a large order, so it would have been nice to get a little more attention.

To be fair – Tasty Burger in Harvard Square just opened and they might need some time for the cooks to adjust. I’d go back for a late-night snack, but probably not for lunch again until I hear some better experiences.

Tasty Burger: 40 JFK Street, Harvard Square, Cambridge

Tasty Burger on Urbanspoon

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