Tag Archives: Cambridge

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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A Series of Misses: John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House Brunch

2 Apr

I was invited to try John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House brunch in Harvard Square in February through the Boston Brunchers. With six locations between Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, I was looking forward to a more mainstream brunch than what I typically go for. They added a brunch menu in November, so I was curious to see what they had to offer.

Some background: I’m the first to admit that I’m completely spoiled by attending events through the Boston Brunchers. It’s free food, the opportunity to meet other bloggers, and try new restaurants. As you might assume, the restaurants know we’re coming – these events (and I do consider them to be events rather than regular meals) are set up in advance – they know we’re providing blog posts about our experiences. So, because I’m dining as a disclosed reviewer, I expect the best food possible to come out of the kitchen (i.e. the same or better than what I would receive dining anonymously). During this visit to John Harvard’s I dined with my boyfriend. They had our reservation, knew we were coming from the brunchers group, and our server knew I was reviewing and that this was a complimentary meal.

We sat down to a variety of menus – a huge lunch/dinner menu with everything from salads, sandwiches, pizza, and entrees; a brunch menu; and a drink menu.

Our waiter was kind, but inexperienced. I think he had two tables during our hour and a half meal – it was very quiet for lunch on a Saturday in Harvard Square.

John Harvard bread basket

At the start of the meal we were served a the bread basket. The pieces of bread were hit or miss – I had one soft and fresh piece, and then the other two I tried were hard and dried out.

John Harvard Hot Chocolate

I ordered a hot chocolate. The presentation was good – a cute mug with some foam on top – and our server proudly explained that he made it himself and hoped I would like it. When I took a sip, I realized it was warm milk and sugar. Not a hint of chocolate. After his introduction, though, I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything.

My boyfriend ordered a decaf coffee, which was mediocre and not quite hot enough. I was optimistic that the drink difficulties would be overshadowed by the food, though.

John Harvard Clams

We started with the Harvard Ale Steamed Clams. The tomatoes and smoked bacon were a nice addition, although the bacon was all very soft (a slight crispiness would have been a nice contrast to the soft clams). The bowl had plenty of broth and the subtle flavors were a good way to start the meal. One of the clams hadn’t opened, which was strange to see plated.

John Harvard Eggs Benedict

For my meal I had the Eggs Benedict that was served with a side of homefries. The homefries were fine and the onions were a nice touch. The star of the show, however, had major difficulties: there was something off about the hollandaise – the consistency was far too thick and it had an overpowering tangy flavor, the poached egg was completely hard inside, and the english muffin under the lackluster ham wasn’t toasted and added a soggy component that didn’t help any other element of the dish.

John Harvard Overcooked Eggs

All I could bring myself to eat were the homefries and a few bites of salty ham. I haven’t experienced a dish with so many inedible elements in a very long time.

John Harvard Steak and Eggs

My boyfriend ordered the Steak and Eggs. The steak, which he ordered medium, was severely undercooked in some areas and overcooked to a crisp in others. The white of the eggs was also undercooked – I love a drippy yoke, but the whites shouldn’t be clear on a sunny-side up egg.

There were few diners at 12:30pm on Saturday and, after my brunch experience, I understand why. None of the details the kitchen should be looking for were considered. I can’t help but wonder: who was back there Saturday morning and were they tasting or testing anything?

Sure, I’ve had my share of difficult meals and I sometimes blame it on a bad day, but John Harvard’s knew we were coming – my name and ‘Boston Brunchers’ were listed on the host’s reservation sheet. I’m curious what quality of food I might have received if they didn’t know who I was.

Furthermore, Boston Brunchers and I reached out multiple times to the restaurant for a comment on this meal and my experience. We received no response.

Maybe for a beer and some fries John Harvard’s is an acceptable option, but not for brunch.

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My visit to John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House was set up through the Boston Brunchers. Our meal and two non-alcoholic drinks were complimentary. We provided a tip. As with all EatingPlaces posts, opinions are my own.

We Found the Ben & Jerry’s Truck at Whole Foods!

23 Aug

Summer in Boston has its perks, from free concerts to outdoor seating at restaurants. What I like most about living in the city, though, is finding the unexpected: a guitar player on the sidewalk, overhearing bits of history from a Freedom Trail tour, free ice cream…

Have you found the Ben & Jerry’s Truck yet this summer? Last week I caught up with Taylor and Elise, master drivers and super friendly free-ice-cream-givers, in Cambridge.

On Friday, August 19, Whole Foods on River Street celebrated their 10th Anniversary with a block party. There were samples of KerryGold, Grillos, Pretzel Crisps, Ripe juice for all, but the talk of the event was the free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. It was before dinner, but guests were more than willing to risk their appetites.

Taylor, an assistant manager at a Boston Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop, talked with me about her experiences working on the truck. And, of course, I had to sample Cherry Garcia, the flavor I would eat by the pint with my dad at Cape Cod.

This is Taylor’s second year working on the truck – she says it’s “great to give back to the community” by attending public events and visiting offices (20-30 each week!) throughout the Boston area. Before Boston, the truck was also in Miami and New York. The truck accepts location suggestions and announces where it will be via its Twitter account (@BenJerrysTruck) and will continue traveling around Boston until August 29.

In the coming weeks Taylor will begin her senior year at Boston University where she studies Biochemistry. Her favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors are Half-Baked Frozen Yogurt and Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack. She’s also excited about Ben & Jerry’s becoming completely Fair Trade Certified by 2013 – and we’re not talking just a few flavors, but every bit of every flavor – from chocolate chunks to vanilla. Now that’s something to look forward to.

There’s still time to grab a free ice cream from the truck, so check in on Twitter and say ‘hello’ to Taylor and Elise for me!

Henrietta’s Table for Restaurant Week

19 Aug

It’s Restaurant Week in Boston. Some people love it and others hate it, but if you’re on a tight budget it’s a great way to sample that high-cost restaurant you’ve been eying (after volunteering with AmeriCorps for the year, the only option is to be frugal).

During the week (actually two weeks), participating restaurants typically offer a two- or three-course prix fixe menu for $15.11 or $20.11 for lunch and $33.11 for a three-course dinner. Henrietta’s Table is unique in that it maintains its regular menu through Restaurant Week with two- and three-course lunch options.

Located in the Charles Hotel of Harvard Square, the space is airy and relaxed, as if you’ve entered your cool grandma’s farmhouse kitchen in Vermont.

My friend and I had reservations for noon on Tuesday and arrived a few minutes early, so we were asked to wait on ordering until the kitchen was ready. I asked the hostess about the Restaurant Week menu and she explained that we could order anything from either side of the menu to make up a two- or three-course meal. Fantastic!

We were seated by the window with three types of bread (my favorites were cranberry bread from Pain D’Avignon, the most amazing Cape bakery, and anadama, delicious slathered in butter).

We both chose the Maine Rock Crab and Corn Chowder with Smoked Bacon. It was brought to our table in hot cast iron bowls forty-five seconds after we ordered, which slightly raised a red flag. The balance of creamy corn and crab was a good combination of flavors, but the crab was in tiny threads rather than small chunks and the two minute bacon pieces didn’t contribute salt or smoke that would have made this dish amazing.

For my entree I ordered the Baked Gloucester Scrod. The contrast between fresh fish and crisp buttery breading made every bite complete. The roasted organic potatoes on the side had a great flavor, but next to white fish and brown breading, a small salad of micro greens and a light vinaigrette would have been perfection. The lemon on the side was delicious over the scrod, although I wish they had washed off the bright green stamp.

My friend ordered the steak special over a beautiful (and huge) mixed greens salad with bright red tomatoes that tasted like they came from my parents’ garden. She was a happy customer.

We received our bill without the Restaurant Week prices, which our server changed to $15.11 for me and $20.11 for my friend. Back when the hostess showed us both sides of the menu, she said everything was included in the Restaurant Week prices. We managed to track down our server and she explained they add $5 for the specials with the Restaurant Week option. She said she’d correct the hostess, but didn’t change our bill.

Overall, I would recommend Henrietta’s Table. The environment and quality of ingredients (some locally sourced and/or organic) were great, while the food preparation and service could have been improved (there are almost too many servers in the dining room, but few are attentive to customers’ needs). I look forward to coming back for a Saturday brunch, of which I’ve heard only excellent reviews.

Henrietta’s Table, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St, Cambridge

Henrietta's Table on Urbanspoon

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