Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Unassuming Noodle Haven: E O Noodle, Framingham

I have mentioned EO Noodle a number of times in this blog, but I thought it was time to do it justice. A very small and modest spot on Route 9 in Framingham, it is defined by its lack of pretentiousness. In fact, I think "charming" might be the best word to describe the atmosphere. The outside is so minimalist and the curtains so often pulled that a friend insisted they had closed. No. It is still open daily. Inside it is painted salmon with bright garish flowers on the wall. There are just a few tables and today, for example, my cup was chipped.

The menu never seems quite accurate. FoodieDaddy's sesame chicken was neither stir fried nor spicy as the menu noted. So, it is good to ask questions.

There is also only one main server. He is also the same man that answers the phone. And he is also the owner and cook. When it is busy, expect him to be abrupt, but when it is quieter, he will start up a conversation and even crack a smile. His gruff manner masks a very considerate man: when he realized FoodieDaddy wasn't going to eat a side order of soup (too spicy), he brought him another.

Clearly, we don't go there for atmosphere. We go there for the food and for the special touches that we have only found in Chinatown or at much higher end restaurants. For example, the spicy sauce on the tables is home made. And it is so, so good. Layered with flavor, simply calling it "hot" doesn't do it cover how delicious it is. The home made wontons (which are offered with pork or vegetable or to my husband's delight, chicken) are individually made. They are tender, moist and flavorful but also comforting. You can have them with any of 3 sauces (Dan Dan, a peanut sauce; a ginger sauce or a spicy soy sauce) and if you are very nice, you might even get 2.

My husband raves about the Mongolian style barbecue. Again, it is definitely not barbecued and I am not convinced they eat this in Mongolia. But it is incredibly well seasoned stir fry with chicken that is so soft it almost melts in the mouth. It is served with a great helping of vegetables and just enough sauce. You can have it with rice, but we always choose the noodles.

In fact, besides the addictive wontons, we really go there for the noodles. They offer 2 types of homemade noodles, thin and thick, and both are fantastic. They are tender, but yet have a bite. The Dan Dan noodles come with sliced cucumber, steamed spinach and just enough sauce. The sauce tastes of sesame seeds and soy, with barely any garlic and just a hint of peanuts. The "Meat Noodles" are made chicken while the "Peking Meat" noodles have pork. The "Meat Noodles" is one of my favorites: again, lightly cooked ground chicken in an incredibly flavorful sauce served over the homemade noodles.

I have also had the roast duck noodle soup which consisted of a large bowl of deeply flavored stock with fried shallots and large pieces of duck. I appreciated that when we took out the broth, the duck and the noodles were all packaged separately so they wouldn't be soggy at home. Again, another great touch. The Szechuan Spicy Beef Noodle Soup was very good, though it definitely wasn't spicy enough for my taste.

The place isn't perfect-sometimes the sauces can be a bit heavy or the noodles can be so covered in sauce that it is hard to enjoy them. (In the future I plan to ask them to always pack the noodles separate from the toppings.) But the prices are reasonable, the parking is easier than a trip to Chinatown and the noodles are always so, so good. Finally, since the portions are so generous, any trip to E.O. Noodle guarantees us a second meal the next day (and 2 less meals we have to cook!)

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

FoodieMommy Eats a Food Court! The Super 88 Food Court

I have always had ambivalent feelings about taking my toddler to restaurants. On the one hand, I want to expose him to the pleasures of eating out while giving him the chance to learn how to behave at someone else's table. However, although I know a few great kid-friendly restaurants and I always arrive prepared (with a bag full of non-messy crafts and lots of food he will definitely eat), there is always the sense of anxiety that makes it difficult to fully enjoy the meal.

The solution? The Super 88 Food Court at 1095 Commonwealth Ave in Allston. First there is free parking. Sometimes you need to circle a bit, but you can almost always find a spot. Next, there is a huge area for sitting, so toddlers can easily roam and you don't have to worry about the noise factor. Finally, the incredible range of delicious (and affordable!) foods means that every member of the family can have dishes that meet their individual tastes while trying something new.

My favorites: First and foremost, Pho Viet.

Their beef soup is spicy and flavorful. I love that they always give you a few fresh herbs to put on top yourself. Their Banh Mi or grilled meat sandwiches are the epitome of a dish that is more than the sum of its parts. The fresh crunchy roll holds freshly grilled meat, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, peppers and a fabulous sauce. All for, drum roll please, $3.50! My favorite, though, is their homemade soy milk. It is as different from what you buy at the grocery store as real mac and cheese is to the boxed versions. It is light, incredibly flavorful and just sweetened enough. It cuts the spicy dishes, but is refreshing at the same time. I love it hot and cold.

Next, the Misono Grill for Korean specialties. This is owned by the same family who owns Apgujung in Newton Center. I particularly like the chap chae (sauteed clear sweet potato noodles and a sauce of soy sauce and sesame oil.)

I always go to the Dim Sum Chef. (The photographs at the top of this post are of their custard steam buns and shrimp har gao.) Honestly, it isn't up to the same caliber as Gitlo's down the street, but the parking is certainly easier and it is very, very good. I love that they have a photographic menu so you can see each item you are ordering, and that almost all items have a vegetarian equivalent. For example, they have vegetarian pork buns. Their steamed buns are moist, but I was most taken with the chicken and black mushroom on steamed rice. The portion was enormous and it had a subtle curry flavor. My husband loves the vegetarian rice noodles.

Kantin is the main Chinese food stall and is unique for its fantastic range of Chinese entrees, from congee to chow foon. You can get more standard Americanized Chinese food (chicken and broccoli) or more authentic dishes such as spicy salted tofu. The roast meats aren't as good as those I have had in Chinatown, but again, the convenience can't be beat.

Finally, I have had a few delicious dishes from Wisteria which offers Taiwanese food. They offer rice bowls that are wonderful.
Currently there is also an Indian food and Thai food, as well as frozen yogurt and bubble (tapioca) tea stalls. I haven't frequented those as often, but they are popular.

The Food Court is fun, it is easy, it is cheap, it is tasty and most of all, it is a place for kids to run around. Not sure it gets much better than that!