Saturday, December 26, 2009

Some Quick Bites for under $10

One of the myths of great food is that you can't eat well for less. Some of my favorite restaurants have delicious food that is incredibly inexpensive. The Brookline/Brighton area is great for cheap eats. At JoJo TaiPei you can get dishes filled with tofu or soup. At Pho Viet's at the Super 88, you can buy a delicious banh mi or sandwich filled with meat and vegetables on a french bread roll.
At Dorado Taco and Cemitas in Brookline, there are wonderful fish tacos (pictured above)-each for under $3.00! On my first trip I tried a grilled swordfish taco, as well as a lightly battered "Dorado" or pollock. Each generous piece of fish was served with toppings that really made the taco. In the case of the swordfish it came with tomatillo and avocado salsa, while the Dorado was served with salsa fresca and smoky chipotle crema. I also asked for a side of pickled onions that added a delightful sweetness to these. Served in two small overlapping corn tortillas, two tacos alone made for a filling lunch.

For a completely different experience, if you are in Beacon Hill, don't overlook Villa Mexico, located in a Grampy's Gas Station of all places.
The owner is from Puebla, Mexico and for under $8.00 you can enjoy two moist, filling tamales or corn turnovers.

The Diesel Cafe in Somerville is my hand's-down favorite cafe when I need to get work done. The atmosphere is friendly, there are many tables and fantastic coffee. However, although they serve sandwiches and have baked goods, I often begin my day with a filling crepe from Mr. Crepe. While Mr. Crepe won't get my award for friendliest service, the crepes are thick, savory pancakes wrapped around fresh ingredients.
My favorite (which costs $9.25) is the "Super Spinach." It is filled with spinach, scallions, cilantro, black olives, tomatoes and jack cheese. I can both justify that it is healthy and be full for a few meals.

For more of my favorites-check out the "Dining with Kids" Section of my favorite food finds.

Dorado Tacos and Cemitas, 401 Harvard Street, Brookline, 617-566-2100
Villa Mexico, 296 Cambridge Street, Boston, 617-957-0725
Diesel Cafe, 257 Elm Street, 617-629-8717
Mr. Crepe, 51 Davis Square, Somerville, 617-623-0661

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Height of Sashimi at the Uni Sashimi Bar at the Eliot Hotel

A dish can be wonderful. But there is something about a singular bite that is, if anything, even more memorable. I love that moment when I realize that the taste, the texture and the experience of one mouthful is unlike any other that I have had before. Having heard so many positive reviews of the Uni Sashimi Bar at the Eliot Hotel, my expectations were high for the creations of Chef Chris Chung. I was also thrilled to be invited by the restaurant to join the authors of two other Boston Food blogs, The Food Monkey and One Food Guy, as well as Linh Tran Brincat from the Improper Bostonian. And in fact, these dining companions added much to the meal. We laughed as we deconstructed each and ever morsel as only a bunch of food loving individuals could do. By focusing so intensely on each dish, it made it that much more possible to enjoy Chef Chung’s gift with food and the spectacular ingredients that he has to work with. Ultimately the meal was as much a gastronomic delight as an education in food, sushi and Japanese ingredients.

Uni is unique for a few reasons. First, its small subterranean space gives the illusion of being a private dining room, exclusive to the few that can find it. Second, the fish is truly the best that is possible. This means that certain fish are flown in directly from Japan and are rarely seen on sushi menus. Finally, although you can eat the fish plain in the form of sashimi, Chef Chung prefers to layer garnishes and sauces in unexpected ways. While my group debated the extent to which you could still retain and appreciate such glorious pieces of fish, we all agreed that the preparation of each dish was outstanding.

The bartender sent out a Shisho Bourbon Smash as drink. The floral scent of the basil-like shisho leaves combined beautifully with the smooth bourbon and complimented the dishes that followed.

We began with “Anago Tempura.” This consisted of a shirred egg that had been scrambled with butter, yogurt and fleur de sel until it was barely cooked, then placed back into an egg shell. It was comfort food at its best, and I had to restrain myself from not devouring it without sharing it with my companions.

It was served with salt water eel that had been perfectly fried and was then dusted with a light coating of green tea salt. This was the first of many examples of how a simple garnish, the salt, brought out the flavors of the fish.

This was followed by one of the highlights of the night, and one of the signature dishes of the restaurant: a dramatic presentation of Uni. Uni, or sea urchin, had been freshly gathered from Maine. It was served on Tairagai or Japenese pan shell, a chewy fish reminiscent of clams or scallops. It was topped with a salty combination of XO (or dried fish) sauce, myoga (the bud of a ginger plant) and garlic sauce sauce.

I have never quite understood the attention given to Uni, but here, this time, I got it. The XO sauce stood up to the unctuous, smooth and rich taste of the urchin. You could feel a sigh around the table as we stared at the empty shell, hoping, some how that more uni would miraculously appear.

Next, we had “Rock Shrimp Tempura." This salty, sweet, crunchy combination was addictive. The coating was light, but barely covered the shrimp so that the freshness of the seafood still was dominant. We also had one more tempura of Seasonal Vegetables that was brightened by a miso aioli.

A chilled bowl of “Tuna Ceviche” came swimming in a creamy, spicy broth of coconut milk, chilis and lemongrass and topped with fried ginger. I reached for spoonfuls of this broth repeatedly, divinely cloaking morsels of perfect tuna. The sauce would be a perfect foil for most anything-chicken, pork or even shrimp.

However, two of my favorite dishes were still to come. First, was a “Scottish Salmon,” pictured at the top of this post. What arrived were glorious wedges of salmon, coated in a “Chinese black bean tapenade.” At the end of the meal I asked the Chef how he made this delicious salty-sweet topping. He was willing to share that he used Chinese fermented black beans that were mixed with fresh ginger and garlic. I have only had black bean sauce that has been sauteed on high heat. This, preparation was savory and perfect for the richness of the salmon.

Another unforgettable preparation was the Ainame. I had never tried Japanese greenling (or heard of it for that matter!). Flown in from Japan that morning, it was a light white fish.

It was topped with shiso, an Asian pear puree, romesco and benetade (a Japenese microgreen.) Not only was the dish visually stunning but together the fruit and citrus contrasted beautifully.

Our last of Chef Chung’s creations was “Houbou”, another fish that I had never encountered before. Also known as Japanese Sea Robin, this tender fish was topped with candied yuzu kosho (a citrus fruit), radishes and myoga.

As wonderful as these preparations were, Chef Chung kindly sent out a plate of sashimi so that we could taste each fish at its purest level. A study in tones of cream and white, we were treated to tastes of amberjack, sea bream, pan shell, greenling and the huobou.

Tasting each fish, independent of its garnishes, made it possible to appreciate the freshness, the careful carving of the fish and the range of textures that are so easily obscured at other sushi restaurants.

Born in Hawaii, raised in Macao and having cooked throughout the country, Chef Chung clearly enjoys incorporating styles and tastes from many places. If you would like the pleasure of enjoying Chef Chris Chung’s innovative cuisine you have three options. First, if you are so lucky, he can come to your house to prepare a meal. A more affordable option, but one that will require your patience, is to wait until he opens AKA, a new French Bistro/Sushi bar. It will be located in Lincoln and he plans to open it this March with Christian Touche. Or, race out to Uni while he is still the head chef.

Uni Sashimi Bar at the Eliot Hotel, 270 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, 617-536-7200

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From Bean to Bar: Taza Chocolate, Somerville

I have detailed my love of Taza Chocolate many times on this blog, but I recently had an experience that allowed me to get closer to the source of my obsession. About once a year, the Taza factory opens its doors for an open house. And, like many other people, I lined up by 10 to get into my own version of Charlie's Chocolate Factory. Located in a warehouse on the Cambridge/Somerville version, the only idea that such a place would exist is the lush smell of roasting chocolate that greets you at the door.

Inside was a mob scene of sorts as people clamored for tastes of hot chocolate, chocolate bars and chocolate nibs. I began with a tour that was led by one of Taza's founders, Larry Slotnick. Taza is one of 20 "bean to bar" chocolate factories in the United States.
As Larry explained to us, Taza gets deliveries of organic cacao beans directly from La Red Guacanejo. This cooperative in the Domincan Republic is paid by Taza to ensure that workers receive fair pay, while the cooperative, in turn, provides Taza with excellent cacao beans. The dried beans are delivered to Taza where they are roasted in a Birth Sirocco roaster from Italy. Next, they are "winnowed" as the cacao bean is separated from the shell. Finally, the nibs are ground into cocaoa liquor on stone grinders from Mexico. This careful drying and roasting in large part contributes to the uniquely fruity flavor that is a trademark of Taza chocolates.
This is the key to my love of Taza chocolates: while their chocolate bars are ground again to create your typical smooth consistency, I am a fan of their "Mexicanos." These bars are kept rough, giving them a nutty, nubbly and crackly taste that I adore. Regardless of the grinding, Taza adds sugar, which varies depending on the style of chocolate. For example, the "60%" bar has 60% chocolate and 40% sugar. In addition, other ingredients are added such as guajillo chile, salt and almonds or Cinnamon. Finally, the chocolate is tempered and molded. Each bar is then packaged by hand to be devoured by hungry people like me.
After our tour, we had one more chance to try our the chocolates, before making our choice of purchases. The good news for those of you that missed the tour? First, you can purchase many of these chocolates at local stores. Russos in Watertown has a particularly strong selection. Second, the Taza website offers a chance to buy directly from the factory and to view a "Virtual Tour."

I commend Taza for many things: for their commitment to supporting people at the source of the beans in the Dominican, for the range of ways they are "green", for their organic chocolate, and most of all, for their fantastic chocolate. It is not cheap, but it is very much worth it.

Taza Chocolate, 561 Windsor Street, Somerville MA, 617-623-0804

Friday, December 11, 2009

A FoodieMommy True Find: Picco, Boston

There are so many wonderful restaurants in the South End, but parking can make it a challenging place to eat when you have you have two hungry toddlers in the car. However, when we found ourselves in Boston a weekday morning, we took advantage of the chance to visit Picco. We had been there once...about 3 years ago and remember having great pizza. However, this new visit reminded us of what a perfect place it is for fabulous pizza and for bringing the kids.

We began with a "Garden Salad." On the menu it was listed as a plate of mesclun greens. However, what arrived was a glorious plate of mixed herbs and leafy greens.
My son who barely eats more than mac and cheese, dug in, declaring it "the best salad he has ever had!"

My husband tried small plates of two different pasta specials. Sous Chef Tony Lawrence made two versions of homemade ravioli. One was filled with sugar pumpkin and was served with browned butter.
I have had this dish many times, but this one was particularly well done, tasting of fresh pumpkin instead of an overly sweetened pie in a shell. The other was a unique combo of almonds and ricotta. My favorite twist: it was topped with small shavings of roasted cauliflower.
Together it was an absolutely addictive sweet, salty, tender combination. It was a wonderful plate.

The pizza was just as memorable. The dough is made over days, using the "slow-fermentation style" and is then baked in a custom-made incredibly hot oven.
For my son, watching the pizza bake was great entertainment while we waited. The crust is blistered on the bottom, but is also wonderfully chewy and thick. The toppings range from simple to more complex. My son ate the "Margherita" which had tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella and is pictured at the top of this post. The tomato sauce was perfectly acidic rather than being too sweet. I loved my "Alsatian" which was topped with sauteed onions, shallots, garlic, sour cream, thick slices of sweet, smoky bacon and gruyere. It was rich, textured and fabulous.
I was too full to eat dessert, instead enjoying a cup of George Howell coffee. However, my son got a bowl of chocolate ice cream, while I tried a few samples before taking home a cup of pistachio. Each ice cream is churned at Picco. Vietnamese Cinnamon created a particularly spicy twist on ice cream and would be perfect with bittersweet hot fudge. The vanilla was good, though a bit sweet for my taste. Ironically, the deep chocolate was almost too sour, even for me. However the pistachio (delightfully white rather than lime green), was nutty and well done.

Picco offers other items such as mac and cheese made with taleggio and gruyere, grilled panini and an adult ice cream sundae with Belgium Lambic poured over vanilla ice cream.

Picco isn't cheap. The large margherita was $19 and the small Alsatian was $13. However, you are paying for superior ingredients, local food and hand crafted food that tastes fantastic. It is just casual enough to bring the kids, while the food is so good, that it feels like a true treat. For us, the commute means that we may not be able to be regulars, I dare say it is my new favorite pizza.

Picco, 513 Tremont St., Boston, 617-927-0066

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Seaport Staycation, Part 2: Family Friendly Meals at Aura & Flour

As part of the Seaport-Family Friendly Friday package, you and your family can enjoy a meal Aura and to try the cuisine of Chef Rachel Klein. (You can enjoy the Family Friendly meals each Friday, regardless of whether you stay at the Seaport. For more photos and details on our past experiences click here or here. Note, too, that the Seaport Hotel and Aura treated us to our stay there and our meal at Aura.) After we checked out the Seaport's pool, it was a treat to then head downstairs for dinner.
The food was as good as it as been on our two other dining experiences. This time my favorite part of the meal was the grapefruit pulp that accompanied a perfectly cooked salmon.
It added the acidity of any citrus, with a touch of sweetness. It also balanced the richness of the parsnip puree and chamomile beurre blanc. In fact, it was so good, that I may have to try this combination at home.
My husband's chicken was done well, but I couldn't get enough of the side dish: mini brussel sprouts that were tossed with plump gnocchi and a shallot cream sauce.
As always our kids ate their share of chicken tenders, fresh carrots and peas, and noodles with a delicious homemade tomato sauce. The restaurant (or Chef Rachel as my son now calls her) inspires me when they take the courage to serve carrots, barely steamed and whole.
So frequently restaurants over-cook the carrots in hopes that children will enjoy them. My kids prefer the texture and tastes of these.

Our desserts were the best we have had at the family friendly nights. One of the highlights for our boys are the enormous bowls of berries. My husband's favorite was the rosemary apple tart that was served with an apple cider reduction.
I fell for the mini-pumpkin tart with crisp, spiced pecans. So often pumpkin pies are a sweet homogeneous plate of pumpkin on pie dough. The nuts made the dish infinitely more interesting and delicious.
As always, my boys loved the chance to play with blocks, to interact with other kids and to draw while we finished our meal in the adjacent room, all key elements of Aura's Family Dining. However, this night had an additional special treat as it was also a fund-raiser for ReadBoston. This organization is a not-for profit that addresses early literacy in Boston schools and aims to have all children reading by third grade. This meant that Curious George (one of my sons' heroes) was there to dole out hugs, while we were able to add to our Curious George collection and contribute to ReadBoston.

The next morning, part of the package includes a trip to the Children's Museum. While we could have had breakfast at the Seaport, we chose to go to one of our all time favorites: Flour, located just behind the Children's Museum.
One son was smitten with a blueberry muffin top, while the other shared delectable French toast (made with their foccacia), and a cranberry muffin that was full of berries. I loved the pumpkin seeds that graced my pumpkin muffin, as well as their tender egg sandwiches with a dijon sauce. The meal helped us to have energy to tackle the Children's Museum despite limited sleep the night before.

Finally-Aura is offering two special events this month: today, on Friday, December 4th will be a Hanukkah meal, while on December 18th it will be a Christmas themed evening. Just check their website for more details or click HERE to see the calender of events.

Aura, Family Friendly Nights at the Seaport Hotel, 1 Seaport Lane, Boston, 617-385-4300
Flour, 12 Farnsworth Street, at Fort Point in South Boston, 617-338-4333

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Weekend Treat & Staycation: A Night at the Seaport Hotel

Having grown up in the Boston area, I never spent a night in a town that I enjoy so much. And as a parent of young boys, we have only spent a few nights vacationing together. So, when the Seaport Hotel in Boston offered to let us try one of their rooms as part of the "Family Fridays" hotel package we happily agreed.

There were so many aspects of the hotel that we enjoyed. First, maybe I haven't lived it up, but I was smitten from the moment I realized that valet parking was included as part of the package. This meant that when we arrived in a driving rainstorm with a car filled with a inconceivable amount of items for one night, we could all walk right in and still find our luggage in our room. My sons adored the fact that they walked in and were immediately treated to the Seaport's treasure chest. In a small room is a mini-library of books and a chest filled with Matchbox cars and stuffed animals-all perfect novelties for a night away from more familiar toys. The staff was gracious throughout our stay, and as tipping is included, I didn't have to keep looking in my wallet to acknowledge their kindness.
The room itself was a decent size for a family, even though it was which means a bit crowded once we added a crib, 2 toddlers running around, and enough books and toys for a week. Our little boys loved that they could watch the airplanes, boats and cars from the window. I loved the view of the ICA, the Moakley Courthouse and the Boston Harbor.
Another of our favorite parts of the Hotel was the gorgeous pool that is part of the Wave Health and Fitness club. It has an open ceiling so that you can swim under the stars. It was heated enough for the boys to enjoy it and for me to do a few laps. There is also a workout room with classes and cardio equipment, but we were too exhausted to try it out. I did, though, enjoy the steam room the next morning. Ultimately it is a relaxing health club in a hotel.
The beds themselves were heavenly, and though we didn't get a chance to take advantage of it, the room comes with a menu to order your pillow!

In terms of food, we ate so well at our stay, that I will include this in my next post. So, stay tuned...

Finally, I also appreciated the "Green" elements of the Seaport, which they have titled, "Seaport Saves." For us, this meant knowing that the hotel used green "cleaning" for the building.

The reality is that this overnight, which includes dinner at Aura, access to the gym and tickets to the Children's Museum would cost approximately $275.00, which is far from everyone's budget these days. However, I would highly recommend this night for two groups. First, if you are a family who can't afford to fly anywhere, this was a perfect "StayCation." The location is pretty perfect as it is walking distance from the ICA, Children's Museum and Chinatown while being close to the Aquarium. And ultimately, you can quickly feel like you have taken a trip without the hassle of traveling too far. In addition, if you are a family that is visiting Boston, this package can be a wonderful chance to check out a great city.

Seaport Hotel, Boston, 1 Seaport Lane, 1-800-440-3318

Friday, November 27, 2009

A FoodieMommy Thanksgiving

Although this was my third year hosting Thanksgiving, it was the first year that I had the honor/dutiful task of roasting the turkey. With friends and family joining us, I decided to use this as a year to try out some new recipes while sticking with those old standards. I am thankful for having a delicious meal with people that are so dear to me. Without people like them, the rest doesn't really matter.

So, what did we eat at our feast?

Pull Apart Rolls from the King Arthur website
"Touch of Grace" Biscuits from Orangette
A Perfect Turkey (and Gravy) from Simply Recipes
Simple Cranberry Sauce and Cranberry Sauce with orange zest, cinnamon and figs (inspired by Christine Koh at Boston Mamas)
Stuffing a la Pepperidge Farm Mix
Potatoes Mousseline from Barbara Lynch's cookbook, "Stir"
Pickled Beets from the Boston Globe
A Classic: Spinach Casserole a la Durkee Fried Onions
Port Poached Pears (From the book: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker, Recipes for Entertaining)
Slow Poached Quince (made in a slow cooker) from Year of the Glutton
Rosy Poached Quince from David Lebovitz
Chocolate-Orange-Pecan Tart from Not Without Salt
My Brother's Delicious Apple Pies (crust from Jasper White's Cooking from New England)
Orange-Almond Cake from the James Beard Cookbook

The Verdict/The Keepers

Almost everything. We loved the biscuits and rolls. Both are best right out of the oven, but we still enjoyed them the next morning. The biscuits are a magical recipe in that it seems impossible that a pile of liquid could cook up into such unbelievably moist delights.
I use milk instead of cream to make them just a bit lighter. They are also perfect for cooking with children which helps to keep them involved with the meal.

The homemade stuffing won over the Pepperidge Farm. I skipped making my own bread, instead letting a loaf of "Stuffing Bread" from Roche Brother's sit out overnight to get stale. There was no clear winner among the potatoes. The yukon gold were earthy and buttery, while the russets were smooth from my using a potato ricer for the first time. (Chef Lynch calls a ricer an essential ingredient...and I now agree although it took more elbow grease than I thought. I bought mine for $20 at Bed, Bath and Beyond.)

The turkey was the best we have had. We started with a brined Bell and Evans turkey from Whole Foods. (I wasn't sure my side-by-side frig could accommodate the turkey). I stuffed it with a cut lemon, carrots and an onion used metal ties from a cooking store.
Elise from Simply Recipes included directions and pictures that made this so easy. Her secret: cook the turkey breast side down, while slowly decreasing the temperature from 400 to 225. My other key utensil: my meat thermometer that helped me to determine exactly when to remove it from the oven. The meat, both dark and white meat were as moist as you could hope for!
As for the one touched the poached fruit. Both of the quince were tasty, though I preferred the style with the cinnamon. I reduced the sauce to make a syrup. I am enjoying them for breakfast with yogurt. Though peeling and coring a quince was much more simple than websites indicated, I don't think the task involved will merit a return to next year's menu.
We were also ambivalent about the pecan tart. The top was perfect-neither too sweet or too cloying. The orange zest also added a subtle tweak that made it depart from typical pecan pies. However, I used a heavy hand with the bittersweet chocolate which made it too rich. The browned butter crust also didn't live up to my expectations. Next year: the same pecan pie recipe, without the chocolate (or much, much less) in a standard tart shell. I didn't like the orange-almond cake. The grainy texture and bitter taste put me off. However, my mother-in-law enjoyed it noting that it wasn't too sweet.

Finally a few tips for pulling a Thanksgiving off as a working parent. Cliched but true, it came down to organization. I did all my shopping the weekend before, storing the brussel sprouts and cauliflower in cold water to keep them fresh. (I had made the beets a week in advance as they needed to marinate.) Tuesday night I pre-prepped all the baked goods by putting dry ingredients in bowls and covering them with plastic wrap. Wednesday I made: the poached fruit, the pecan tart and the stuffing. Thursday morning I made the pull apart rolls. That left the oven free for the turkey. We also had the turkey done 1 1/2 hours before dinner so that the oven was free to heat up the stuffing and spinach casserole. The only last minute items were the roasted vegetables and the biscuits. The other key: wonderful friends and family who helped to cook and clean all night, avoiding the feeling of being overwhelmed the next morning by kitchen chaos.

The Leftovers

Turkey Congee from Steamy Kitchen-a delicious and different take on using the leftover turkey bones.

Potato Bread from A Year in Bread-a wonderful and easy use of leftover mashed potatoes. Delicious for grilled cheese, french toast or slathered with jam.

The Websites that Helped

King Arthur-an excellent site for baked goods of all sorts from scones to pizzas to whole grain rolls.
Orangette-though Molly hasn't posted as often since she opened her own restaurant in Seattle, her collection of recipes is part of my essential collection.
Simply Recipes-this website is fast becoming one of my favorites. Elise shares pictures and recipes from her family. The recipes are not pretentious but just taste so good and are easy to prepare, particularly due to her clear directions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Feast of Taiwanese Food at JoJo TaiPei, Allston

JoJo Taipei is exactly the type of restaurant I love to discover. Inexpensive, casual, warm, friendly, and, best of all, serving food that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. For me, the chance to eat there came with a bonus. A Taiwanese friend came and chose all the foods we ordered. She kept us informed about how the dish is served in Taiwan, where and when we would eat it if we lived there, and what was actually in each of the wonderful morsels that we ate. I am very unfamiliar with Taiwanese food. So, one of the best aspects of this (besides her lovely company), was that it would have been unlikely that I ordered many of the dishes that we did based on the menu descriptions. Thus, the evening became an introduction to a cuisine and culture, in addition to a great foodie find.

JoJo Taipei doesn't have a liquor license, so we began with one of their herbal teas. The rose and dark plum was fruity and almost achingly sweet, but I appreciated this in contrast to some of our spicy dishes.

Next, the owner kindly presented us with a tray of cold dishes: pigs ear, lotus root and spicy bamboo shoots. Together they were a great starter. The pig's ear was chewy, gelatinous and tasted of sesame oil.
The bamboo shoots were so spicy that they brought tears to my eyes. The sweetness and vinegar of the lotus roots helped to sooth them.

One of my favorites of the evening is listed on the menu as "JoJo Mini Bun." These are also called soup dumplings or XiaoLongBao.
They look like your typical homemade dumpling. Yet you need to eat these carefully because they are filled with delicious pork and broth! To eat them, begin by putting a bit of the ginger-soy-vinegar sauce on your spoon.
Then, carefully take a little bite on the side of the dumpling, letting the soup inside drain into your spoon. Now, take a bite of the soup, dumpling and sauce all at once. Heaven! These must be eaten hot so try to eat them at JoJo Taipei (rather than taking them out.) This dish, which cost $6.99 could easily be a light meal for one person.

We had a completely different type of dumpling: Szcheuan Chao-Show. These were little thin pieces of dough wrapped around pork. They sat in a spicy sauce. I liked them, but prefer the more flavorful version at Sichuan Garden in Framingham.

I could have eaten platefuls of the green bean dish called "Sauteed Green Beans." These perfectly cooked beans were fantastic.
I knew they had a unique flavor and found out that they are sauteed with garlic, scallions and preserved cabbage. The taste was salty without being overpowering. They were just as addictive eaten cold the next day.

The oyster pancake was a wonderful omelet of sorts. Eggs were beaten with tapioca flour giving the omelet a delicious chewy and tender texture.
The oysters tasted a bit strong for me, but the sweet and spicy sauce made it impossible to stop nibbling.

Luckily I paused long enough to eat the absolutely delicious "Bamboo Cap Rice Pudding."
I assumed this was a sweet dessert, but what arrived was my version of comfort food: sticky rice infused with the scent and slices of mushrooms. It was also topped with the same red sauce. It was just as good heated up the next day.

Another of my favorites was the Jo Jo Beef Noodle Soup. My friend explained that the beef is cooked in a pressure cooker to make it tender.
I loved the beef, the spicy, savory, gingery broth and the chewy noodles. Again, this dish alone could be a meal for one person and cost just $8.99.

We shared another soup. It was listed on the menu as "Flunder (sic) Fish Fillet with Fresh Chili Pepper and Sour Cabbage." I assumed it would be fish with a spicy red chili sauce.
What arrived was a soup based of light fish broth. It was filled with chunks of flounder, mushrooms and sour cabbage. While my friends enjoyed it and called it "restorative," for me it was more of an acquired taste.

We all enjoyed the "Pancake Scallion Beef." These consisted of flaky scallion pancakes wrapped around beef and sweet hoisin sauce.
We enjoyed them hot and then cold for lunch the next day.

Another dish that will make me return again and again was the "Three Cup Chicken." Jo Jo Taipei offers this dish with a variety of proteins, from tofu to cuttlefish to duck tongue! Each one is simmered with sesame oil, rice wine, water, garlic, ginger and sugar.
This simplistic sounding mixture caramelizes the chicken creating a savory, nutty and completely addictive dish. I know that my kids would love this.

Finally, our last main dish was "Eggplant with Garlic Sauce."
It was gorgeous to look and was very tasty, though I have had other versions that are a bit more flavorful.

We ended with another dessert that was not on most menus: grass jelly soup.
This thick, black porridge tasted earthy, nutty and a bit like jellied dark tea. Again, it had tapioca and read beans. I liked ending the meal with a dessert that wasn't too sweet, but I am not sure I would have it again.

That being said, I will be back so many times to this wonderful restaurant. Despite ordering so much, we barely touched the breadth of dishes. My friend recommended the Dan Zai noodles, while Chowhounders had highlighted the Singapore noodles and the Sugar Cane Chicken. And just as we finished our meal, we noticed two other delicious looking dishes: salted chicken and Chinese Squash, a vegetable dish that made my friend sigh with adoration.

And, if you go, I encourage you to comment here and share other dishes that you loved!

Jo Jo Taipei, 103 Brighton Ave, Allston, 617-254-8889