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Chinatown Seafood Restaurant (Brookline MA)
||1306 Beacon Street,|
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(2) page: 25 and 26
Been to 'Beantown' lately? Did you eat in their Chinatown at the New Shanghai? What about watching the Red Sox steal a base; did you do that? One last question: Did you eat in a one of the growing number of good Chinese restaurants in a Boston suburb there?
Recently, we did have lots of Chinese food in Massachusetts and much of it outside of Chinatown. So to answer at least one of the above questions is yes, one can eat very good Chinese food in Bostonís 'burbs.' Actually, this is true not only in Boston but also in many other cities.
In Boston, public transportation goes by the name of 'The T.' Use it and take a ride on the 'C' line. In less than half an hour from downtown with no need to hassle traffic, search for a parking space, or any other big-city headache, you get off in Brookline a few blocks before Harvard Street and order and enjoy marvelous Hong Kong, Cantonese, and other styles of Chinese food.
One Friday night, we do that and find that half the customers in this two story eatery are Chinese. Clearly, many Chinese do not go to Chinatown but instead they come to this well-known Chinese restaurant in Brookline, a major Boston suburb. This restaurant is called Chinatown Seafood Restaurant and is at 1306 Beacon Street in Brookline MA; its phone: (617) 232-9580. Eating there, we join other Chinese and non-Chinese afficionados to savor their high quality Chinese food.
We request a table upstairs where one wall is windows overlooking the street. It is quiet with no noise from the hoards waiting for tables that are crowded in on the street level. In this particular Chinese restaurant, glassware and flatware sparkle, the tables covered with white cloths and napkins to match. Each table has oodles of glasses beckoning that you order wine, beer, or bottled water. Actually, the napkin is rolled around knife, fork, and spoon. Chopsticks are available, but require a request or two. That might be because half the Chinese eating there that Friday are using forks. We do see one Chinese lady using chopsticks in one hand a fork in the other.
If you can read Chinese, request the Chinese menu and practice that skill. Our waiter is not enthusiastic about translating a single item on it because, he says: "About eighty percent of the Chinese-only items are on the regular bilingual menu." We find his arithmetic poor because the numbers do not jibe. Never mind, there are close to three hundred choices in both English and Chinese. Touting facts, be advised that two-thirds of them cost less than ten dollars a dish.
Do ask, if ordering one of the nineteen items listed as 'seasonal' as they have no price and some are hefty in cost, hefty in amounts, too. One item not in English is their fresh-water shrimp. Several tables with Chinese patrons are eating these exceptionally sweet critters. Take note of them in the fish tanks near the entryway; that reminds to order them, and we do. They are great!
Open seven days a week until midnight or an hour thereafter, this year-old eatery serves what the 2002 Zagat Restaurant Guide calls the "Authentic taste of Chinatown in Coolidge Corner." Their authentic food includes the thirty-three luncheon specials. At dinnertime, we recommend something sounding less authentic. Its taste tells us otherwise as the T-Bone Steak with Black Pepper Sauce is phenomenal and indeed very Chinese in taste. The lunch menu calls it T-Bone Steak Fillet, and both are with meat attached to rib bones. Enjoy their rich brown sauce and healthy dose of black pepper; the plethora of onions and green peppers enhance these tender and terrific dishes.
The menu includes many sizzling hot pot dishes. We adore the one called Fish Head with Assorted Vegetables. It is made with very fresh fish heads coated with starch; they are lightly fried then cooked with plump black mushrooms and onions in a wonderfully rich brown sauce. Other sizzling dishes among the dozen on the menu appear on other tables; they include Seafood with Vermicelli, Bean Curd with 8 Delights, and Beef with Ginger and Scallions.
Among the Chef's Suggestions are twenty-nine selections. The Sizzling Scallops we try are juicy and delicious. So are the Five Delights in Nest loaded with scallops, shrimp, squid and two vegetables. The Love Bird Fried Rice reminds somewhat of a dish called Grandmothers Shrimp. This grandmother has a chicken-shrimp combo, each on half its platter. The one we recall from years past had shrimp in white sauce, another in a spicy red sauce. Theirs comes on top of fried rice which someone in our party called unusual, we agree.
The chefs at this Chinatown restaurant know how to prepare lobsters. There are several choices, seasonally priced. The Steamed Lobster and the Lobster in Black Bean Sauce look luscious, both napped with sauce, one clear the other with black beans; both are superb. The Sauteed Vegetable Stems are incorrectly called Chinese water spinach but that is not as important as the fact that the hollow stem vegetable is deep green and gorgeous.
Appetizers are a bit on the pricey side, a few cost more than do most dinner-sized dishes. The six Peking Ravioli which can be ordered steamed or fried, have a classic filling. However, their dough is thicker than normal, the price higher than normal, too. We order ours steamed and suggest should you really want them, order yours fried.
The Scallion Pan Cake is thin, crisp, and exceptionally flavorful. The Fried Tripe is delicious, but certainly not like any tripe we have ever seen before. Our American-born waiter insists it really is tripe; and that it was not fried. However, the tasty reddish three-inch curled circles crunch as we chew them. They surely look and sound as though they have seen a fryer. All at our table recognized them as Intestines, the manager does, too, and he says fried they are.
Dishes made by the Hong Kong chefs at this suburban Chinatown seafood eatery are classically prepared. Not all is perfect, nor everything properly explained to those that inquire. For example, the Beef Chow Fun is overcooked and pasty, the Diced Chicken with Cashew Nuts bland and tasteless. So, when visiting here, keep in mind that it is a seafood restaurant and stick to the foods of the sea; they are prepared perfectly. Forgot to mention, Zagat gives them no number, as too few did add them to their ratings. Next year, when enough folks rate this restaurant, it might displace the New Shanghai, which for the record is at 21 Hudson Street. Times are a-changing! Just think, a Chinese restaurant in the suburbs may vie, tie, or be first compared to the best Chinese restaurant downtown and in Chinatown.