Why is it that Chinatowns tend to be Cantonese, and the Taiwanese/Northern Chinese restaurants always seems to be a bit further out? OK, granted, I don’t have that many data points. I’m thinking of New York and Boston in particular. In New York, the best Taiwanese food is definitely in Flushing, not in Chinatown. Similarly, in Boston, the best Taiwanese food (with the exception of Taiwan Cafe), is also outside of the city. My two favorites are basically in the burbs: Shangri La in Belmont and Chung Shin Yuan in Newton. Even Jo Jo Taipei (Allston), Mulan (Cambridge), and Wisteria (Allston) are not in Chinatown.
More recently, some former members of the Jo Jo Taipei team left to open up a new restaurant in Lexington (another suburban Taiwanese spot!). This location is literally a 5-minute drive from my church. After church we are always looking for good places to eat in Lexington (and, honestly, there aren’t that many), so we were excited to check this place out.
First thing’s first. It’s important to know that this is really just a take out place. There are a couple stools and benches along this table on one wall, but that’s it. It’s pretty hard to go with more than one person if you want to have meaningful conversation while you’re there. Unless if you don’t mind all sitting in a line facing out the window.
They even serve everything in takeout boxes.
“they’re importing boxes all the way from Taiwan!” For some reason, it really added to the authenticity of the experience. I could almost feel like I was sitting on a train in Taiwan, ordering a “bian dang.” (lunch box)
And inside, the pork chop over rice. Despite its authentic exterior, we were underwhelmed with the pork chop. It was a little soggy, the meat was kind of dry and overcooked. The flavor was decent, but overall it was quite average. The entire dish is pretty authentic, though, down to the soy sauce egg, the pickled radish, and the sour mustard greens.
I got the beef noodle soup, which is supposedly one of their best dishes. It comes packaged separately, which is pretty nice. You pour the soup & beef over the noodles when you get home. This prevents the noodles from becoming overly soggy.
The flavor of the soup was pretty good – deep, rich, with a slight kick. I thought the soup itself was quite oily, to the point that it detracted from my enjoyment of the dish. The pieces of meat in this soup are quite fatty. I would say it’s only about 50% meat, while the rest is tendon, fat, and other cartilage. Perhaps the authentic version of this dish requires some fatty pieces, but I thought it was just too much. I ended up throwing out large chunks of gelatinous stuff.
My vegetarian friend got the 3-cup tofu, which actually has pretty good flavor. “3-cup” dishes typically have a 1:1:1 ratio of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. There’s also tons of basil, garlic, ginger, and sugar. This dish had nice, fragrant pieces of tofu infused with that beautiful combination of flavors. I’ve actually had this at Jo Jo Taipei before, and it’s pretty similar. I think the former chef of Jo Jo Taipei is actually here, so that makes sense.
Sesame Beef: I think our friends who got this felt that this dish was a bit more Americanized than what they were expecting. I actually did not try this dish so I can’t comment on it.
Bryan got this sesame flatbread (shao bing) with stewed beef shank and onions. This was a very, very disappointing appetizer. Maybe I was expecting something else, but the flatbread was really dry and not really crispy at all. I’m so used to the flaky and crispy ones (probably made with lard) from places like Shangri La. This tasted like a diet or lowfat version of the normal sesame flatbread. Dry, no fat, kind of hard to chew. I would not recommend getting this.
Boba tea was solid, and is really a must have at a Taiwanese place, right?
*SIGH* I really really really wanted to love this place. It was so close to church. It was Taiwanese. It was opened by the Jo Jo Taipei folks. I’m not sure what went wrong. Did we order during an off time? Or did we order the wrong things? I still love the concept of having a Taiwanese take out place in Lexington, and considering that Lexington has a woeful selection of Chinese restaurants, this is actually a nice addition. I might go back and try the dumplings (I think they even have soup dumplings!), and maybe something like the three cup chicken or something. Bryan did originally want to order their “Ro Geng Mian” (Pork Bamboo Shoot Noodle Soup), but they had run out, so maybe we’ll go back and try that.
As it now stands, though, I would rank many places in Boston, including Shangri La in Belmont, Chung Shin Yuan in Newton, and Taiwan Cafe in Chinatown above this place. However, if you are in Lexington and in the mood for Taiwanese food, this is still a decent option. It IS quite authentic.
315 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02421
Lexington, MA 02421
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