Opened by a Hong Kong transplant, Bess’s Cafe serves a tightly curated menu of small plates with an emphasis on Jiang Nan-style noodles and dumplings. Standouts include the spicy Chicken Dumplings with Sichuan Sauce, fatty Pork Belly Buns, and Crispy Scallion Pancake Wraps that fold your choice of beef or chicken between flaky, sauce-smothered scallion pancakes. Bess’s is currently open for takeout only.
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Great Chinese cooking can be found throughout the Boston area, from the city’s small-yet-mighty Chinatown—the last of its kind in New England—to the diverse corners of Brookline, Cambridge, and beyond. Whether you’re in search of comforting takeout, hand-pulled noodles, or authentic, regionally specific cuisine, the venues below will satisfy in the Year of the Ox and beyond.
Blossom Bar pairs colorful and creative cocktails with an iteration of Sichuan Garden, a Chinese restaurant founded by second-generation owner Ran Duan’s parents. The menu here is a bit tighter than the family’s original Woburn location, but it plays all the hits, like sweet-and-savory House Special Eggplant topped with minced chicken; and Hot Dry Beef amped up with scallions, carrots, ginger, and chili. Such deeply flavorful fare cries out for the acidic touch of a well-made tropical drink, and Blossom Bar’s rum-centric list is on hand to supply you with a Broken Spanish or a Bocadillo Sour. The venue is currently open for on-site dining and takeout.
Sumiao Hunan Kitchen
Sumiao challenges any preconceived notions about Chinese restaurants with a sleek, modern dining room and bar, plus a menu that focuses squarely on authentic Hunanese cooking. What does that mean? Think bold, punchy flavors, like Five-Spiced Braised Beef with garlic and chili sauce; Nom Numb Wings in dried chili and peppercorn oil; and Spicy Twin Lobsters with ginger, and other spice-laden fare. The Kendall Square spot also boasts an inventive cocktail list that champions China’s national spirit, baijiu. Get acquainted with the floral, funky liquor in a cocktail called Perpetual Motion or sample it neat. Sumiao Hunan Kitchen offers indoor and seasonal outdoor dining, plus takeout and delivery.
Gourmet Dumpling House
This Chinatown institution made its name on—you guessed it—dumplings, particularly lava-hot soup dumplings, which appear on the menu as Mini Juicy Dumplings with Pork. While you wait for them to cool (believe us, it’s always going to be longer than you think), dip wedges of crispy-yet-chewy Scallion Pancakes into savory sauce or sip on some Sliced Fish Szechuan Style, which floats tender slices of fish in a fiery broth. Pre-pandemic, Gourmet Dumpling House often had a line of folks waiting to dine. Currently, it’s open for takeout only.
No disrespect to Gene, but you can skip the flatbread: Hand-pulled noodles are where it’s at when it comes to this downtown hole-in-the-wall. The starchy ribbons at Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe are made fresh daily and smothered in savory flavors, like the #4 Hand-Pulled Noodles that tosses them with minced garlic, crushed cayenne pepper, and cilantro; and the #9 Cumin Lamb version that’s enlivened by sweet onions, chili oil, and fragrant morsels of meat. One non-noodle option that’s not to be missed is the Lamb Skewers, which are spiced with red chili and cumin and prove a great companion to the #4. Gene’s is currently open for takeout only.
The Baldwin Bar, a top-notch tropical bar tucked inside a Chinese restaurant and Blossom Bar’s big sister, has drawn cocktail enthusiasts to Woburn for years. But even teetotalers have reason to make the trek, thanks to said restaurant’s outstanding Sichuan fare. The family-style menu is thoughtfully divided between sections marked “Authentic” or “American Comfort,” offering everything from tongue-numbing Dan Dan Noodles with minced pork to General Tso’s Chicken alike. Best of all, the perfect Trader Vic Mai Tai is just a room away. Food and drink are also available for takeout and delivery.
Peach Farm may be best known in Boston as a stop after last call, but to designate its seafood-focused fare as “drunk food” does it a huge disservice. The deep-fried, head-on Salt and Pepper Shrimp are stellar without a drop of beer (though a cold Tsingtao wouldn’t hurt), as are the Roast Pork Lo Mein, Singapore Style noodles, and other delights from its voluminous menu. At this time, Peach Farm remains open for dine-in service, takeout, and delivery.
5 Spices House
If you enjoy the tongue-numbing sensation dubbed “mala” particular to Sichuan cooking, you’ll be right at home at 5 Spices House, which maintains locations in Chinatown and Central Square, as well as Ibasaw in Malden. The focus at all of them is that regional cuisine style (though 5 Spices prefers the “Szechuan” spelling). The mala-inducing Sichuan peppercorn permeates such dishes as Dan Dan Noodles, Spicy Dry Pot Chicken, and a Signature Roasted Whole Fish. The Boston and Cambridge locations are currently open for takeout only, while on-site dining is an option in Malden.