Opened by a Hong Kong transplant, Bess’s Cafe serves a tightly curated menu of small plates with an emphasis on style noodles and dumplings from the Jiang Nan region in China. Standouts include the spicy Chicken Dumplings with Sichuan Sauce, Pork and Chive Dumplings, temptingly fatty Pork Belly Buns, and Crispy Scallion Pancake Wraps that fold your choice of beef, chicken, or tempura shrimp between flaky, sauce-smothered scallion pancakes. Bess’s is a great option for takeout, but the intimate cafe in Brookline has 14 seats for dining in, too.
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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, check out these restaurants in Boston.
Blossom Bar pairs 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 (now also home to The Baldwin Bar), but it plays all the hits, like sweet-and-savory House Special Eggplant with saucy minced chicken; and Hot Dry Beef amped up with stir fried 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. It’s open for on-site dining and takeout.
Sumiao Hunan Kitchen
Sumiao Hunan Kitchen 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 wok-tossed 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 offers indoor and seasonal outdoor dining, plus takeout and delivery.
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 also has suburban locations in Woburn and Westford.
The Baldwin Bar, a top-notch tropical bar tucked inside a historic mansion 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 the restaurant’s outstanding Sichuan and Chinese American 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 is one of the restaurants in Boston best known as a stop after last call, but to designate this Chinatown favorite’s seafood 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). We also love the Roast Pork Lo Mein, Stir Fried seasonal vegetables, Singapore Style noodles, and other delights from the voluminous menu. 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 has restaurants in Chinatown and Central Square. Their focus 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 restaurants in Boston and Cambridge locations are open for takeout and on-site dining.
The menu at Myers + Chang is officially “Asian-ish,” representing riffs both traditional and not from various countries as well as across dietary restrictions. But chef-owner Joanne Chang is herself Taiwanese-American, and her South End restaurant was born from her love and understanding of the cuisine from the Republic of China. Mama Chang’s Pork and Chive Dumplings are a must-order, and there is a dim sum selection (“Dim Sum-y Things”). Save room for a noodle dish like Taiwanese Cool Dan Dan Noodles in spicy peanut sauce with cucumber and cilantro, and Wok-Charred Udon Noodles with chicken, bok choy and oyster-black bean sauce.