Together, my boyfriend and I are 75% Asian, so of course, we eat a lot of Asian food. This post in particular will include Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Asian Fusion cuisines.
BonChon Allston @ 123 Brighton Avenue
I’m going to start off by saying that this location has had many many bad restaurants, probably because it has been the same owner that keeps trying again and again. The first attempt was a shabu restaurant that failed utterly. Then it was a ramen place that again didn’t taste that good. The smart guy, after Privus closed, decided to open up a new restaurant selling BonChon chicken. Seeing that no other place in Boston sells it, it’s a pretty fool-proofed plan. The restaurant is hip with modern decor. The service is well above average. And of course, BonChon has been doing well thus far because the lack of other BonChon options. The place is always packed at night on weekends. I came here various times and tried various things.
Since the restaurant is called BonChon, lets start with the Soy Garlic BonChon chicken. The chicken is average. I like the sauce, but I don’t like how dry the meat is. I know they deep fry it multiple times, so the skin becomes crispy. Nonetheless, it’s a bit disappointing. NY definitely has it perfected. Boston, not so much.
Soy Garlic BonChon Chicken Wings
Okonomiyaki is their attempt at making a Japanese pancake. Think Korean seafood pancake texture with bacon, shrimp and squid instead. They also top it with bonito flakes, which I love the taste of. When it’s hot the super thin bonito flakes wave back and forth on top, it’s really cool to look at. They also douse it with barbecue sauce. The chef needs to know that sometimes more is less. This is a really inconsistent dish. One time I ordered it, all I cold taste was barbecue sauce, nothing else. It was quite disgusting. When they go easy on the barbecue sauce and there’s a more even balance with the mayo, it is actually quite delectable
I love sushi. If I see sushi on the menu, I’ll want to order it even if it’s not a restaurant specializing in it. I have an affinity towards eel, so I ordered the Allston Maki. The maki’s center was made up of spicy tun and tempura flakes, topped with eel, avocado and tobikko, and drizzled with spicy mayo and unagi sauce. This was pretty good.
We also tried the Geisha Maki, which has a spicy salmon, asparagus and mango center, topped with white tuna, black sesame and miso sauce. This was okay. I wouldn’t care to try it again.
Then there are the regular basic rolls such as Una-Avo Maki and Spider Maki. One more special maki was the Big Boss Maki, which included tuna, salmon and yellow tail in the center, drizzled with sweet chili sauce. I particularly like this one since it combines all of my favorite raw fishes.
Una Avo Maki + Spider Maki + Big Boss Maki
My overall experience with BonChon has been very inconsistent. One time it actually sent me to the shop, by shop I mean toilet. I got food poisoning after eating their chicken and sushi. I’m not sure which was the cause. I also noticed that they use a lot of rice in their sushi rolls compared to other places like Fish Market, Genkiya or Fugakyu. I don’t like filler like that. I probably won’t be returning again.
Umami @ 1704 Beacon Street
I purchased a gift certificate off Restaurant.com during a sale. They had a special for Umami, $5 for $25 worth of food. Why not! I’ll do it. When I came with my boyfriend the first time, I had forgotten to print the certificate. I figured most places now will accept it if they see it on your phone. But alas, she required a paper copy, so I had to come on two separate occasions, which I just lumped together below.
Umami is a quaint but classy little restaurant located on Beacon, one of the streets that run through the heart of Brookline. Both visits though, there were very few other people around, which I feel says something about the food here. Anyway, I still had to try for myself (the first time), then I had to come again to use my gift certificate. So I’ll explain everything, starting with appetizers.
One of my favorite things to eat are fries, and ones made out of sweet potato is even better. It’s one of the few dishes I actually liked here. The outside had a very nice crisp and the center was filled with soft yummy sweet potato. It was lightly salted and provided enough flavor on its own without the use of their house special ketchup, which in my opinion isn’t very special.
Sweet Potato Fries
I got the Black Tiger Shrimp as another appetizer. I felt that this dish lacks complexity for an “Asian Fusion” restaurant. It’s nothing too impressive. Tiger Shrimp generally come in larger sizes also. These were quite dinky.
Black Tiger Shrimp
One of the specials the waitress listed was Tuna Tartare. I normally would love this, but felt the ingredients were lacking. The corn, for example, was bland and not sweet. Besides adding filler and unnecessary texture, I wasn’t sure why they put it there. Seasonality is quite important when choosing ingredients.
The Steak au Poivre, aka Pepper Steak, was dry and tasted nothing like the high quality beef it should be made with.
Steak au Poivre
The Hoisin Glazed Duck Breast was suppose to come with mango chutney and not green tea soba. The waitress failed to mention this to us and I didn’t even notice until I got home. The duck itself was tender and had enough flavor, but it didn’t make up for the tasteless soba. I know soba is suppose to be pretty bland, but the “green tea” version was even worse.
Hoisin Glazed Duck Breast
This is probably only other dish I enjoyed. The Chilean Sea Bass had a nice sweet miso flavor to it, which is actually how a lot of Japanese restaurants prepare it. The sweet potato puree was also addictive. I guess it’s really hard to mess this up for me since I love Chilean sea bass and sweet potato.
Chilean Sea Bass
I feel like Umami is going through some kind of identity crisis. If you really think about it, sweet potato fries tossed on a plate doesn’t exactly line up with Steak au Poivre. So are you a casual dining restaurant or an upscale Asian fusion restaurant? Some of the items on their menu also seems like a weird marriage to me, such as the alfredo udon. They basically just pick a protein and put it with a random “asian” starch like soba, udon or rice. Although, many Yelp reviewers rave about the drinks there, I’m much more of a food fan. If it wasn’t for that gift certificate, I wouldn’t have gone back a second time.
Asian Garden @ 28 Harrison Avenue
Okay, so it’s just another Cantonese restaurant in the midst of a crowd of Cantonese restaurants in Chinatown. But what it all comes down to is, do you know what to order at what restaurant? In my humble opinion, Asian Garden has one of the best Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings ever! When you eat it fresh, the outside is crispy, the meat inside is juicy and tender. It’s full of flavor. You can taste the spice, the jalapeno peppers give it a great kick. For $7, you get 6 full wings, that means 12 pieces. That’s cheaper than American wing places like Wings Over or Wing Works. It’s also cheaper than BonChon. I don’t sit down and eat here. I always just get it to go and hurry my way back to eat it!
Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings
New Jang Su BBQ Restaurant @ 260 Cambridge Street
My boyfriend is part Korean and grew up eating home-made Korean food. Every time we see each other, we have to eat Korean food at least once. I decided to take him to New Jang Su in Burlington rather than any of the places in Brighton. It’s a lot further, but this has always been one of my favorite go to places. The place is much better ventilated than Korean Garden in Brighton. On top of that, the old Korean owner is super nice and so is all the staff there.
We started off the night with Seafood Pajeon. I actually really like it here because it’s soft and chewy. He prefers it crispy, so he’s not a huge fan. I also like that they don’t put weird gooey oyster in the pancake here. Some places do it and it absolutely disgusts me.
Since we came for Korean BBQ, how can we not get Kalbi? Another reason I like it here is that they bring out the two strips of meat and cut it right in front of you. It’s kind of them telling me “I’m not cheating you with meat from another part of a cow. Here, I’ll show you by preparing it right in front of you.” Sorry, but you know some Korean places do do that. One time, I ate at Koreana, the beef comes out pre-cut and the meat definitely did not taste as tender as regular Kalbi.
We also got an order of Spicy Pork. I actually didn’t really like this. The pork was dry and hadn’t been marinated as long as the Kalbi, which had much more flavor. I just keep having to remind myself, get two orders of Kalbi next time. No more variety at Korean BBQ!
Kalbi + Spicy Pork
If I had a car, I would probably visit more often. Burlington is also the home of H-mart, the giant Korean supermarket. But I have a feeling that this will probably be my last meal at New Jang Su since my time in Boston is limited now :| Sigh!
– Charmin Bear T