May’s Cafe is a tiny, family owned Taiwanese restaurant tucked in the middle of a purely residential neighborhood in Allston. The food is Taiwanese home cooking – and it’s very good.
We arrived on a Thursday night around 7 PM. Surprisingly, the place was relatively empty and thus we were able to nab one of the two parking spots that May’s Cafe owns. The decor inside is clean and pleasant. May herself ended up taking our order and serving us that evening.
Perhaps I’m partial to Taiwanese food, but I really enjoyed the food we had. For appetizers, we ordered the fresh steamed greens ($4.75), the egg pancake ($4.75), and formosa turnip cake ($4.75). The greens were delicious – a small plate of steamed leafy greens tossed in a garlicky-soy based sauce. The egg pancake was also very good. The formosa turnip cake was fine – a lot less greasy than the typical turnip cake you’d get at a dimsum place.
We ordered three dishes as well. An interesting fried rice which consisted of Chinese sausage, pineapple, cabbage, and pork sung ($9.95); Da Loo noodle soup (thick noodle soup with eggs, vegetables, and seafood) ($10.95); and shredded pork with bamboo shoot and beancurd ($11.95 entree/$8.50 rice plate).
The food reminded me of home cooking – which, essentially, is what it is. May Pan’s parents do most of the cooking in the back. The cooking style is less reminiscent of large scale Chinese restaurant cuisine, which often involves deep flash frying meats and vegetables in hot oil. Instead, it’s more like the stuff that you’re Taiwanese mom would make for you when visit home – simple stir fry on a small wok. None of the dishes were overly greasy, yet all had very satisfying flavors.
I loved the fried rice, not only because of its awesome blend of flavors, but also because of the ratio of rice to “stuff.” I’d say the rice was about 45% of the dish, which made it quite flavorful and fun to eat. The pork sung adds an interesting dimension to the dish. I think I’m gonna try that some time. The shredded pork with bamboo shoot and beancurd dish was also very tasty. It was spiced with chili oil to just the right amount of heat. The DaLoo noodles were also good. According to Bryan, it doesn’t compare to California, but it’s probably the best DaLoo noodles that we’ve had in Boston to date.
Finally, the kitchen went out of their way to accommodate the young child that was in our dining party. He kept requesting “tang yuan” (Rice balls). The waitress (May) kept telling him that they didn’t have any. Finally, May’s parents decided to hand-make some rice balls on the spot. After about 10 minutes, a piping hot bowl of red bean soup with rice balls appeared. The little boy was ecstatic.
Boston.com did a review on May’s cafe back in October. According to that article, May cares a lot about healthy eating, and thus cooks with less oil and salt compared to a typical Chinese restaurant. She also offers Akai whole grain rice, fruit shakes and smoothies, herbal tea, and boba tea. Oh, and the bathroom was immaculate.
In conclusion, this is truly a hidden gem that’s a bit hard to find. If you like simple, Taiwanese home cooking, this is definitely worth the visit.
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