This is a continuing series exploring the restaurants around my "hood" as part of the larger "Welcome to My Hood" Series. Other posts in this series include Rafiki Bistro (now closed), Super Fusion Sushi, Temple Bar, Giulia, Cambridge Common, and Ten Tables Cambridge.
I admit it's probably a stretch to say that Qingdao Garden is part of my "hood", which up until this point has been limited to the restaurants between Harvard and Porter Square. However, Qingdao Garden sort of sits in that amorphous area on Mass Ave just north of Porter and before Arlington. I don't have enough restaurants there to call that region a separate category, so this is as good as any.
Qingdao Gardens is a self-proclaimed "Northern-style" Chinese restaurant that specializes in dumplings and noodles. In my mind, it's one of the best Chinese restaurants in Cambridge, serving up excellent handmade dumplings and a large variety of both authentic Northern and Sichuan style dishes as well as your typical American Chinese fare.
I usually get the dumplings and potstickers when I go, since that is definitely what they do best. Not too long ago, however, Bryan and I decided to branch out and try a few other things on their menu.
Pictured above is the Pork and Pickled Cabbage Noodle Soup, a classic soup I like getting at Taiwanese restaurants. The soup flavor was good, although we found the noodles to be a bit too mushy for our preference. It was acceptable, but could have been better.
We were thrilled to see Shredded Potato Salad, a classic Northeastern Chinese dish that I order all the time at Golden Garden (my favorite Northeastern Chinese restaurant in Boston). The dish was decent, though I must say Golden Garden's is significantly better.
We tried their Chongqing Fried Hot Chicken, which had fantastic flavor. This well-known Sichuan dish consists of deep fried and slightly breaded cut-up chicken wing pieces stir fried with garlic, onions, and lots of chili peppers.
It's fiery, intensely flavorful, and really good. For those not used to eating authentic Chinese food, you may not be used to all the bones in the dish. After all, you are eating cut up bone-in chicken wings. If you can get over that, this dish is pretty tasty.
On weekends the restaurant offers a variety of weekend dim sum breakfast items, such as steamed buns, fried crullers (you tiao), and soy milk (sweet or salty!).
Both of these were fine. Nothing particularly exciting, but OK.
All in all, I came away with this conclusion:
Come to Qingdao for the dumplings: it's what they do best.
I think they have some of the best dumplings in Boston. I especially like the potstickers at Qingdao, which most closely resemble (in shape and flavor) the ones I love from California. I also love how they sell their handmade dumplings in packs of fifty, frozen, ($14-$16 a bag) that you can take home. It's so important to have a few bags of frozen dumplings on hand for unexpected snowstorms and such. Why not have handmade ones versus the mass produced supermarket kind?
The rest of their food is decent, but there are other Chinese restaurants that do those dishes better. For Northern style, I think Golden Garden in Belmont is one of the best. For Sichuan, there are several restaurants in Boston that do a great job, including Shangri La, Szechuan Gourmet, Szechuan Garden, and Gourmet Dumpling House.
Of course, if you don't feel like trekking out very far, it's still wonderful to have access to such authentic food less than 2 miles from my home.
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