June 20th, 2010

North by Northeast, Cambridge

Chef/Owner Philip Tang has been lauded as Boston’s answer to David Chang (of Momofuku fame). He has opened North by Northeast in Inman Square in the old Benatti space. It serves modern Chinese fare in tapas form, with an emphasis on local, sustainable ingredients.


We took R’s parents there on Friday to celebrate father’s day. The menu suggests ordering 3-4 dishes a person. This is what we had with:


1.      Carrot and sweet potato curry chips.

2.      Meatballs in a sweet and sour sauce

3.      Napa cabbage salad

4.      Scallion pancake

5.      Crispy pork belly buns

6.      Hand-rolled short rice noodles with flat iron steak and Chinese broccoli

7.      Home made thick cut noodles with pork ragout, napa, marinated jicama,

8.      Home made egg noodles with Jonah crab, squid, spring vegetables,

9.      Pork and fennel dumplings

10.  Chicken shumai, asparagus, enoki mushroom, garlic chive puree 8

11.  Chinese broccoli


What can I say about North by Northeast? I was less than impressed; nothing was bad, but nothing was outstanding, and for most everything, I can think of a better rendition that is served elsewhere. When I ordered the pork belly buns, the waitress insisted that I get two orders (2 per order) because they “are sooooo good, you’ll each want your own!” The buns were okay, but pale in comparison to the pork belly buns at Momofuku.  I liked the egg noodles with the crab; the noodles had good texture and the crab was fresh, but the noodle dishes were no match for Gitlo’s. The dumplings were firm and flavorful, but my mother’s dumplings are far better (ok, I realize that’s not a fair comparison). I dare say anything Phillip Tang does, Ming Tsai is doing it better at Blue Ginger.


Additionally, the service was slow and surly. The waitress rolled her eyes when I asked for ice for the tepid water she served us. The menu ranged from $7 to $11 per dish – twice as much as dim sum in Chinatown.


R suggested that I implement a grading system for the restaurants we go to. I’ve always been reticent; I feel like the details can not fully be captured in a single number, or star. But, I thought I give it a try. Let me know what you think; thoughts, comments and suggestions are welcome!


Food: B

Service: C

Value: C –

Overall: B-/ C+