April 16th, 2011

West Side Lounge, Cambridge

Last Sunday, I played in the finals of the GNTs (a bridge event). I’m pleased to report that my team (myself, Bri, and our friends Lon and Ivanie) won and will be representing New England in Toronto this summer. I’m told there are lots of good eats there, so I’m quite excited.

So, where to celebrate? I told Steve I wanted some place with good cocktails and he suggested West Side Lounge. I have been here once before, probably 7 or 8 years ago, and I remember it favorably, but it hasn’t crossed my mind since.

Steve was right about the cocktails – they have quite selection. I decided on the raspberry mojito. It was strong and fruity.

I had the mussels and an order of fries. Steve ordered the steak frites. I was worried that we would have too many fries, but he assured me that the fries were great and it would not be a problem. My mussels were excellent; although it was an appetizer, it was a huge portion of plump, briny mussels in a white wine, garlic and herb broth topped with 4 pieces of garlic crostini. Steve seemed to enjoy his steak – come to think of it, I didn’t get to try a piece. I guess it was so good he didn’t want to share?

The fries were delicious as promised. They were skin on, hand cut fries, similar in shape and girth to a McDonald’s fry. They were well seasoned and came with a chipotle aioli and a wasabi aioli. However, Steve’s meal came with a garlic aioli and that was my favorite sauce for dipping. Despite the large amount, we managed to finish all of them, as Steve predicted.

Our waiter was attentive and friendly, and the prices were quite reasonable. I think it’s a great neighborhood restaurant, perfect for an affordable weeknight outing or a place to meet for drinks. Now that it is back on my radar, I think I will be returning quite soon.

Food: A-
Service: A-
Value: A
Overall: A-

www.westsidelounge.com

Pho Viet, Allston

My obsession with the Bahn mi continues. I convinced two of my co-workers to go to Pho Viet to sample its Bahn mi, said to be the best in Boston by many. Pho Viet is one of many food stalls in the Super 88 supermarket food court.

I went with the grilled beef Bahn mi, and it was a tasty sandwich, but different from my beloved version from Hong Cuc in Lowell. The beef was tender enough and had good flavor, but I felt like it dominated the rest of the sandwich. Part of what I like about the Bahn mi is that it is an ensemble of flavors and textures– there are plenty of places for me to get a good beef sandwich. My co-worker tried the grilled pork and said that it was also delicious. Their spring rolls were flavorful and crispy, not at all oily.

Hong Cuc remains my favorite, but for $3.50, Pho Viet’s version is an excellent choice in the Boston area.

1095 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02228
(617) 562-8828

Homemade scallion pancakes

I seldom cook Chinese food – I think it’s because my mother is an amazing Chinese cook and there’s just no point in trying. But when I saw this post my Kenji Alt, one of my favorite food writers, about making scallion pancakes at home, I knew I had to try it. Plus, Mama Tsoi would never make anything so Chinese-American.

The dough is simple to make with a food processor – the hard part is the rolling and re-rolling steps. I was a little incredulous as the first one went in to the frying pan – it did not look like it was going to work. The dough seemed too wet and delicate, the whole thing seemed like it was on the verge of falling apart. But 4 minutes later, I had a crispy, crunchy, golden brown pancake, striated with layers of scallion flavor. I was shocked at how good they were! My next one turned out even better, as I became more proficient with the rolling technique. Kenji, you haven’t let me down yet!

I would suggest reading the recipe and watching the detailed step by step slideshow. My only note is that I would have dried the scallions and sliced them much finer.

http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/04/the-food-lab-how-to-make-scallion-pancakes-chinese-appetizers.html