The 20 Essential Asian Restaurants*
â€¦and the can't-miss dishes that will have you trekking all over the city.
* This list excludes all of the following: Chinatown (for those picks, see ourÂ Chinatown Guide); sushiÂ sashimi specialists; Indian food; and the usual suspects (do you really need us to tellÂ you, again, how great Myers?+?Chang, East by Northeast, and Blue Ginger are?).
Photos by Anthony Tieuli
The fried quail (pictured above) is excellent, but the showcase at this spot is a classic Vietnamese seven-course feast called bĂ˛ 7 mĂłn. The parade of plates begins with slices of beef cooked tableside and folded into rice-paper wrappers with salty nuoc cham, pickled daikon and carrots, and fresh greens. The mealâ€™s crescendo is a platter of charred la lot leafâ€“wrapped sausages flanked by scallion-stuffed grilled beef and a massive meatball. Most awe-inspiring, though, is the priceâ€”$33 for two.
291 Adams St., Dorchester, 617-265-8889.
Allston and Harvard Square
Korean fried chicken dominates the menu here, but youâ€™ll also find other excellent dishes, like okonomiyakiâ€”a fried seafood pancake thatâ€™s sliced into pizzalike wedges and topped with bonito flakesâ€”and spicy kimchi-and-bacon fried rice. Best of all, though, is the restaurantâ€™s beer squid, the cephalopods julienned thin and doused in a caramelized garlicâ€“butter glaze.
123 Brighton Ave., Allston, 61-254-8888,Â bonchon.com.
The back of the menu is filled with a variety of spicy Szechuan specialtiesâ€”best among them a peppercorn-studded, mouth-numbing bowl of mapo tofu with black beans and ground beef; smoky slices of double-cooked pork belly tossed with leeks; and al dente shreds of sweet-and-sour cabbage punctuated by red chilies.
41 Riverside Ave., Medford, 781-396-8488,Â chilligardenmedford.com.
Korean barbecue restaurants, with their beer-friendly, table-grilled meats, are perfect for rowdy celebrations, and this Medford spot is a standout. Hearty dishes like samkyub kimdhi-bokum (a stir-fry of kimchi and pork belly served with steamed tofu) and crisp mung-bean pancakes keep appetites satisfied while the pork bulgogi and kalbi short ribs sizzle on the grill.
27-29 Riverside Ave., Medford, 781-391-5606,Â chungkiwaboston.com.
Doowee & Rice
Le Cordon Bleuâ€“trained chef Duy (pronounced â€śDooweeâ€ť) Tran has made his culinary name with the wildly popular meat and rice plates at this tucked-away Somerville spot. But just as good are his fluffy bao baos, stuffed with gingery chicken and apple or fall-apart braised pork, and his Vietnamese rice noodles with marinated beef, perked up with fish sauce, cilantro, scallions, peanuts, and fried shallots.
868 Broadway, Somerville, 617-764-1906,Â dooweeandrice.com.
The rattling of chili flakes, dried red chilies, and Szechuan pepper-corns in a spoonful of FuLoonâ€™s Chongqing-style chicken (pictured) provides a vibrant preview of the heat youâ€™re about to experience. The dish is worth breaking a sweat forâ€”as is the cold â€śbang bangâ€ť chicken in chili oil. Just make sure you have some of the restaurantâ€™s garlicky cucumbers nearby to cool you down.
375 Main St., Malden, 781-388-3338,Â fuloonrestaurant.com.
Geneâ€™s Chinese Flatbread CafĂ©
The main draw here, oddly enough, is a bowl of fat, hand-pulled noodles (pictured below) accented with chili oil, cilantro, and a scoop of minced garlic. Also good is the lamb stew, an interactive experience that requires ripping up flatbread rounds and dropping them into a bowl, which is then whisked away and filled with a lamb-flavored broth and slices of meat.
257 Littleton Rd., Chelmsford, 978-256-6789,Â genescafe.com.
Jo Jo Taipei
The specialty here is Taiwanese, of course, which means excellent basil-scented eggplant, broth-filled xiao long bao (soup dumplings), and beef-stuffed scallion pancakes. But there are also masterful Szechuan dishes, like wontons smothered in sesame paste and chili oil, and tender fish fillets in a gravylike spicy stew.
103 Brighton Ave, Allston, 617-254-8889,Â jojotaipeiboston.com.
Kaju Tofu House
This Allston newcomer has a singular specialty: boiling-hot tofu stews called sundubu. The best among them is the spicy kimchi-oyster variety, like a Korean version of clam chowder. Pair it with a platter of the vegetable-studded sweet-potato noodles known as japchae (pictured) for maximum effect.
58 Harvard Ave., Allston, 617-208-8540,Â kajutofuhouse.com.
Vietnamese restaurants are to Dot Ave. what Irish pubs are to Southie. So what sets this hole in the wall apart? The goi ga salad to start, with its poached chicken, cabbage, carrots, crushed peanuts, and fresh mint in a light, tangy dressing. Also good are the thit kho to, or pork with a coffeelike caramel glaze, and, of course, the pho.
198 Adams St., Dorchester, 617-436-1908,Â pho2000boston.com.
This is the rare restaurant that focuses on two cuisinesâ€”in this case, Thai and Vietnameseâ€”and does both equally well. So go ahead and try a little bit of everything: vampire-slaying papaya salad, spicy ground chicken pad gra pow with basil, and complex cinnamon beef curry (pictured below) from the Thai side, and the sweet-and-sour canh chua soup and bun noodles topped with spring rolls and pork from the Vietnamese portion.
177 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617-262-5377,Â phobasil.com.
The pork-and-leek and vegetarian dumplings tend to get most of the attention at this northern Chinese specialist on Mass. Ave. (you can purchase them frozen to go), but thereâ€™s lots more to love hereâ€”most of it involving cilantro. The herb can be found accenting dishes like fragrant cumin lamb and, stems and all, in a plate of pork and bamboo shoots. Cilantro even gets stuffed, along with beef, into a flaky flour pancake to create an Asian take on the hamburger.
2382 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-492-7540,Â qingdaogarden.com.
S&I to Go
How can you tell the pad si ew here is good? The flavor-packed wok char (and dusting of black pepper) that youâ€™ll find on each wide noodle and slice of Chinese broccoli. Other standouts include the ground-chicken larbâ€”studded with enough chilies to make you grateful for the accompanying mouth-calming sticky riceâ€”and the chili-sauced crispy duck with basil.
168A Brighton Ave., Allston, 614-254-8488,Â sandi.thaifooddirect.com.
The Lionâ€™s Head casseroleâ€”a softball-size meatball in an umami-rich brothâ€”makes for an impressive starter. But the crown jewel of the chefâ€™s-specials menu is the â€śsizzling eggplant in pork-and-garlic sauce.â€ť Picture two whole Chinese eggplants, hissing with heat, on a foil-wrapped platter, gill-like slits stuffed with ground pork and sausage, all doused with a garlicky sauce. Add scallion jellyfish and cucumbers with ginger sauce, and youâ€™ve got one of the best meals in town.
204 Harvard Ave., Allston, 617-566-7344,Â shanghaigateboston.com.
Itâ€™s easy to breeze past this Japanese restaurantâ€™s unassuming orange awning, but seek it out, and youâ€™ll be rewarded with a wonderful selection of traditional dishesâ€”cloudlike cubes of lightly fried agedashi tofu; zaru soba, or buck-wheat noodles with a sweet-salty soy-based dipping sauce; and broiled hamachi kama (yellow-tail collar) packed with so much meat, you can pick it off the bone like a rack of pork ribs.
9 Babcock St., Brookline,Â shikibrookline.com.
The Shops at Porter
Okay, so itâ€™s not technically a restaurant, but this tucked-away food courtâ€”which collectively offers Japanese and Korean fare like miso-laced noodle soup (from Sapporo Ramen), fully loaded bibimbap in hot stone bowls (from Cho Choâ€™s), and breaded chicken and pork cutlets with tonkatsu sauce (from CafĂ© Mami)â€”is one of Bostonâ€™s least known culinary treasures.
1815 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge.
Itâ€™s no surprise that Bizarre Foods star Andrew Zimmern visited this Cambodian restaurant while filming a Boston episode. Here, fantastic dishes like chili-glazed hot wings (pictured below); ye-heu bumporng (deep-fried squid tossed with jalapeĂ±os and red chilies); and cha kroung sach moun (ground chicken with lemongrass, holy basil, kaffir-lime leaves, jalapeĂ±os, galangal, and red chilies) leave tears in your eyes and beads of sweat on your forehead.
26 Lincoln St. #4, Lowell, 978-454-6700,Â simplykhmerrestaurant.com.
Northern Thai cuisine is something you donâ€™t see much of in Bostonâ€¦and the truth is, even at this restaurant you have to work to find it.Forget the menuâ€”youâ€™ll have to consult the blackboard in the back (or simply point to one of the photos on the wall) for delights such as peek kai yad sai, or sausage-stuffed chicken wings; spicy Chiang Mai noodle curry; and nam prik om, a pork-and-tomato ragu spiked with fish sauce and served in a crock with sliced veggies and pork cracklings for dipping.
433 Faneuil St., Brighton, 617-254-2025,Â thainorthbrighton.com.
When Floating Rock, the Revere gem, relocated to Central Square in 2011, its attempt to go upscale with its Cambodian food sadly tanked, resulting in a closure last year. But fans of the original restaurantâ€™s staplesâ€”like the basil-and-chili-loaded Tigerâ€™s Tears salad, pickled fish with coconut milk, cucumber-and-egg-topped Cambodian pad thai, and grilled cubes of lok lak beefâ€”need only head back to Revere, where the original Floating Rock space is still churning out these dishes, only now the place is under new ownership, and called Thmor Da.
144 Shirley Ave., Revere,Â 781-286-2554.
This restaurant (pictured) specializes in skewers of grilled chicken parts, but our favorite item on the menu is the deceptively simple yaki onigiri, a petite pyramid of rice glazed with soy sauce and slowly charred over the grill until it develops a salty, brown crust.
315 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 857-350-4450,Â yakitorizai.com.
For more on Asian cuisine in Boston, check out our complete guide to Asian cuisine: Umami Rising.
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