First Bite: Ginger Park
The truth is, we never really liked Banq. Well, some of us did; to the rest, it was a highly-designed, overly fussy fusion spot serving icky apps with muddled Indian and Asian flavors, and after the initial novelty died down, we never went back.
Apparently we weren’t alone. With seats going empty and nonexistent buzz, owners Mark Raab and Hemant Chowdhry decided to relaunch the restaurant, renaming it Ginger Park—not to be confused with the Ginger Exchange, a just-opened sushi spot in Inman Square—and bringing in chef Patricia Yeo, an NYC import who has cooked under celeb chef Bobby Flay. Her new menu is an upscale version of Southeast Asian street food, not terribly unlike that at nearby Myers+Chang. (Yeo insists you can’t compare the two, though a recent look at the menus shows both serving potstickers, spring rolls, steamed buns, tea-smoked meats, a papaya salad, and sides of eggplant and Brussels sprouts.)
Oh, and they “renovated”: The wall between the bar and the dining room has been removed. (Everything else, from the tables to the curvy wood wall panels to the white-and-stainless bathrooms, looks nearly the same.)
While it’s not quite the dramatic relaunch that the PR campaign claims, a meal during its first week proved pretty tasty. A daikon, edamame, and nashi pear salad offered a crisp, cool contrast to the fattier, heavier dishes on the menu, like the spicy duck-fat fried potatoes—giant wedges of crispy spuds served with a mild cumin aioli. We loved the dan dan mien, which were more delicate than the average dan dan noodles and packed good spice, and devoured the red cooked pork shank with taro gnocchi and Chinese broccoli. The smart pairing of savory, uber-tender pork with tender, earthy dumplings and the crisp, well-seasoned vegetables had sweetness, salt, spice, bitterness, and tang in excellent proportion, and we used the bread from our uneaten buns to mop the plate clean.
Steamed buns filled with tea-smoked chicken were less successful, the glutinous bun soft and gummy as it should be, but the boring poultry failed to make it a must-order. The duck confit and Chinese sausage fried rice featured barely any duck, tasted overwhelmingly of sausage, and could have benefited from some salt and spice to cut the dish’s oiliness. But neither one was a flat-out fail, and there are plenty of great sounding dishes we’re eager to go back and try.
Not everyone loves Ginger Park—as one colleague noted, the Gucci-clad Euro crowd can be obnoxious, it’s noisy, and the service isn’t exactly polished—but Yeo’s food seems good enough that it won’t be another Banq. And as its predecessor proved, status among scenesters has little to do with a restaurant’s long-term success.
Ginger Park, 1375 Washington St., Boston, 617-451-0077.