Man Food: Heart-Topped Poutine, Pork Bao at Doowee & Rice

All photos by Katie Barszcz

Somerville newcomer Doowee & Rice almost looks like every other run-of-the-mill take-out restaurant—a couple of chairs and tables are set up, a tv plays football in the background, and a girl behind the counter peers down at her cell phone in between taking orders. But the place essentially has the mentality of a food truck, buying a limited amount of food fresh each morning and cooking just for that day. This means a menu with dishes that frequently change from one day to the next. Also, unlike your average takeout joint, the food is universally clever and enticing, with an unexpected onslaught of chiles, ginger and garlic in every crack and crevice. The menu is kept to a minimum and changes with enough regularity to warrant multiple visits, but the two stand-out dishes from my inaugural trip were the braised pork bao and the Heart-y-fries.

A small window offers a peek into the tight kitchen quarters, and orders come out as they’re ready, steadily appearing at our table with no set schedule. I ordered two of the “Bao Baos,” the braised pork and the ginger-apple chicken. The chef/owner of Doowee prides himself in using a light hand with salt, and unfortunately it shows in the ginger-apple chicken bao. It falls flat on flavor, failing to offer much more than a wink of pungent ginger, and the chicken is under-seasoned. The pork belly bao is significantly more successful, however: slow-braised and decadently tender belly is cooked with no salt at all yet it is guided sufficiently by a robust sauce made from the braising liquid, a potent chili aioli, and scallions. The meat is piled high as it rests on the bao (2 per order for a mere $5).

The Heart-y-fries ($8), meanwhile, are wonderful, like a Vietnamese poutine. Well-seasoned and crispy French fries lay beneath a generous pile of lightly fried chicken hearts, which have been coated in whole wheat flour. The hearts are ultra-crunchy and have an al dente, creamy interior. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think they were just a funky chicken nugget, at once adventurous and equally familiar. It’s a roller-coaster of a dish, spiked with the same chili aioli as the bao and doused with a terrific yogurt and garlic-based white sauce.

It may not look like much on the outside (or inside) but clearly a lot of thought and energy has gone into the creative food and principles at Doowee & Rice. While some dishes may be short on seasoning , all the food is creative and cooked with enough passion and gusto to make it a soon-to-be neighborhood gem.

868 Broadway, Somerville, 617-764-1906,