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M&T is a restaurant in Flushing that specializes in Qingdao cuisine. The restaurant that has been fairly extensively covered by most of the major food websites such as Chowhound, Yelp and Serious Eats. After reading lots of glowing reports, I finally made it out here to try it out.
Qingdao is a port city that is located in the Shandong province in China, which is located a little to the southeast of Beijing and Tianjin. In America, it’s probably most well known for their beer brand Tsingtao. Qingdao cuisine is part of Shandong cuisine, but I believe it is fairly heavily weighted towards seafood given its location as a port city. I don’t know that much about Shandong / Qingdao cuisine as it’s not something I grew up eating and it’s not very common in the Chinese areas of Asia that I normally travel to, which are further south. So this was an interesting experience for me as it’s something I’m not too familiar with.
The restaurant is tiny, it can probably fit about 20-25 people in total. It’s doesn’t have much in the way of décor, but it has a wall that is covered with pictures of their specials. The lady who ran the place was pretty nice and the service was fine. I’m not sure if they speak English, but the menu is completely translated into English and there are lots of pictures, so you shouldn’t have any problem just pointing.
Here’s what we got:
- Spicy Potato Strips: This was given to us as a complementary appetizer. It was thinly sliced potato strips in a ma la sauce (ma = numbing sensation, la = spicy). This was quite good, the flavors were clean and the potato strips had a good soft texture. 8/10
- Peanuts and Dried Fish: They have a display case where you can see various cold appetizers and I saw this dish and it looked good, so I ordered it. It’s very simple roasted peanuts and tiny dried fish. The peanuts tastes like typical salted peanuts and the tiny fish have a nice flavor that isn’t too fishy and tasted good with the salty peanuts. It’s kind of beer drinking type food, but I enjoy this type of thing. 8/10
- Eel: I asked the lady for a fish recommendation and she said that she liked the eel, so we ordered this. It was sliced eel with green peppers and onions in a slightly spicy and sweet sauce. The sauce was excellent, it had good flavor and wasn’t gloppy or overly sweet. The peppers and onions tasted great. The eel was pretty good, but it was a bit hard to eat because of the way they cut it, you ended up having to try to eat around the bones and it also made some pieces a bit on the chewy side. If they cut the eel a different way to allow people to easier eat the meat it’d be better, but it was a pretty decent dish overall. 8/10
- Sautéed Snow Pea Leaves: The lady also recommended this as a vegetable dish. This is a fairly ubiquitous dish that many different regional Chinese cuisines serve. It’s simply dou miao (snow pea leaves) sautéed with oil, salt and garlic. The dou miao was cooked well, but they put too much salt in it. 7.25/10
- Salt and Pepper Ginseng: This was ginseng battered it in a salt and pepper batter similar to the typical Cantonese preparation that many people in the US have probably tried. When I ordered it the lady almost tried to dissuade me from ordering it as she said it’s quite bitter, but I was very curious about it, so I ordered it anyhow. Normally, you see ginseng used in some herbal soups and things like that, but I’d never seen it cooked in this manner. The batter was quite oily and heavy although it had decent flavor. The pieces of ginseng had the consistency of a root like lotus root and had a slightly bitter flavor, but not nearly as bitter as the lady made it out to be. I thought it was okay, but the batter was way too oily and heavy. 7/10
- Fried Pork Chop in Shrimp Sauce: This was another dish I was quite curious about. It was pork chops that are covered in a fermented shrimp sauce and then deep fried. The pork chops were excellent; they were tender and not oily at all. The batter had a good texture as it was nice and crispy without being overly oily. The shrimp sauce was interesting. It had a very fermented flavor and tasted similar to Korean tenjang (fermented bean sauce). The flavor wasn’t off-putting, but I didn’t really love it either. However, I could tell this dish was well prepared because of the texture of the meat and the light-handed nature of the batter, but the flavoring just didn’t really match my palate. Overall, I thought the dish was decent, but probably not something I’d get again. 7.5/10
- Hot and Spicy Prawns: The lady also recommended these, so we gave them a try. These were whole prawns lightly battered and fried with chili salt and green peppers. The prawns were nicely fresh and the meat had a good firm texture and was sweet. The frying technique was good as well as they were crispy without being overly oily. While they looked like they were going to have a lot of flavor, I actually found the seasoning to be too light handed. They tasted like they barely had any salt on them and didn’t have much spice either. It was a decent dish, but I don’t think I’d order it again. 7.5/10
Overall, while I thought it was good, I don’t think the flavors really matched my palate and it was more of a novelty for me than a “must try” destination, but that said I think it’s great that Flushing is getting more and more unique regional Chinese cuisines that were unavailable only a few years ago and I hope more places like M&T keep popping up.
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