Hi Boston hounds!
I flew in, found a studio and ate. Here's a brief rundown. Most of these places seemed reasonable, but really can't comment much about pricing as I haven't been around Boston much (hopefully that will change soon).
Ate at the one in Chinatown twice, sticking mainly to typical hawker dishes. A fine and worthwhile place -- I'd certainly go back. (I'm nitpicking below; it's perfectly fine, just not exactly like thte stuff I grew up eating.) The murtabak was constructed with good roti -- crisp with a slightly elastic body -- that sandwiches minced beef, onion and egg. It's well-made, but the textural sensation would even be better with a multilayered configuration, where the dough is stretched over the filling and folded over several times before being cooked, instead of assembly after it's cooked. Next time I'll try to ask for a version with mutton -- this dish is typically Indian, and hence beef versions of it are rare.
The tasty char kway teow has the right textural mix -- softness from the rice noodles (wished they used the broader chinese kway teow instead of pad thai noodles) and refreshing crunchy bites from bean sprouts. The squid and prawns are good, but would have liked it with the traditional cockles and lup cheong (chinese waxed sausage). Nice and greasy (in a good way), but lard would be even better.
I haven't found a good nasi lemak outside singapore or malaysian. The version here included. The rice needs more of the critical coconut fragrance. The chicken curry and achar (pickles) are great and the ikan bilis (anchovies) are fine too, although I prefer the addition of peanuts to the anchovies.
Chendol (a fave of mine) is unfortunately an atrocity here. It's normally a drink with coconut milk and palm sugar, chilled with shaved ice. Here it's a piile of shaved ice flavored with coconut milk and palm sugar. A completely different item from the original.
I enjoyed the thin parchment brittle crust here. Had a classic tomato mozzarella basil pizza. Very prominent and pleasant notes from the basil. However, the cheese and the sauce were relatively quiet. Some might not like the reheating of the pizza, but at least they added the tomato slices only right before reheating. And it was a great deal -- a lot of pizza for very little (I think $3-5 for a quarter).
Went to the one at Harvard Sq multiple times, because it was on the way. I remembered the one at MIT having a better flavor selection; is that still the case? Loved the rich but fluffy texture. Big thumbs up for hazelnut, vienna finger cookie and grasshopper crisp -- notable that the latter two had great unsoggy cookies in the ice cream. Unfortunately, orange chocolate was strangely powdery.
Ate at the Cambridge restaurant. Handsome decor with dark wood, red bricks, cheery lamps and lovely spots of greenery. The dining room is dominated by an elephant relief that is exotic but tasteful.
I really enjoyed the (albeit small) Amok royale - essentially a seafood mousse with wonderful South East Asian spices and coconut milk. The spice mix was perfect. Drank a glass of tokay pinot gris (sharp acidic pineapple) with this.
The prawns in the prawn curry showed off the kitchen's skill -- they were expertly cooked to show off their tight, crunchy flesh. A pleasure to rip through the prawns.
The advertised coconut in the crepe was too subtle for me, but the duck meat in there harmonized very well with bits of napa cabbage and a red wine sauce spiced with star anise and other earthy offerings.
The spring rolls were good basic renditions of this vietnamese favorite, eaten with lettuce and raw bean sprouts for a sharpness that counters the deep frying. Also present -- refreshing mint and basil leaves.
Desserts are on par, but the crust on the lemon cheesecake (listed incorrectly as a lemon souffle on the menu) is worth mentioning -- the paper-thin layers on layers are individually articulated and collectively add to a wafer-like crunch.
Pretty good Indian at Tanjore (menus is quite diverse -- will try the dosa next time).
A warm, generous and very agreeable cheesesteak at Mangia Mangia.
3 sfogliatelles (sp?), my favorite being the crisp one with a lemony (loved the faintest suggestion of bitterness) and dense filling from Mike's I had this very morning. The other two (Boca? Boco? on Salem and the one at Davis Sq) were bought and eaten in the afternoon, so the comparison might not be fair.
Very good Persian food in Watertown (forgot name) -- loved the juicy savory minced lamb kabab and the smoky eggplant puree. The dugh (yogurt drink) was pleasant but could be richer and use a bit more herbs. Bummer they don't have fesenjoon (pomegranate and walnut flavored gravy with chicken) on the menu...
Have to ask sis where in Chinatown she got those fantastic egg tarts...