Dongbei cuisine is, as Nab says, "relatively new to the Western restaurant world," and distinct from any other Chinese food. "It's probably the only time I haven't had rice at a Chinese restaurant," says Nab, who ordered a special Dongbei feast at Unique Chinese Food. The restaurant is run by Chef Liping, who is "slinging egg rolls and s&s chicken and a *very* limited set of Dongbei dumplings and cold apps to raise capital that will allow him to set up shop again cooking the food of his home."
Some of the dishes Nab had are off menu, but "Chef Liping is more than enthused to know there are folks out there with an interest for this cuisine, and is happy to prepare these dishes with a day or two's notice." Nab particularly recommends the Dongbei dala, shreds of pork, egg, carrots, cucumbers, and snow peas atop a pile of slippery mung bean noodles. Mix in the sesame sauce that comes on the side and you have a "textural wonder." Cumin lamb had an "intoxicating waft of cumin," an "audible crunch," and "slight back-end heat."
Most of what's available on the restaurant's regular menu is familiar Americanized Chinese food, but careful examination turns up some surprises. Look at the "$3 Dishes" section for appetizers like the steamed eggplant with minced garlic ("warm, melty and delicious, laced with long slivers of garlic," says Allstonian) and the spicy foon, bean jelly cut into thick rice noodles with chile flakes that lend a bit of texture.
Other good things: Double hot pork, which "makes it very clear to me that someone in the kitchen has some talent," says KWagle. Lamb teriyaki are spicy marinated lamb skewers, not the Japanese dish you may be expecting. And dumplings are very good, with thick skin. Try the pork and leek or the pickled vegetable bun.
Unique Chinese Food [Allston]
145 Harvard Avenue, Boston