Needing to entertain a this weekend, we stopped in at Qingdao, Il Panino and Magnolia. The verdicts:
Have the cooks changed at Qingdao? Cause the dumplings are simply not up to snuff. The roast beef in soy sauce was not particularly flavorful either. The scallion pancake was palatable, but the Zhongqing fried hot chicken was anything but. You'd think with that many hot chiles in the dish that there would be a hint of hotness, but you would be wrong.
Hit up Il Panino for a snack/lunch on Saturday. We ordered a plate of smoked salmon, procuitto de Parma and fried calamari. I really enjoy Il Panino's pasta dishes, but these anitpasti were overpriced and uninteresting. I think we should have gone to express instead.
Saturday night in the rain 3 of us squeezed at the bar at Magnolia. Both the winter and house salads were nice and fresh, with a fried ball of goat cheese and spiced pears on the winter making it a sweet winner. The oven roasted portabello stuffed with warm goat cheese and chopped peacans was a "magnificant ball of yum" according to D. A had the Jambalaya which, while having a nice flavor, was about as fiery as a pinch of hot pepper flakes. A big plate of shoestring sweet potato fries rounded out the meal, but I was unimpressed. They were crispy and salty, but the thinness of them really took away from overall flavor.
Is there nowhere in Boston to get decent sweet potato fries? I don't particularly like Bartley's either.