Today, spurred on by intriguing posts and the fact that Qingdao Garden was not in the Yellow Pages, I decided I had to go there to find out what the story was. Although I went there solo, I did, of course, have to do my duty and try much too many items, knowing full well that I would have to cart much of the food home.
My order and comments are as follows:
Hot and Sour Soup: not the ambrosial stuff I am looking for. Peppery, but not the least bit sour.
Q6 Leek Dumplings: good and interesting (esp. if you like leeks). I didn't find the black vinegar a terrific adjunct. At home, I tried one with balsamic vinegar, since I have seen this mentioned as a substitute for black vinegar. I liked that better, but these dumplings are good enough to be savored on their own.
Q11 Scallion Pancake: okay, but not the best I've ever had (which was coiled and had a bit of sesame oil flavor--made by a friend's mother).
Q36 Bean Curd Skin with Mushroom: nice texture, pretty bland, which is fine as a complement to spicier dishes. Mushroom flavor almost or totally undetectable, alas, because bottom of many pieces was a bit blackened.
Q41 Spicy Pork Tripe Salad: interesting, with what seemed to be chili oil, bits of fresh chili, shreds of ginger, and coriander. I think I would have liked a bit of sourness in this as well.
Because you are not going to find this restaurant in the Yellow Pages, I will give the specifics:
2382 Mass. Ave. (opp. the T's North Cambridge car barn)
S-W + Th 11:30-10:00; Fr + Sa 11:30-10:30; Tu closed. Buffet ($6.25): M, W-Fr (except holidays: 11:30-2:30.
This is a very small restaurant with 8 tables, which seat 29-30 people maximum. This is, in fact, why the restaurant is not listed in the Yellow Pages. It is refreshing to find a place that thinks it has enough customers, given its small size and the fact that it employs two chefs, and doesn't need to try to find more.
The buffet cart is also rather small. Although it was not in use on Saturday, I walked around it to jot down the labels, which were still up: vegetable egg roll, chicken wings, pork with onion, General Gau's chicken, lobster sauce, sweet and sour sauce, pork fried rice, vegetable lo mein, kung pao chicken, vegetable delight, crab rangoon, Peking ravioli, chicken fingers. I doubt they could serve all of this at once, since these items wouldn't fit even if they had three containers in each slot. The waiter, who spoke very good English explained that it was small, but everything was freshly cooked as people desired it.
Other gleanings, which probably pertain more to the specialties and some of the more unusual items on the menu: People who come here from China are generally rather perplexed when they encounter our Chinese restaurants, even in Chinatown, because the food served there is not what they are accustomed to. This restaurant serves things as they would be found in China--and not just southern China, which is the usual restaurant orientation. In fact, the more frequently encountered items are not popular in this restaurant (although I think I will be able to use them to get my daughter to accompany me). There were sheets of paper in Chinese on the wall next to each table. When I asked, I was pleased to find that they are being translated into English too. There was also a board of specials (I think three, also in Chinese). The waiter (actually I think he was more than a waiter, but that is what he was doing) was so nice and friendly, I'm sure a persistent Hound could find out what the specials are.
You will be relieved to find that I am now done blithering.
ErstwhileEditor, who will go to this restaurant again