Working near Alewife, I drive past the Qingdao frequently, but hadn't heard much about it. The posting on the board about its sibling relationship to Wangs was enough for me to gather my lunch companions for a visit. There were four of us, two fairly adventurous eaters, two whose favorite Chinese restaurant is the Shanghai Garden in Arlington. With this group, I figured
we'd manage to get a good cross-section of the menu.
I make no value judgements so I'll leave it to you to figure out who ordered what.
Someone pointed out that, unlike Wangs, the Qingdao does lunch. However, the place was completely empty at 12:30, which didn't seem like a good sign. A limp buffet suffering from long-term heat-lamp exposure didn't boost my hopes. Still, the menu had the stuff I was looking for. If anything, the specialties menu is larger than the one at Wangs. They have the dumplings, (pork with cabbage/string beans/leek, the vegetarian spinach/leek as well) but also an expanded list of "Qingdao Style" dishes, some of which I've seen on the Wangs menu, others that were unfamiliar.
Q10: QingDao Fried Dumpling
These were amazing, marred only by the fact they contained shrimp, so I was limited to only sampling them. The waitress told us the kitchen was making them when we arrived which must have done much for the experience. Thin dough, pressed around a filling of pork, shrimp, and cabbage or leek (she offered us a choice), fried together as a single package, rather like uncut agnolloti so that you had to tear each dumpling off from the whole. The dough was extremely thin and tasted wonderful.
#54 Curried Chicken
Nothing special, but my friend loves the stuff. The sauce was the standard yellow curry, with a strong astringent undertone. It also came loaded with red and green peppers, which I loathe, so this one was a lose for me.
C13: General Gaus Chicken Combo Plate
It was General Gaus Chicken. It is my theory that all major cities are built upon a rich geological vein of General Gau/Tso/Tsus Chicken and all but a very few restaurants simply go down into the basement and lop a few chunks off when someone orders it. That said, I love the stuff, but it really is pretty much the same no matter where you go.
S14: ZhongQing Fried Hot Chicken: During a visit to Wangs, I had noticed a group of Chinese students tucking into a plate of a dish of deep brown chicken chunks literally buried in chinese hot peppers. That was this dish, and it was as good as it looked. Chunks of dark meat chicken, lightly battered with cornstarch, fried with a hot sauce and an avalanche of the aforementioned peppers. Note for the unwary: when they say hot, they mean hot. The only problem with this dish was the way the chicken was cut for preparation, almost as if they'd tossed dozens of chicken legs into an industrial grinder. The pieces were about the size of a superball, and almost every piece had bits of sharp bone fragments attached to the meat. The flavor made the delicate work of picking around these worth the effort, but it was impossible to eat this dish politely. That said, I'd order it again.
S21: Shredded Beef with Hot Pepper
This was the best dish of the afternoon. Shredded beef, fried with handfuls of finely-shredded green peppper, liberally seasoned with chili oil. It was hot, spicy, subtle, and easy to eat. I mentioned above that I hate green peppers, but both Wangs and the Qingdao have a way of demonstrating that used properly, they can do good things for a dish. Definitely worth ordering it again.
So to sum up, two amazing dishes (the QingDao dumplings, and the shredded beef), one excellent but rather strangely-prepared dish (the Zhongqing fried chicken, which may put some people off because of how difficult it is to eat.) and two serviceable but unimpressive dishes. (General Gaus plate, Curry Chicken.) My strong opinion is that this is a place worth the effort of exploring the menu and finding the gems. When they're good, they're very, very good. When they're bad, they're, at worst, unexciting. And what more can you ask of a restaurant than that?