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Taiwan Rules: Mandarin Malden and Taipei Gourmet

opinionatedchef | Jan 27, 201510:54 PM     3

Before I describe our experiences, I think I feel a bit bad because Chinese food is not at its best as take-out. And every restaurant has its ups and downs. So even though I will try to be detailed, maybe you will have different experiences if you eat these foods in situ.

I'm sure I could be wrong, but Taiwanese places seem to be the only new Chinese restnts these days (w/ a few exceptions- like Beijing in Lex Ctr.) I remember when Szechuan and, to a lesser extent, Hunan, were the Chinese provinces that were all the rage. In Malden, there is Fuloon, the senior Taiwanese spot, and the brand new 'Jr.', Mandarin Malden(MM). In Lexington there is (not new) Taipei Gourmet(TG) and Formosa Taipei, and in Waltham- Mulan. Yesterday (maybe I was acting on some hormonal imbalance or a forgotten dream that we were going to have a week long blizzard) but, whatever, we did end up getting 14 take out dishes from 2 untried spots, MM and TG. Let me tell you, we are prePARED for the snow!!

MM was def. a success, and it was exciting to see a number of dishes I have never seen before. We mostly had ' appetizers'. From Favs working backwards:
--Yu hsiang/Garlic Eggplant- not too sweet, spicy enough, silky, beautifully balanced. Has wood ea
-- Braised Pork Balls in brown sauce- 'Lion's Head'? 3 clementine -sized balls. Amazing texture- soft and moist, but no neat components-(water chestnuts, scallions, ginger, garlic, shiitakes)...good but nothing near the perfection at Shanghai Gate.
--Seaweed in Vinegar and salt/ dark olive seaweed, diff from shiny gelatinous Japanese 'salad', wonderful texture like skinny skinny red licorice
--Cucumbers strips- same. Both very refreshing and not super salty; loved them when I added Chinkiang black vinegar to them
--Pork Buns- actual bao-like buns, small softball size, baked and pan-seared?; not too bready like most; filled with ample julienned pork, celery, etc. I loved everything about these except for the flavor of the filling- which was BORing- no seasoning to speak of. Why don't we see these elsewhere?
--Taiwanese Meat Ball- man, this was weird. A miniature Chinese version (but, historically speaking, probably the reverse)of an Italian Timbalo -like in the film, Big Night. A 4"W dome of sticky rice flour dough filled with ground meat, shiitakes and....I have had plenty of rice flour doughs but none as thick as this, and it was served in a sweet syrupy sauce (now THIS was weird.)Anyway, certainly unique but I guess just not my thing.
--Skinny rice noodles w/ pumpkin, shrimp, egg- needed OOMPH!(note to chef: go to Mulan and learn from them.)

Taipei Gourmet, from Favs and backwards:
-- Amazing Chicken-I couldn't believe it, but as soon as the owner said it had Tomato in it, I jumped for it. And yes, it tasted almost just like my Strange Flavor Chicken from Hunan Palace! It just needs a bunch of chopped cilantro and less sweet. What a blast from the past!
--Three Cup Eggplant and Tofu- he liked; I haven't had
--Sesame Noodles- spicy and simple
--Crab Rangoon- perfect; creamy, crabby, no sugar. and free with a $30 order!
--Pan fried Taiwanese Dumplings- what a letdown, no comparison to the superb ones at Beijing, these wrappers were a bit hard/readymade, and the filling skimpy and not very flavorful.

These 2 dishes had the same problem
--Kung Pao shrimp
--Beef chowfoon
Quality and ample beef and shrimp, but no flavor to speak of (except sweet w/ the kung pao, despite her assurance that the chile pepper symbol was correct.) Chowfoon noodles far from fresh and beautiful.

-- Roast Half Duck with Plum Sauce- unfortunately I was misled when she said that yes, it was marinated in ginger etc. No flavor whatsoever beyond the duck, and My Love said it must have been the skinniest duck on the planet.(Note to the chef: Go to Mulan and learn from them.)

So for us, Malden (Fuloon and Mandarin Malden) and Waltham (Mulan) are in the lead.
(btw, there are recent CH threads on all these spots; thx to you CHs for the inspiration!)

Taipei Gourmet
Formosa Taipei
Mu Lan Taiwanese Restaurant (Waltham)
Shanghai Gate
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