Dinner at East by Northeast.

Two points, before we begin:

Knowing these little facts about me, you would think that I would love East by Northeast, the new Chinese-fusion small-plate-based restaurant in Inman Square, right?

We-ell…

Here’s the thing: I have money issues.  I can easily consider purchasing a $600 pair of great boots because I’ll wear them for six months out of the year for several years to come.  I feel the same way about bags, chairs, and other items meant to last a while**.  With food, I’ll have little problem spending a good amount of money at the market or on a memorable meal; when it comes to a “normal” meal out, though, I want value for dollar.

Am I trying to say that dinner at East by Northeast is expensive?  Of course not; plates average at about $10.  But $10 seems, to me, to be too much to pay for two mini pork belly sandwiches, especially when I’ve eaten two larger, similar sandwiches across the river at Myers + Chang and at Momofukus Noodle and Ssäm — for the pretty much the same price.  I don’t think this makes me stingy though; it just makes me realize I won’t order the pork belly sandwiches at East by Northeast again.

What will I reorder?

The candied pecans ($4.00), for sure, and the celery root/poached chicken/apple salad ($7.00). I’d definitely go back for the pork dumplings with butternut squash ($8.00) and the cilantro-lime soda ($5.00).  If the braised pork with sticky rice ($9.00) and fried shrimp with smoked salt ($6.00) specials were added to the permanent menu, no one would be happier than me.  I’m interested to try one of the delicious-sounding mixed drinks, like the goji-pomegranate cocktail, and order a dish featuring the hand-rolled noodles.  I found the spicy broth in the beef shank noodle soup ($10.00) to be a bit too spicy for my spice-averse taste buds, but the wide noodles were so chewy and lush that I’d skip the meat altogether for the vegetarian version.

See, this is why I feel awful for complaining about price — the food was good.  It was beyond good.  And the service was both speedy and friendly.  And the intimate space is warm and cozy.  And the chef/owner is only twenty-seven!  I’m certain the restaurant will become a neighborhood favorite.

Just… the plates were a bit too small.

East by Northeast
1128 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
617.876-0286
exnecambridge.com

East by Northeast on Urbanspoon

* Half, but it still counts.
** This doesn’t mean I do it often, but that’s the point.
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Lunch at Myers + Chang.

Not too long ago, Stephanie and I met up for some food and a bit of catching up.  We had put together a list of restaurants open for a weekday lunch; one spot after another got crossed off until we were left with Myers and Chang, an Asian restaurant on Washington in the South End.  We had both been wanting to check it since it opened, so we had made plans to meet up at noon.

myers-chang-2Myers and Chang calls itself an “indie diner” serving variations on traditional Asian fare.  I don’t know if I would personally describe the restaurant as a diner per se, mostly because the space is way too stylish and slick to be your everyday greasy spoon.  After all, the first thing I noticed when I walked in, even before I saw Stephanie at our table, was the bold and graphic dragon decal emblazoned across the floor-to-ceiling window.  What other diner has décor like that?

myers-changAfter much deliberation, Stephanie and I decided to share a few small plates — the better to tour the menu, right?   We chose the pork belly buns ($9.00), the crispy spring rolls ($5.00) and what the menu described as “Mama Chang’s pork dumplings” ($11.00).

The first of our dishes to arrive were the spring rolls, which were made with chives, bamboo shoots and shiitake mushroom.  They had a pleasantly green flavor, very fresh, and weren’t the least bit greasy, even though they had clearly been deep-fried.

While we were busy eating and having a gossip, the pork buns appeared.  While these pieces of braised pork smeared with hoisin were nothing compared with Momofuku Noodle Bar‘s drool-worthy buns, Myers and Chang’s little sandwiches were still quite nice, moist and fatty.

Our last dish were the potsticker dumplings, which, like the buns and rolls before them, were nice.  I guess that’s where I have trouble with Myers and Chang.  Everything was fine.  And that’s it.  I left scratching my head a bit.  Where were the chefs’ personal touches and updates on these typical Chinese and Korean dishes?  Our food tasted good, don’t misunderstand, but why would I be drawn into a self-stylized diner with Chinatown a few subway stops away?  I’d give Myers and Chang another chance to blow me away with their food — they’ve won me with their aesthetic and with their servers’ cheerful demeanors — but I’ll make sure I’ve got a few Chinatown backups at the ready.

Myers + Chang
1145 Washington Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02118
617.542.5200
myersandchang.com

Myers & Chang on Urbanspoon