Two points, before we begin:
- I’m delighted when restaurants have small plate/family-style menus because I adore being able to try a variety of dishes in one sitting. (see A Late Dinner at Avec, A Late Dinner at The Publican, Lunch at Hakkasan, Late Lunch/Early Dinner at Pok Pok, Breakfast at Hei La Moon.)
- I’m Asian*.
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?
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.
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