Katrin: Tucked away in a small storefront near Inman Square, East by Northeast has quickly been developing a reputation as one of Greater Boston’s best Asian fusion restaurants. Chef and owner Phillip Tang has received great press since opening in 2010 and we were eager to check it out. Yes, it took a Rue La La offer to push us over the edge, but that may not be such a bad thing as it partially redeemed the concept of group buying after our disappointing Tico/Living Social experience this summer.
The space is warm and intimate with only 20 seats at tables and four stools at a bar near the kitchen. Through the partly open curtain, diners can see Chef Tang and his small staff working feverishly in the kitchen. The wait staff is friendly, welcoming, and attentive. After we were seated and had ordered drinks, our table quickly started filling up with offerings from the kitchen, which were served tapas style and meant to be shared.
Glenn: After our diappointing experience at Tico, I was a bit apprehensive about dining again in conjunction with an online “deal”. As we were being seated, I began quizzing Katrin if she had informed our server that we were dining à la Rue La La. She assured me that all would be fine and, as our dining adventure turned out, it was.
I had been intrigued by Chef Tang’s concept – modern Chinese-inspired cuisine (East) paired with local (Northeast) produce. The dishes we were presented with exemplified the strength of this concept.
Katrin: Glenn and I both started with a cocktail from the menu, which features house-made mixers and soda. The Hendrick’s Gin with cilantro lime soda was perfectly delicious – light and crisp with bits of fresh cilantro – even if it was a bit easy on the gin. Glenn’s Elijah Craig 12 yr. Bourbon was topped with spiced cola and had both of us reminiscing about some of our earliest, and not necessarily best, drinking days. The biggest negative at East by Northeast is the wine list. I would have liked a glass of wine with dinner, but the choices were very limited and the already short list of wines offered only 4 options for ordering by the glass.
Glenn: My cocktail was outstanding! Cocktails here are chef -driven. For example, for my coctail – #2 on the menu – the chef creates a cola base by infusing spices in a simple syrup; house made club soda is added when the cocktail is made. And yes – the libation inspired a bit of nostalgia. Once upon a time, I had been a fan of So(uthern) Co(mfort) and coke. My predilection for the drink ended after an evening of overindulgence and the inevitable unpleasant aftermath of being prostate at the porcelain altar. In light of that experience, even though my cocktail was superb, I limited myself to one. While the wine list is short, the beer list is not. With nearly 2 dozen craft offerings, beer would seem to be the way to go. And perhaps that is the best option with Asian cuisine?
Katrin: Overall, the dishes were flavorful and fresh. I would definitely return for the Smoked Bluefish Salad, sautéed Brussels sprouts, the Fried Squash Sticks, and the Hake Balls. My least favorite dishes were the Wonton and the Beef Cheek Congee.
Glenn:I find a certain energy in small storefront venues of emerging chefs – there can be a focus of energy in offering well turned out food. The Tofu with Butternut Squash was deeply flavored; the Hake Balls were wonderfully “fishy”; the Oxtail was meltingly delicious; and the Coconut Panna Cotta – not too sweet and delicately and properly set – was a fine ending to what turned out to be a feast. My fear of online deals had been laid to rest.
celery root soup
edamame salad, mustard greens, apple, lemon ginger vinaigrette
sauteed brussels sprouts, smoked shiitake mushrooms, onion confit
house smoked bluefish salad, breakfast radish, celery root, romaine, sesame horseradish sauce
fried sweet potato sticks
fresh chinese sausage, apple butter, celery root and apple slaw, toasted sesame bun
beef short rib congee, marinated turnips and radish, local greens
braised oxtail, short rice noodles
coconut milk panna cotta, poached pears, toasted coconut