East Chinatown Restaurant
415 Hancock St., Quincy
Hours: Daily 10:30 a.m. to midnight
Visa and MasterCard accepted
North Quincy is looking more like Chinatown South these days. Many stores and businesses, including a funeral home, sport signs with Chinese characters. One welcome addition is East Chinatown Restaurant, which opened in January 2006. It serves Hong Kong Cantonese cuisine and caters to expatriates looking for a taste of home.
The space at East Chinatown, with just eight tables, is tight, but well thought out. Each square table can be reconfigured into a round table that can accommodate six comfortably. For larger parties, a round add-on table top provides ample room for 10 people.
In a corner by the front entrance are six tanks filled with live fish, lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. By the side entrance is a window that displays Chinese deli items such as roast duck, roast pig, char siu, and whole chickens prepared in various traditional ways. Customers can order the items to take home (prices range from $7.25 a pound for roast pork to $16 for a whole duck). Come early, though, as the selection dwindles by evening.
During the wait for a table, you can watch Chinese programs on the large flat-screen TV. The tables are decorated with Chinese calligraphy, and tiles on the floor and walls keep the space looking crisp and clean.
Over several visits to the restaurant, we were never disappointed. With such a small space, you can expect to wait for a table, especially during dinner. But once you sit down, the service is fast. In Chinese restaurants, the dishes are usually brought out as soon as they are done, so don't be surprised if the food arrives in an unexpected order.
Cecilia Yu, one of the owners, said that 99 percent of the customers are Chinese. As with many authentic Chinese restaurants, there is a Chinese menu in addition to the English menu.
A good number of the dishes on the Chinese menu could be fodder for "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern" on the Travel Channel. One such dish is jellyfish and duck webs, served on a bed of pickled radish and carrot strips ($13). The sliced jellyfish, which resemble plump, translucent, rubber bands, has a crisp, crunchy texture. The duck webs are unmistakable, and have an al dente crunch. Both are seasoned with chili and sesame seed oil. The tangy sweetness of the pickles complement the mild heat of the chili pepper.
Items perhaps more suitable to the Western palate are listed under the gourmet section of the English menu. The salt and pepper calamari ($9) were lightly floured and deep-fried. Sprinklings of Chinese spiced salt, chopped scallions, and jalapeno peppers made for a tasty dish that my teenage son promptly devoured. Those of legal age may want to consider pairing this dish with a bottle of Tsingtao beer ($3.50).
Another dish the whole family enjoyed was the fillet steak with black pepper sauce ($13). Slices of tender beef were pan-seared and served over a bed of sauteed sliced onions and bell peppers. The soy-based sauce was heavy with black pepper flavor, but it did not overpower the dish.
If you like oysters, do not skip East Chinatown's deep-fried version ($12). The platter arrived with about a dozen large, luscious oysters that had been lightly floured and quickly fried. Crunchy on the outside and moist inside, they were rich and satisfying.
The Eight Delights pan-fried noodles ($7) was abundance on a platter. The crunchy, pan-seared thin noodles were topped with shrimp, slices of chicken, beef, char siu, calamari, scallops, Chinese fish cake, and imitation crabmeat. Tender stalks of greens made for a dish that almost encompasses the entire food pyramid.
For a quick lunch, try the wonton noodle soup ($4.50). The roast duck and wonton noodle soup ($6.50) includes six pieces of plump breast meat in addition to the large wontons and noodles in chicken broth. Bright green stalks of choy sum complete the meal in a bowl.
The wok-tossed beef chow foon ($6) was large enough for two, although after one bite you may not want to share. The broad rice flour noodles were stir-fried with slices of beef, onions, and scallions and splashed with dark soy sauce. This is comfort food to many Chinese diners.
Fans of authentic Cantonese cuisine can look forward to September, when the restaurant will move to a larger space around the corner on Billings Road. The current location will remain as a cafe. With the expansion, one can expect shorter waits and more elbow room to savor a taste of Hong Kong.