Southwest Chinese in Boston’s South End, Mediterranean sweets in Somerville, and Korean in Malden.
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Welcome to Three to try. On Fridays we share three restaurant or dish recommendations for the weekend – some new, some old, always delicious.
Hello, everyone! I’m the new food editor here at Boston Magazine and I look forward to delving deep into our incredible local food scene with you, whether you’re new to town or a long-time resident. I was born and raised in Massachusetts – I grew up just around the corner from the area’s best ice cream shop, Crescent Ridge – and have covered Boston-area restaurants in various capacities for the past 14 years.
Soon the team and I will be sharing many more first impressions, tips and restaurant news with you, but I wanted to get the ball rolling with our new Friday series, Three to try, where I give you three recommendations for the weekend – sometimes it’s three restaurants in general, and sometimes it’s three specific dishes. I’ll be highlighting old favorites, interesting new spots, and more from around the Boston area.
First of all: three new openings, which I really enjoyed.
Mint, lime – these are flavors I hadn’t really encountered in Chinese food until I visited Yunnan Kitchen, which opened in the South End this spring. The restaurant offers Yunnan or Dian cuisine from Southwest China, a regional cuisine not readily found in the Boston area save for a few noodle shops. (One, South of the Clouds in Brighton, is Yunnan Kitchen’s sister location.) This region is known for sour and tangy flavors and ingredients like mushrooms and flowers. Yunnan cuisine also includes dairy products, a rarity in Chinese cuisine.
On my first visit, I kept it a little lighter: a cold ear mushroom salad with chili oil and herbs, garnished with lime; thin slices of beef with fresh mint; and glutinous rice-based pancakes served with condensed milk. The first two reminded me almost more of Southeast Asian food than any Chinese food I’ve had, which makes sense given Yunnan Province’s location, which borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. I’m already planning repeat visits as there is so much more I want to try in the extensive “Yunnan Signatures” section of the menu: Dali fried pea jelly, sticky rice meatballs, simmered pork in chili oil, lemon shredded chicken and so on.
1721B Washington St., South End, Boston, 617-936-4123, yunnankitchensouthend.com.
Yafa Bakery & Cafe
Hospitality really shines in this recent addition to Somerville’s Spring Hill neighborhood, where you might find the friendliest staff offering you a sample of the shop’s refreshing Lemonada (lemon or lime juice with ginger, mint and orange blossom) while you browse, or Bring you a piece of that baked good that just came out of the oven, or set the fan to keep your sleeping toddler cool while you eat.
The tagline is “artfully delicious,” and inspiration comes from across the Mediterranean: expect dates galore (some covered in chocolate and topped with 24-karat gold), pastries dripping with honey, and sprinkled with sesame seeds Ovals of Jerusalem bread with a side of za’atar.
594 Somerville Ave., Somerville, 617-616-5310, yafabakerycafe.com.
Via Korean bistro
Bab isn’t brand new – it opened four years ago in Coolidge Corner – but the Malden location only opened this summer, luckily for Malden (and for me, a person who lives near Malden) since the City has a lot of great restaurants just a bit of Korean food. Tteokbokki is one of my menu kryptonites; when it is there i will order it. I haven’t made my way through much of the menu yet, as I’m immediately drawn to the chewy rice cakes, which are fried with fish cakes and other ingredients in a fiery red sauce. But that and some fried mandus (dumplings) plus the requisite banchan (little sides of kimchi and such) was more than enough to make me want to go back.
The original Brookline eatery is larger and a little more focused on food, but the small Malden storefront — order at the counter — is pleasant enough to stay in, and it’s very close to the Northern Strand Community Trail if you want to go takeout and hop on the bike until you find a nice spot for a picnic.
205 Center St, Malden, 781-322-5333babkoreanbistro.com.
I wish you a safe holiday weekend and please contact me at email@example.com if there is anything in the food world of the greater Boston area that should be on my radar.