A Lee 88 Chinese Restaurant [Waltham MA], Inner Mongolian Shumai Dumplings & First Rate Sichuan

But isn’t that a “problem” that any restaurant owner faces ? Running a restaurant was always way more than “just” cooking - you had to take care of BOH/FOH, supply etc and also, perhaps most important beside the cooking itself, about marketing. And in the last 10-15 years marketing is actually getting easier with the availability of social media. There are two main roads (a bit oversimplified) you either have good financial backings through investors which allows you through significant marketing budget (and connections) to tap into the Eaters, Yelps of the world or you have to use the longer, but cheaper, approach through social media. (And let’s be real Yelp, Eater etc are commercial organizations who’s only purpose is to generate revenues and not spreading the word of the best restaurants - so I find your complains about no coverage through these companies a bit naive). In the end it is the restaurant owners responsibility to come up with a full business how to keep the restaurant viable (and not just how to produce good food) and if they fail their business plan including marketing selection of location etc was simply not efficient enough. And if restaurant owner are not proactive and just wait that others (like here on discussion boards etc) do their marketing job without their significant input/work they are very likely to fail

What you say is true. Seems like an insurmountable problem? I’m here to change that, for a couple of new places I like. Not a big deal in my book. What I said is also true, and I also said life is not fair, which is your fundamental claim, grand paragraphing aside. I am skeptical that you or anyone here has their life and business affairs in complete optimization. Perhaps you are okay in a pure Darwinian world. I think I can afford to stick my finger on the scales, just a little bit. It doesn’t take much effort, less so than maintaining the facade forever that we are all powerless as individuals in a cold, brutal, and commercialized system.

I can state your position with ease and refute it with more ease in this particular case. How do I know this? I have kick-started mania over other restaurants before. I’ve done it. Life is tough, sure. I believe in being tougher, and going to bat for things you care about.

Apparently we all care about food, so I wonder where your deep seeded cynicism comes from.

I am not really sure how you come to this conclusion when I pretty much said the opposite - if you read again what I wrote I said that in particular with social media it is actually relatively easy to change the likelihood of success for a restaurant for any owner. And I have seen it myself multiple times in CH times that your own social media posts can have a very significant impact on the direction of a restaurant (which also created many great relationships to different restaurant owners). But it is the responsibility of the owners to develop such a strategy and developing a “story” for their restaurant and you prove my point with the description of the two restaurants
And not sure where you see cynicism but just realism how many industries (this is obviously not only true for the restaurant industry) work

We are saying the same thing or talking past each or both

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Turns out we pass by enroute from Waltham Market Basket to home. We called in an order from the MB lot and made it there in 5 minutes. Ordering while hungry we ordered every type of dumpling. 10 minutes to home, they all traveled well. The Mongolian shu mai lived up to their advance billing. The pork and cabbage dumpling came in a close second, the pork & scallion dumpling and house pot sticker less appealing but decent. The shu mai came 6 to an order as advertised, but they gave us 11-12 of each instead of the advertised 8 per order of all the others. Looking forward to trying some of the entrees. A couple of parking spots in front makes it a convenient stop regardless of which direction you are traveling on Main St. Thanks for the tip!


I haven’t tried their other dumplings! I’m just so enamored with the Mongolian Shumai!

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So there is one more Mongolian dish at A Lee 88 and it really takes me back there. (I visited in 2019.) This dish is a special, sort of. It is not on the paper menu, and it is handwritten in Chinese on the QR code menu on the table placards. But I think it’s on the brand-new bound permanent menus.

Zībǔ yáng nǎn guō or Nourishing Herbal Lamb Casserole

It has a very herbal chinese medicinal taste and the lamb skin is left on, very wintery type of meal. Again, you will not see this anywhere else!

I also tried the Pork Steamed in Lotus Leaf, a dish I’ve been wanting to try for a while, I’ve been there 6 times or so now?

The glutinous rice is toasted in wok with aromatics, crushed and then steamed all together. This version has fermented whole soybeans, nice sourcing!

I got to know the chef’s wife, a friendly woman from Taiwan named Szu. I had been trying to message the chef on WeChat, and it was funny because she said he husband can’t do English, so she’s been responding for him, lol. They were kinda scratching their head wondering why this Japanese guy is blowing up their WeChat haha. The chef’s name is Liu Tao, I didn’t ask if he is from Sichuan, but I assume he is. I like his style, he has his tastes maybe influenced by how he was raised or the city he’s from. Definitely more distinct and accomplished than you see at most Sichuan places you see around here. I’d say they are in the same class as Noah’s Kitchen (Brookline), Our/Zone (Allston, but I’ve never been because parking there is absolutely brutal, but I can tell from photos it’s really good.), and Sichuan Cuisine (Watertown). Those four are the top tier of Sichuan, IMO. Szu and Tao recently came to Boston by way of Queens last year. I have dined on a lot of Sichuan in NYC and Boston, Boston is better for Sichuan and Hunan, shockingly.

As I mentioned before the Chinese New Year’s Menu is available until Feb 6th, and it’s going once, going twice, if you’d like to join me for a crazy good meal!

Business is slowly picking up and I’m helping them manage web stuff etc, I might get a free shumai out of it, but mostly I want to keep these guys busy so they stay in business!


I thought you guys might want to see Mongolian Shui Mai as it is made in Inner Mongolia. From a friend of mine. They also served it pan-fried as you can see.

I think you can tell that the ones made at A Lee 88 are identical.

The lattice structure, lace work, wow


We are hooked, making A Lee 88 a habit en route home from our bimonthly Costco excursions. We branched out a bit Sunday from just Shu Mai and dumplings to try the garlic cucumber, eggplant in spicy garlic sauce, Kung Pao chicken. All were excellent and the quality ingredients really shine. The Kung Pao chicken was a riot of chili, lovely level of heat. Tempted to try some of the seafood. Fish filet in Szechuan sauce sounds great, and at $32 I would hope it’s good.


The apps are interesting, engaging. The head chef used to work at a skewer chain from Chengdu, making the plated dishes. His work already showed a lot of precision I checked out old photos on RED. (It’s like a Chinese Yelp/Pinterest ripoff.) He was also a consulting chef at Noah’s Kitchen, which had huge buzz when it opened for it’s opulent looking Sichuan dishes. In fact the head chef at Noah’s and A Lee 88 are related from back home in Sichuan by work. Something about having trained under the same master chef back home. I had tea smoked duck the other day, was great. Better than tea smoked bird down the street at Mulan, and I was always partial to Mulan Waltham. Try either of the Pork Belly dishes next. They are both pretty standard, and you won’t find too much difference between pork belly with preserved mustard green from one place to another, but the pork belly with chestnuts at A Lee 88 was better there than any place I’ve tried.

I’ve got my eye on Beef Jerky and Farmhouse mixed chicken in chili sauce 农家大拌鸡 next, since I just had those at a phenomenal Chinese New Year’s banquet in Long Island. (See my thread, CNY Dinner at O Mandarin [Hicksville, NY] )

You could also try the only other Mongolian dish, a Lamb Casserole, but it’s written only on the QR code placards, not the paper menus. It is however on the brand new bound menus. It is 滋补羊腩锅 zībǔ yáng nǎn guō or Nourishing Herbal Lamb Casserole, has a distinctly chinese herbs aroma in bone broth, and skin on lamb pieces with veggies and tofu. It’s like you are on the steppe eating outside your yurt lol


I was so intrigued by these Mongolian shumai I ordered them as takeout last night, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well they survived the trip. The skins are SO silky and thin, mmmm. My spouse doesn’t love lamb so I got more than my share and ate the last one pretty cold, and it was STILL good.


The Super Vanak market is a WONDERLAND and it has everything. I found stuff there that I have not seen anywhere in the US yet. I scored several ingredients I’d yearned for forever, and impulse purchased frozen kebab kubideh that was entirely adequate, a pleasant surprise. I just make my own most of the time but having a box in the freezer for emergencies sure is nice.


We ordered this last night because my spouse’s Chinese parents had no idea what it was and we needed to do science and find out. It was the least impressive of all the dishes we ordered, though it was completely fine and I was amused to see sea cucumber in a local takeout container. Everything was well prepared, but the whole thing is just a bit bland overall.


Somewhere in this thread someone didn’t prefer the food at Shanghai Cuisine, though I can’t find it for the life of me to reply to. Anyway, I agree that some of the dishes suffer, particularly now they’ve been open for a while, but I must defend them on a couple of points. They have some Shanghainese dishes we can’t find elsewhere (or not in acceptable versions), and their clearly-fried shrimps are excellent, and their five-spice beef cold dish is first-rate. My spouse doesn’t generally like 5-spice beef at all, and now we order this literally every time, it is so good. Their lion’s head meatballs are also very good, if extremely spartan in presentation for takeout (I don’t care, just gimme that meatball, yum). And their braised pork shoulder usually has the correct flavor, not too sweet, but there does seem to be some variation based on who’s cooking on a given day. And their Dong Po pork is very good and very reliable. ANYWAY. Don’t write them off entirely. AND they have their own in-house delivery, so I can get these lovelies delivered to my door without using an app, which I will not do ever.


You have lost me. I have no clue what place this post refers to.

Welcome to Hungry Onion @JulyLikethemonth ! So glad to have you join us with a wealth of food info!!


I can’t put links in posts, but www dot shanghaicuisinewaltham dot com


Hey July, welcome to the old-timers eating club a.k.a. Club Med at The Hungry Onion. Alright, I’ll give Shanghai C another shot based on what you say, you seem to get around, I like that. And I’m glad you enjoy the Shui Mai as much as I do, it’s just a phenomenal dish. I totes agree Vanak is actually a mini supermarket, they have anything you need to prep full meals in your kitchen, regardless of the Persian leaning. I avoid sugar, but I tried the ice creams, Cucumber and Pomegranate, very interesting.

I never had the Shui Mai as takeout, but they are probably separated out better that way. In store, I quickly grab two out immediately, and then rearrange the remaining 4 so that they don’t touch the walls of the basket or each other. I was able to get 6 unbroken ones down my gullet that way. Shui Mai pro tip lol.

So just some UI basics, you can reply to the whole thread at the bottom, or you can reply to individual comments. If you highlight some text and click reply, it will be “quoted”, which will help people follow the convo better. You should be able to cut and paste links.


Went to OurZone tonight for takeout and it was incredibly delicious! Thanks for the rec!!! Really nice owner!


Thanks, and I hope you get something good at Shanghai Cuisine. I get around a lot less than I used to, given pandemic, but I am working takeout into the mix more often (turns out a year and a half of cooking every meal I eat is my limit), and as the weather and the community spread improve, we should be able to get some patios in as well.