Assorted spots: Cambridge, Malden, Somerville MA

Been out to a couple spots of late, trying out some places suggested from my “South Asia” thread and a pair of other joints in Malden as I continue to try and blanket cover that town. Thought I’d jot down some capsule reviews just for the heck of it.

Suvaai–went for lunch at this North Cambridge place a couple weeks ago, and was impressed with the Sri Lankan stuff. I think we mis-ordered a bit only because we got the string hoppers and coconut roti, which were accompanied by more or less the same sambal sides. We probably should have gotten something with a bit more variety. But everything was quite good, the string hoppers had a nice cool consistency and the coconut roti were soft and flavorful. All of the sambal sides were delicious, in particular the potato dish. Good music, weird decor (the blonde doll creeps me out), nice service. Will try again.

J & R Restaurant and Bakery, Malden–an unassuming little Haitian restaurant that serves ragout and spaghetti in the mornings and an assortment of other Haitian specialties during the day (goat, oxtail, fried pork etc). Has some other things on particular days such as lalo, conch, stewed okra. I got the guinea fowl, which came with fried plantain, a huge plate of rice and beans and some iceberg lettuce/bad tomato salad. Nice and homey, the guinea fowl was moist and stewed in sauce that was good to spoon over the fairly bland but well made rice and beans. Fried plantain were huge and done well. Place is fairly small, just a couple of tables and a counter along the window. Worth a try–I’d like to try La Perle Carribean Restaurant in Everett to compare, they seem to have a somewhat more extensive menu.

Monkey King Tea, Malden–after J & R, I decided to scope out this Hong Kong style puffle cone place for dessert on my way back to Medford. (Note: I think they do the puffle cones only on Fri-Sun.) This is another small location with seating for maybe ten people, in the first floor of what pretty much just looks like a house. They have milk tea, bubble tea, frappes, and a smattering of pan-Asian food items–crab rangoon, musubi, karaage, spicy fries, takoyaki. The puffle cone I got was fine, with green tea ice cream, strawberries, red bean mochi and a few sticks of pocky and the accompanying egg waffle. Would be good on a summer night, but I do have to say that not really being a dessert guy, I’m not sure I quite get the dish in general. I like this place though & everyone was nice, so will probably return to see just how the takoyaki and musubi are in the future–there aren’t too many places around to get these.

Royal Bengal, Somerville–last up, took in this Winter Hill Bengali restaurant for lunch today. This was an old fave of mine when they were in C. Sq., so I was hoping it held up. Luckily, it sure did! Stuck totally to the Bengali items, and they were fantastic. Rui Kalia (carp in homemade yogurt) was low key in spice, but had a really subtle flavor and the fish was properly cooked. It made me wonder why we mostly don’t eat carp here–it’s a popular fish both in Asia and in a lot of Europe. Maybe it’s because it’s so bony? In any case, it’s delicious. (I searched around some and did find that there are some sport fishers who angle for carp in the US, but you almost never see it in a restaurant. What’s with that?). Another winner of a dish here was the Mocha Chingri, shrimp with banana blossom–tantalizing flavor (not spicy at all) and some plump, juicy, perfectly cooked shrimp. We also got an order of luchi, which were amazing when they came out hot and freshly made. A perfect thing to go with the other two main dishes.

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Nice reviews. Thanks.

I’d been to Suvaai when they first moved to North Cambridge but they were so disorganized then, and had so little of the menu actually available, that I hadn’t had the heart to go back. I’ll revisit. (There’s something wrong with their website, though: it says Suvaii on the top, but the menu, etc.,
is of a totally different place – and totally different type of place – in SF!)

The spice levels at Royal Bengal are variable. Ask for chopped green chilies to be mixed into your food. Unlike cayenne mixed in at the end – which has an “uncooked” taste to it – these add a nice flavor, as well as heat. They also have a potato dish with mustard oil that’s usually hot. It goes very well with their luchi.

wow, that’s weird. I didn’t even notice that, I just went to my pinboard bookmark for the place to put into the post. Anyone who goes there looking for potato boats and NY strip steak will be sorely disappointed!

The service at Suvaai when I went for lunch wasn’t at all disorganized. I might still describe it as somewhat leisurely, but it was fine.

As for Royal Bengal, thanks for the heat tip. When I’m with the s.o. I generally have to acquiesce to lower heat levels so she can even eat the food, which is one reason we ordered the two dishes we did. When I go back myself for the Maachher Jhaal which I know should have heat, I’ll ask for extra chilis!

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold