Southwestern Chinese in Boston’s South End, Mediterranean sweets in Somerville, and Korean in Malden.
Welcome to Three to try. On Fridays, we’ll share three restaurant or dish recommendations for the weekend—sometimes new, sometimes old, always delicious.
hello everyone! I’m the new food editor here at Boston magazine, and I’m looking forward to diving deep into our incredible local food scene with you, whether you’re new to town or a lifelong resident. I was born and raised in Massachusetts—I grew up right around the corner from the best ice cream shop around, Crescent Ridge—and I’ve been covering Boston-area restaurants in various capacities for the past 14 years.
Soon the team and I will be sharing lots more restaurant first looks, guides, and news with you, but I wanted to get the ball rolling with our new Friday series, Three to try, where I’ll be giving you three recommendations for the weekend—sometimes it’ll be three restaurants in general, and sometimes it’ll be three specific dishes. I’ll be highlighting old favorites, interesting new spots, and lots more from all over Boston and nearby.
First up: three recent openings I’ve been enjoying a lot.
Mint, lime—these are flavors I hadn’t really encountered in Chinese food until I visited Yunnan Kitchen, which opened this spring in the South End. The restaurant features Yunnan, or Dian, cuisine from southwestern China, a regional cuisine not readily found in the Boston area, aside from a few noodle shops. (One, South of the Clouds in Brighton, is Yunnan Kitchen’s sibling spot.) That region is known for sour and spicy flavors and ingredients such as mushrooms and flowers. Yunnan cuisine also notably features dairy, a rarity among Chinese cuisines.
I kept things somewhat light on my first visit: a cold wood ear mushroom salad with chili oil and herbs, garnished with lime; thin slices of beef with fresh mint; and sticky rice-based pancakes served with condensed milk. The first two almost reminded me more of Southeast Asian food than any Chinese food I’ve had, which makes sense given the location of the Yunnan province, bordering Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. I’m already planning repeat visits, as there’s so much more I want to try on the extensive “Yunnan signatures” section of the menu: Dali fried pea jelly, sticky rice meatballs, boiled 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 at this recent addition to the Spring Hill neighborhood in Somerville, where you might find the friendliest staff around offering you a sample of the shop’s refreshing lemonada (lemon or lime juice with ginger, mint, and orange blossom) while you browse, or bringing you a piece of whichever baked good just came out of the oven, or adjusting the fan to keep your napping toddler cool while you snack.
The slogan is “artfully delicious,” and inspiration comes from all around the Mediterranean: Expect dates galore (some covered in chocolate and garnished with 24-karat gold), pastries dripping with honey, and sesame-studded ovals of Jerusalem bread with a side of za’atar.
594 Somerville Ave., Somerville, 617-616-5310, yafabakerycafe.com.
Bab Korean Bistro
Bab isn’t entirely new—it opened in Coolidge Corner four years ago—but the Malden location just debuted this summer, luckily for Malden (and for me, a person who lives near Malden), as the city has lots of great restaurants but only a little bit of Korean food. Tteokbokki is one of my menu kryptonites; if it’s on there, I’m going to order it. I haven’t made my way through much of the menu yet, having been immediately drawn to the chewy rice cakes, stir-fried with fishcakes and other accessories in a fiery red sauce. But that and some fried mandu (dumplings), plus the requisite banchan (little sides of kimchi and such), were more than enough to make me want to return.
The original Brookline location is larger and a bit more tailored to dining in, but the small Malden storefront— order at the counter—is pleasant enough to stay, and it’s very close to the Northern Strand Community Trail if you want to do takeout and hop on your bike until you find a nice place to settle down for a picnic.
205 Center St., Malden, 781-322-5333www.babkoreanbistro.com.
Have a safe holiday weekend, and please get in touch with me at email@example.com if there’s something in the Greater Boston food world that should be on my radar.