Little Inman Square has quietly become an epicenter of local high-end cuisine. From the old standbys of the East Coast Grill and S&S, to newcomers like Tupelo and Trina’s Starlite Lounge, virtually every imaginable appetite can be satisfied. To this embarrassment of culinary riches, new restaurateur Phillip Tang—formerly a chef at TW Food and Hungry Mother—has added East by Northeast, featuring a fusion of locally sourced New England ingredients and the Asian flavors of his heritage.
The restaurant itself is an all-new dining room, with 10 tables scattered about and a four-seat bar overlooking the kitchen in the back. Reasonably full on a Sunday night, we opted to watch the goings on of the chefs at work, a good choice as it turns out, since we got a couple of samples of dishes they were trying out interspersed with our order.
Although they have a nice beer list, with not a macrobrew to be found, I was intrigued by their menu of house-made sodas. The cilantro lime ($5) was a great match with what was to come, sweet but not overly so, and certainly not like any other soda I’d ever had. They also have a selection of teas from MEM Tea in Somerville; my dining partner grabbed a pot of the jasmine green ($4).
Although the menu recommends three to four plates per person, we decided to start with two apiece and go from there. The small menu was complemented by a half-dozen specials to choose from on a chalkboard hanging by the entrance. From the regular menu, the thick-cut noodle bowl with beef shank, celery root and parsnip ($10) features handmade noodles swimming in a rich broth. The noodles were a little hard to handle with chopsticks, but the flavors melded well into a perfect winter dish. The three tender boiled shrimp dumplings ($10) stuffed with a ton of tasty carrot-ginger purée also were surprisingly New England for being such a stereotypical Asian dish. From the specials board, the single curried beef turnover ($4) was very similar to an Indian beef samosa, right down to the dark tamarind chutney that accompanied it, and was wrapped in wonderfully flakey dough. The Chinese pork sausage and sticky rice ($10) was extremely flavorful, with generous slices of the sausage drizzled in a sweet onion reduction sauce.
Nearly full already, but having seen the chefs work their magic all night, we opted for two more plates. The celery root and apple salad ($7) comes with poached chicken bites and is dressed with a nice sesame mustard sauce. The celery root and apple are sliced super thin and complement each other well. But the star of the entire meal was definitely the other thick-cut noodle bowl, this time with winter vegetables and a poached egg in a miso broth ($10). Popping open the egg into the soup thickened the dish to a wonderful consistency, and the whole experience really epitomized the meeting of the two cuisines.
East by Northeast is only open five hours a day, six days a week, and they don’t take reservations. Once word gets out, tables are going to be a hot commodity. Do yourself a favor and beat the rush. Your tummy will thank you later.