Restaurant Review: Qingdao Garden

Don’t let the decor fool you in this Northern Chinese gem in North Cambridge.  The sparse, diner-esque decor with ten tables belies the quality of the food, the family-style food and service, and the overall bang for your buck.  I’d call it a hole in the wall, but it’s too clean for that.  You can easily ignore the decor if you close your eyes and listen to the sounds of locals, families, and die-hard regulars chewing thoughtfully and chatting about Chinese politics or quantum physics in as many languages as there are tables.  Eat late and eat with the family and staff, who are more than happy to share friendly pointers on the menu at any time of day.  

Qingdao Garden is perhaps best known for its stellar homemade dumplings, which have been featured in Boston Magazine’s Cheap Eats issue.  The menu features seven varieties, including three vegetarian types: Spinach, Leek, and String Bean.  All dumplings are just $5.75-$5.95 for a dozen or $14.00-$16.00 for fifty frozen dumplings to bring home with you.  Your friendly server will encourage you to eat them with the traditional vinegar instead of soy sauce.

But don’t ignore the rest of the enormous menu, particularly the pink “traditional” section.  We’ve only begun to explore the endless options, but everything we’ve tried has been fresh, delicious, and strikingly different than “regular,” Americanized Chinese food.  The Tofu with Black Bean Sauce we tried tonight featured the softest, lightest tofu we’ve eaten since we visited Japan, and a fresh egg and black bean sauce that was a surprising and welcome change from the heavy overspiced glop we were expecting.  Dishes like the house specialty Szechuan Style Fish with Black Bean Sauce and Lily Root with Celery intrigued, and now we’re curious to try the family’s take on old favorites.  Have you tried them?  Post below!

Qingdao Garden is located at 2382 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is easily accessible from the Porter, Davis, and Alewife T stations or by the 77 bus.