This has been an unusually trying time for East Ocean City. Earlier this fall, bricks and concrete plummeted from the eight-story garage opposite the Chinatown seafood restaurant, causing Beach Street to be blocked off for safety repairs. Yet people continued streaming into this Cantonese/Hong Kong–style hotspot. Why brave the raining bricks? My server gave two compelling reasons: the Peking duck ($25/half; $45/whole) and the fried squid with spicy salt ($10.75), East Ocean City's most popular dishes.
The Peking duck is served with the bird's crunchy, fatty roasted skin on one plate and its meat — thinly cut, and stir-fried with mushrooms, green beans, and scallions — on another. Flour wraps come steaming in a porcelain bowl, with sides of sweet bean sauce and scallions to bring it all together. Meanwhile, the fried squid is a triumph in mass appeal and affordability, cooked with red and green peppers, scallions, and Fritos-shaped wonton skins and garnished with slices of orange.
Clams with black-bean sauce ($10.75) are a standout, as are the beef short ribs with mini Mandarin buns ($14.95). The salted chicken with bone ($10.50/half; $21/whole) washes down the rice well, though some parts of the meat can be dry. The steamed barramundi ($10.95/pound) has unbeatable freshness, but you knew that after the server brought the live, flopping fish from the tank to your table via a gray bucket. Softened by the savory broth — consisting of ginger, scallion, and soy sauce — the barramundi falls slick off of its bones. The Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce ($8.75) is steamed, shocked, then drenched with the signature sauce — a Cantonese household staple. Stir-fried watercress ($8.75) has only a pinch of salt and ginger, allowing the vegetable's fresh juices to dominate the flavor instead. Tofu with mixed vegetables ($9.25) is not as convincing but offers more variety. According to the staff, the kitchen's strong fires and large skillets let chefs cook quicker — and bring out more flavor in the vegetables — than on any household burner.
Edward Leung has built up a solid reputation in the local Asian-restaurant community since founding East Ocean City in 1991. He now owns Fugakyu in Brookline and Kaze Shabu Shabu in Chinatown, and, while both are solid dining experiences, East Ocean City gets my pick for his best enterprise.
East Ocean City, located on 27 Beach Street in Boston, is open Monday-Thursday, 11:30 am-2 am, Friday, 11:30 am-3 am, Saturday, 12 pm-3 am, and Sunday, 12 pm-2 am. Call 617.542.2504 or visit eastoceancity.com.