On the other hand, barbecue spareribs ($10.95) are beef short ribs, and not the meatiest. They're treated like Chinese pork ribs (but spared the red dye), and are tough and hard to eat. I miss the fresh Chinese mustard we typically get with this dish. I suggest the owners of Taam China consult with Korean cooks, who really know their short ribs and get a much better effect by cutting the ribs differently and marinating them. Kosher butchers could do this too — perhaps they could use Soy Vey.
Of the main dishes, my personal favorite was chou yu kew ($14.95), a dish of very lightly battered fish filets, really almost sautûed in the meunière style, with carrot, zucchini, onion, and cultivated mushrooms. It was made great by the freshness of the fish (pollock, probably), the unfailing magic of under-fried vegetables, and a wisp of light white sauce. There is a full list of vegetarian plates, including some Chinese cabbages and greens. We chose sautûed string beans ($9.50). This is a dish properly made with Chinese long beans; it often includes some ground pork, but the Taam China version had beans nicely flecked with real wok searing and plenty of garlic.
Fried food is an important part of the American conception of Chinese restaurants, and at that, Taam China is okay, but only middling. I had hoped Szechwan crispy beef ($13.95) would be made with the same technique used for twice-fried pork, but it was actually breaded and fried, with only a bit of hot pepper in the sweet-and-sour sauce. It was reasonably crisp, and had the requisite flavor of salt and freshly browned food. General Gau's chicken ($13.50), in the same style, has a little more ginger in the sauce.
House special fried rice ($7.50) was edible but pedestrian. It's not that hard to make exciting fried rice. You heat up oil with salt, scallions, and some leftover protein, make the little omelet and cut it up, and break cold rice into the hot wok. A few minutes later, you have something really delicious. Or, as at Taam China, you put in bean sprouts and carrot strips and bits of kosher chicken, the red-tipped strips of beef and a few onions, you don't get quite enough heat, and you have something more like a greasy rice stew.
The Brookline Taam China location has a full liquor license. (You can order a mai tai!) There are also kosher wines and a selection of bottled beers, though both Israeli brews were out of stock on our visit. (Peking duck had run out too. I had high hopes for that dish.) The tea was so weak that I couldn't discern whether it was oolong, pouchong, or pu-erh. The only dessert was fortune cookies. There's no kosher reason not to end with fruit, in the Cantonese manner.
Service in the small room was excellent, and dishes came out hot in the somewhat random order of a Chinese kitchen not holding anything past its moment. There isn't much dûcor, other than an aquarium that needs a few more fish. Would anyone go to Taam China if not keeping seriously kosher? Surely — to meet with a kosher friend or three, or just to grab a platter of the beefiest Peking ravioli in town.
Robert Nadeau can be reached atRobtNadeau@aol.com.