In my personal opinion, Pan-Asian restaurants are a bad idea. After all, how good could a single kitchen be at representing the diverse cuisines of half the world’s population? Which is why it’s surprising that Christopher Myers and Joanne Chang, known for their prowess in French cuisine and pastry, respectively, manage to (mostly) avoid watered-down pitfalls at their new South End venture, Myers+Chang. The most successful dishes are the Southeast Asian–inspired ones, in which quality and freshness of ingredients form the backbone, as opposed to, say, the wokked Chinese dishes that rely more heavily on specialized technique. Among the best is their version of som tom (green papaya salad), which screams of freshness, cut with a generous dose of pungent dried shrimp and chili — two ingredients noticeably scant in most Americanized versions of the dish. Similarly, mussels come with a lavish handful of wilted fresh herbs and lemongrass that lift and lighten the sweet and smoky broth.
And then there’s the Tiger’s Tears — chef Alison Hearn’s personal interpretation of yum nuea (spicy beef salad), which is fast on its way to becoming the restaurant’s signature dish. Tender, beefy strips of skirt steak are soaked in a sweet and tangy marinade, then grilled until the sugars from the marinade just start to caramelize and the well-marbled interior is a perfect medium-rare. The cold, sliced steak is brightened with a chili-spiked lime, fish-sauce-based dressing, and a liberal garnish of Thai basil and cilantro. The carefully balanced dressing manages to simultaneously enhance the savoriness of the beef while making it seem as light and fresh as the trio of julienned sweet bell peppers that accompany it. Serving as textural contrast is a sprinkling of khao koor (toasted pounded rice), which cuts through each bite with a toasty crunch. It’s enough to make you wish that all your meals would begin and end in tears.
Available for $10 at Myers+Chang, 1145 Washington Street, in Boston. Call 617.542.5200.
: Hot Plate
, Alison Hearn
, Christopher Myers
, Joanne Chang