Dining in the Square
All the attention for Asian cuisine in Malden Square goes to either the bright lights of All Seasons Table or the dime-a-dozen pho joints. The biggest secret- despite a recent Boston Magazine award- is that FuLoon is better than them all.
What they do is Chinese food. Not the gloppy chow mein and gravy stuff, not the deep fried Polynesian pu pu platter stuff (although they can and do imitate both of those things on the lunch buffet). The real stuff.
If you are sitting in a booth in FuLoon and it's dark outside, it's not hard to imagine that you are lost somewhere in Hunan province. The traditional decor is accented by quiet pipa/pan flute music as well as a giant aquarium boasting some enormous fish (although one of the really big ones recently passed away). The din of the restaurant is rarely above conversation level, even on a Friday or Saturday night. You feel transported.
The food is the vehicle.
Start with the scallion pancakes, the veggie tempura or the dumplings (available in veggie or pork). Pretty standard stuff, all very good.
Move on to the entrees. Our usual order is crispy bean curd, kung pao tofu and veggie lo mein.
It's hard to cook tofu perfectly so that it's crunchy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. FuLoon does it consistently. In the case of the crispy bean curd, they smother it in a red peppercorn glaze that is both sweet and spicy, complemented by the bitterness of shards of green pepper.
The kung pao tofu is also artfully served, graced with an unapologetic amount of roasted Sichuan chilis and peanuts.
The veggie lo mein is unlike any others I've ever had- it's springy, not slimy.
MVP: The food. There are many items on the menu not in my wheelhouse and China is a big place- based on my experiences, the quality must surely cascade through their entire oeuvre. They have a number of specials, including family style meals for the whole table and a separate menu for Chinese New Year.
LVP: Service from all but the manager/owner is robotic. The manager herself is very warm and always goes out of her way to ask about our meal, remembers us even if it has been a while since we last came in.
This is a hidden gem. FuLoon won't romance you with a jazz band, but they will enthrall you with their food.
Massimo's is a scene from Goodfellas or Donnie Brasco- red pleather booths and padded chairs, fake wood grain tables, mid '60s pop music, timeless, slightly tacky decor and North End quality Italian food at Olive Garden prices.
It's not a giant room. Unless the center table is seated with a large party, the background din never rises above conversation level. Service has always been prompt, friendly and unpretentious.
Dinner starts with seeded Italian bread and they'll keep filling the basket. Dipping oil is available by request.
We always whet our appetites with the toasted ravioli ($5.99). The only problem is that an order is usually seven pieces and we have to fight over who gets the last one.
The entrees range from good to fantastic, most non-meat pasta dishes are only $10.99 or less and portions are large- easily a meal and a half or more. Always review the specials and look for the daily lasagna (the cheese is magnificent). The fiery and salty pasta puttanesca ($10.99) is also a favorite.
Massimo ("Max" to some) himself will usually circulate in the dining room every hour or so in his chef's whites, checking to make sure everyone is happy. The far corner of the restaurant features a "sauce cam" trained on the kitchen stovetop. Now that's transparency.
MVP: The eggplant parmesan ($10.99). The best I've ever had- thinly sliced, breaded and fried, no filler ricotta.
LVP: The potato gnocchi ($10.99) are a bit chewy and one-note.
With Massimo's a short walk away, the tourists can have Hanover Street.
We get ice cream on Sunday nights in the summer. It's a thing we do.
Dairy Delight is so good that we were haunting the place when it was warm in March, hoping that that weekend they would open.
Their season runs from Opening Day to the World Series, roughly.
I almost always get hard frozen yogurt, with the obligatory jimmies. We argue about whether jimmies are only the chocolate ones. I say they are. She gets rainbow sprinkles.
Coffee Heath Bar. Moose Tracks (vanilla with peanut butter cups and chocolate chips). Purple Cow (Black Raspberry with white and dark chocolate chips). Mint Patty. That's the rotation.
When I'm feeling crazy, I get the soft serve mocha twist with a dip. They have them, just like Dairy Queen used to. Possibly still do- I don't care because I have Dairy Delight. Chocolate. Cherry. Butterscotch.
The girls behind the counter are always friendly. The portions are twice what you get at other places, fifty cents cheaper.
MVP: Heath Bar.
LVP: Needs more frogurt flavors.
This place is great.
New Year's Day pizzas here as Two Paisan's was closed.
We got a small cheese pizza ($6.99) and a small Mediterranean, no olives ($9.96) to go.
The restaurant is a new, well-kept Ferry Street storefront with a handful of dine-in tables and a condiment stand with a soda cooler behind the registers. The kitchen is semi-open, separated from the dining room by a half-wall topped by frosted plastic.
They were doing a pretty good pick-up business while we waited and they were also busy with delivery.
They have subs, salads and wraps, but the focus here is obviously the pizza. The pies have good cheese, an excellent sauce and puffy- not spongy- crust.
Sodas are Pepsi products only ($1.45 for a 20 oz. plastic bottle).
MVP: I found myself eating more of the cheese pizza.
LVP: The Mediterranean was a bit too salty for me.
Our new back-up for Two Paisan's. Can't wait to try the Fireball pizza (Southwest ranch sauce, suicide sauce, jalapenos, onions), hold the bacon and chicken. Make sure to check the printed menus for coupons!!!
Slightly above average Greek pizza and sub shop in Malden Center. This place is my back-up when Two Paisan's is closed on a Sunday, holiday or long weekend.
Cheese slices ($2 each) are less greasy than most "House of Pizza" type places, with mottled mozzarella and a crust that isn't flaky and bubbly like standard Greek pizza- it actually has some give to it. The sauce is ketchupy with a strong taste of tomato paste.
The veggie roll-up ($5.75) is solid, but vegetables in a tortilla is pretty hard to screw up.
Not a bad place to grab a quick, no frills lunch in the Square- they are currently running a two cheese slice and soda deal for $4.75.