Eating Authentic Asian Food In Allston
One square mile holds a huge variety of delicious, authentic and adventurous food representing multiple East Asian countries.
When I think about Allston, I’m mostly reminded of my early twenties — a hazy pastiche of nights barely remembered. But as I’ve gotten older, and considerably less drunk, I now spend my time thinking about where to score the best yakitori instead of my next Jaeger shot. Thankfully, Allston also has an incredible concentration of East Asian restaurants, where you can assemble a nice tasting menu of the region’s many cuisines. Today, with the help of my good friend Jeff, we’re covering Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese food, and we’ll do our best not to get kicked out of any bars in the process.
Jeff and I have been friends for about two years, when we met at the famed mixed martial arts gym Sityodtong Academy in East Somerville. We became fast friends, bonding over arm bars and jab-hook combinations. (You don’t really know who your friends are until they’ve punched you in the face.) It doesn't hurt that Jeff was born in Singapore to Taiwanese parents and is engaged to a Korean woman — making him a particularly good travel companion for this adventure.
Our first stop, Dolphin Bay, specializes in Taiwanese street food. The room is bright, with a kitschy oceanscape painted on the walls, a boat shaped juice bar and a pillar in the center decorated like a lighthouse. The lighthearted restaurant décor is refreshing in a city that can take these things a bit too seriously at times.
I’m impressed with Jeff’s linguistic fluidity as he switches seamlessly between English with me and Taiwanese with the waiter. He’s in charge of all the ordering today and is up for the challenge, trying to find items he thinks best represent each cuisine. We share a boba drink made with mango, condensed milk and small tapioca balls ($5.50). He keeps the rest of the meal simple with an order of pork rice ($7), a kind of combo plate with minced pork, egg and cooked vegetables. A side of chicken breast ($4.75), pounded thin and deep fried, accompanies the dish as we mix everything together in small bowls.
For meal number two, we walk around the corner to Seoul Soulongtang, a Korean restaurant named for its signature (I will not say the E word) ox bone soup soulongtang. In this preparation, the ox bones cook for so long they completely break down, creating a milky white broth with an amazing, creamy texture. It is, by design, quite bland so it’s up to the diner to add salt, pepper and scallions to taste.
This restaurant is sleeker than Dolphin Bay in appearance, with treated wood tables and tall banquets. There’s a popular Korean television drama playing on a flat screen in the dining room which everyone keeps an eye on while eating. Jeff orders the soulongtang daeji yangnyum gui (ox bone soup with marinated grilled pork, $18.95). As is common in Korean restaurants, our waiter arrives with little bowls of fermented vegetables for us to enjoy before our main course. Jeff and I already have our routine for these dishes. He gets the bean sprouts, I take the radish and we split the kimchi.
At this point, Jeff and I are disgustingly full but I promised him the full Craving Boston experience (I’ll be leading guided tours soon) so we head up Comm Ave. to Ittoku for Japanese small plates. Since we’re stuffed, Jeff only orders nine dishes.
The aesthetic here is similar to Soulongtang with the treated wood tables and high backed banquettes. The room buzzes. Even for a weekday, Ittoku is a bustling hotspot both for students and families. The first dish to come out may also be my favorite. Takowasa ($4.00) is a chilled and diced octopus salad sitting in a tangy, spicy wasabi sauce. We try three kinds of aburi (partially grilled nigiri, $14.00), tori karaage (fried chicken, $6.75), and an assortment of yakitori. Jeff’s favorite dish is the lightly fried agedashi tofu ($5.75) which sits in a fish broth. The hardiest dish of the night is the omusoba ($9.50), an omelet stuffed with soba noodles and pork, drizzled with what I believe is a mayo-barbecue sauce combination.
Jeff and I have barely walked a mile in Allston but we’ve managed to consume our fair share of traditional Asian cuisine from three different countries. Obviously, we’re good eaters, so we barely take anything home — but we both know tomorrow’s going to be a rough one at the gym.
Dolphin Bay — 72 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617.562.1668
Seoul Soulongtang — 1245 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, 617.505.6771
Izakaya Ittoku — 1414 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, 617.608.3630