I’ll admit it: I don’t have high expectations for kosher Chinese food.
But when JewishBoston.com asked me to pay a visit to Taam China in Brookline with my two young kids as the food “reviewers,” I was in. (To clarify, Taam China is the only kosher Chinese place in Boston, so technically this was our only option.) Minus a hiccup in timing—the website lists 11 a.m. as the opening time, though it turned out to actually be noon—we had, dare I say it, a decent meal.
Our interfaith family doesn’t keep kosher, but we frequently eat Asian cuisine. So my kids definitely know Chinese food. Well, some of it. My two kids, Solomon, 5, and Dalya, 2, along with their friends Caleb, 2, and Abram, 3, were excited to be “food critics.” If your children have ever seen the movie “Ratatouille,” they may be enticed by the task of being a food critic, in which their assignment is to help taste and rate the food. This turned out to be a great game, particularly for Abram, who took his food critic job very seriously. The other kids soon followed suit—ah, peer pressure.
Taam China is a tiny restaurant, with only about 15 tables, which is not uncommon for Brookline. It’s a clean establishment, except for the fish tank. (“The poor fish needed their water cleaned! It’s green!” reported Solomon.)
We looked at the menu together. Solomon, who is beginning to read, of course saw the words “Pu Pu Platter.” He quickly yelled the words aloud: “Hey! Is pu pu platter poop on a platter?!” He even asked our waitress if they really had “poop on a plate.” So yeah. That happened.
Anyway, on to what we actually ordered:
These were delicious. They were very crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle. Caleb was pretty excited because they have the word “pancake” in the name. Abram said “Delicious!” and gave me the cutest thumbs-up I’ve ever seen from a 3-year-old.
These were just OK (the dough was too thick). The kids had a few bites, but it wasn’t their go-to dish.
Sesame chicken (aka “candy chicken”)
The chicken was a huge hit among the kids (and even the adults). Solomon said, “The sesame chicken tastes like candy, and I like it!” This is right after he declared to the table: “I don’t like any meat, except chicken. I don’t like fish, beef, pork or squid.” And he’s right. Unfortunately, as a parent, it’s so frustrating to have a really good eater turn into a super picky eater almost overnight. And Dalya, who normally eats anything, and I mean anything, suddenly ate like a bird at Taam China.
Beef with ginger and scallions
The beef had a nice ginger flavor, but it wasn’t too overpowering. The meat was tender, but Dalya was the only kid to try it. She nodded her head to indicate she liked it, but otherwise wouldn’t tell me anything more about it.
Tofu with vegetables
Abram was particularly skeptical of the tofu, so he didn’t try it, but he did eat the broccoli. In fact, at the end of the meal, he declared that he liked the broccoli the best. (I’m sure his parents were so proud.)
Vegetable lo mein
This was another hit among the kids, all of whom love pasta (naturally). In fact, there was nothing left of this dish at the end of the meal. Caleb said it was his favorite dish, with the scallion pancakes a close second.
Moo shu chicken with pancakes
This dish felt fresh and light thanks to the cabbage, mushrooms, chicken slices and rice pancakes for wrapping. The adults enjoyed it, and Abram particularly loved making “burritos” with the wraps. (I was personally impressed with his wrapping skills.) Dalya literally hoarded this dish in front of her so she could pick out and eat the mushrooms. Once she ate all of them, she demanded we order more. So for Dalya, the moo shu equaled mushrooms, and only mushrooms. (The only other thing she really ate was rice, which she declared was her favorite dish.)
The overall verdict? The food came out quickly, though mostly one dish at a time. The dine-in experience was good, and the kids seemed entertained by the fish tank (despite needing a good cleaning) and the teacups. Compared to our favorite Asian restaurants, it’s definitely pricier, and I’d say pretty basic/average, but the kid “food critics” seemed to not notice a real difference and had no problems eating. And kids eating, for me, is always a total win!