A brightly colored chalkboard with lunch specials and lists of local farm partners greets you as you walk into Mei Mei Kitchen. The restaurant is fun and comfortable, but décor is almost irrelevant when the food is this dizzyingly good. The first time my friends and I tried Mei Mei was through take out. Chinese takeout sounds cliché, but Mei Mei is not your typical greasy fried rice and limp vegetables tucked into a white cardboard box. It would be a sin to even compare the two. We opened a plastic tub and inside, the beauty of a refined restaurant dish was still preserved. Mei Mei’s rice porridge, one of the least appealing names a Westerner can imagine, is a hot, hearty soup with topped with crispy shallots, ginger, spiced peanuts, and tender beef drenched in a dark, flavorful sauce. The mild porridge with the textures and intense taste of these toppings is a balanced plate I’d recommend to even a picky eater. We devoured pumpkin fritters, fried rice, fatty pieces of pork, and a final hurrah of green tea and honey cake.
I spoke with Mei about her family run restaurant and their dedication to Bakes for Breast Cancer. As she puts it, they serve “creative Chinese-American cuisine sourced locally, made with love”. Three siblings: Irene, Margaret (Mei), and Andrew, run the restaurant. They became involved with Bakes for Breast Cancer two years ago because their father worked at Dana-Farber and the family has a strong commitment to cancer research.
Mei Mei keeps busy with the restaurant, their food truck, and catering—and their food truck roots are serving them well. The restaurant received accolades from well-known dining guide Zagat, as well as the James Beard Foundation (Max and Irene were semi-finalists for the James Beard award at the time we spoke). Their chefs Max Hull and Irene Li are finalists for the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award. Jacqueline Dole, Mei Mei’s pastry chef, was a Zagat 30 under 30 in Boston for her inventive sweets. Chocolate éclair with salumi pastry crème and duck skin sprinkles. “It’s surprising, her integration of meat into pastry” Mei comments excitedly. Chef Dole also makes stellar miso sugar cookies.
Hungry readers can find the food truck at meimeiboston.com or @meimeiboston on Twitter or Instagram or check out the restaurant at 506 Park Drive in Boston.
Even months later, the bites of that rice porridge are still vivid. I’ll be heading to Belvidere Street today to see what new dish I can experience: maybe the Double Awesome or some strawberries and cream with black sesame shortbread bits.