Boston’s Taiwanese food scene has grown, compared to 10 years ago. For almost two years, those hankering for a taste of home have gone to Dolphin Bay in Allston. This hole in the wall has a cheery nautical theme with a boat for the counter and dolphin wall murals. Turns out, executive chef-owner Shiu Chin Chang strongly influenced the décor with her love of dolphins. This Dolphin Bay has another location in Southern California.
Known for specialty drinks, I tried Dolphin Bay’s jasmine green tea with sea salt foam. The fragrant jasmine green tea reminded me of drinks I enjoyed in Taiwan, topped with housemade sea salt foam. The delicious foam was not salty and was decorated with a green tea powder dolphin, balancing the foamy sweetness and green tea bitterness.
Dolphin Bay boasts an extensive menu of drinks, appetizers and entrees. My favorite and house specialty was the popcorn chicken ($5.50). These bite-size bits of dark meat were coated with crunchy breading and then seasoned with the Japanese spice mix shichimi togarashi for a flavorful touch. We ordered it mildly spicy, while spice lovers can order it hot.
The sausage fried rice ($11.75) had lovely bits of delicious Chinese sausage, egg and onion. It was an excellent and filling rendition of fried rice, without the dark soy sauce of its Chinese American counterpart.
We shared oyster pancake ($7.25), a Taiwanese street food mainstay. For the uninitiated, this slightly gooey, transparent pancake with egg and vegetables highlights oysters. Our pancake had a handful of small oysters and the sauce did not lend much flavor.
Next came a huge bowl of beef shank and tendon beef noodle soup ($9.75). This is a well-loved Taiwanese staple, with renditions from red-roast braised beef to clear broth soups similar to pho. Dolphin Bay has a red-roast broth that lacked depth in flavor, but had a generous amount of noodles and beef. The silky tendon was meltingly tender, but there was not enough of it.
Dolphin Bay offers three types of steamed buns or gua bao: pork belly, fried chicken and beef ($8). We shared the chicken gua bao, featuring fried chicken with cabbage and spicy aioli in two steamed buns. The chicken was a larger version of the popcorn chicken, sans the Japanese seasoning. Alas, I hungered for simple pork buns and should have ordered the traditional pork belly.
The crispy pork chop rice ($9.75) is available grilled as well. The pork was generously portioned and crackly crisp, but lacked the five spice powder I so love in this dish. I missed the usual accompaniments of pickled vegetables and tea eggs as well. The pork meat sauce was minimal. Dolphin Bay’s rice entrees include a scoop of ground pork, assorted vegetables and the daily special. Our sides of napa cabbage and green beans were tasty, but lacked the sourness of pickles to cut the pork chop’s grease.
Service was attentive and efficient throughout the meal. I had high expectations from hearing Taiwanese expats rave about the home cooked flavors, but my meal had more misses than home runs. Dolphin Bay nails tea drinks and popcorn chicken, with generous portions for sharing.
72 Brighton Avenue
Allston, MA 02134
This post is also available in: Chinese