Finding good, quality Chinese food is sometimes difficult when heading into Chinatown is not an option. Often you find meals that are just swimming in grease, un flavorful, and all around unappetizing. So when you find a spot that serves above average Chinese food- its a real treat.
Saturday evening we were looking for a easy, convenient spot for dinner in the Brookline area. I had a craving for something spicy, but my dining companion just wasn't in the mood for Thai-my original suggestion. Then we remembered having a really delicious meal years ago at a Chinese restaurant inside the Chestnut Hill Mall. A quick look on line brought us to Bernard's. Though we couldn't find their website, we did find their menu on menupages.com (every helpful for compiling all of the menus in the greater Boston area) and thought it all sounded great. Reservation made, we were excited to re-visit.
The restaurant was packed when we arrived, and we were very grateful that we had made reservations. Once seated, we looked again at the menu-though we had done some homework before arriving and had already picked out a few interesting sounding items. We decided to start with their Pan Seared Spinach Vegetarian Ravioli. They arrived with the traditional accompaniments for Peking Ravioli, that spicy mustard that I am slightly obsessed with, and a nice soy sauce. I had been anticipating that the raviolis would be similar to the general Peking Raviolis I am used to but with a spinach/veggie filling in place of the usual pork. I was very mistaken. When they arrived, the raviolis themselves were made from a spinach dough, and stuffed with a cabbage based filling. The filling unfortunately had the exact same flavors that are found in Spring Rolls, which are not my favorite. They were not bad, by any means, but I had definitely been hoping for a different type of filling. Either way, the order included 8 small raviolis, and they were a perfect starter.
We chose Shrimp with Avocado in a Plum Sake sauce as one of our entrees for sharing, and Sauteed Beef with a Mandarin BBQ sauce as our second. Both were served with a helping of white rice. The shrimp were really fantastic. Over sized shrimp served with lots of avocado chunks, tomato wedges and pieces of onion, all topped with a sweet plum sauce-made for a delicious combination. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, and really nicely offset by the creamy avocado. Tomatoes added some acid to a dish that was other wise rather sweet, and the raw onion provided great contrast of textures. I didn't detect a lot of sake in the sauce, and would have liked to have sensed a bit more, but otherwise I thought that this was more than a delicious dish.
We had chosen the Beef with Mandarin BBQ sauce as the menu had noted that it was a spicy dish, and I was hoping for it to satisfy my earlier craving. The meat was nice and tender, well cooked, and the sauce was tasty -perfectly complimenting that great "meaty" taste of the steak, but it wasn't at all spicy. Perhaps I should have requested extra spicy, or perhaps just have inquired to the level, but I was disappointed. However, the taste of the dish was very good, and the fried noodles (?) that were served underneath the beef were very fun as well.
At the end of the meal we were treated to some nice pineapple chunks and the customary fortune cookies. As an aside- what is the deal with Fortune Cookies lately? I remember years ago they told your future "beware of falling rocks", "you will have a good financial year" etc-now they are just words of wisdom which really isn't what I'm looking for. So I have to wonder- in this law suit happy society we live in- did the Fortune Cookie manufacturers have to stop predicting the future??
But I digress....the service at Bernard's, is friendly and efficient, giving off the feeling that they know their customer base well, and aim to keep them happy.
Bernard's is a great alternative in the Chestnut Hill area to heading in to Chinatown. While it may not be as authentic as many of those restaurants are, it delivers high quality, flavorful and inventive dishes.