Name: Lena Chen
Occupation: Student/Blogger/Freelance Writer
Neighborhood: Harvard Square
MenuPages: What’s your favorite Boston restaurant?
Lena: Blue Fin in Porter Square, which serves up fresh and affordable sushi (without drinks, it’s a challenge to go over $25/person). My dad owns three sushi restaurants in San Francisco and I’ve been eating it for years. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that bargain sushi can be hit-or-miss, but overpriced sushi is almost always all hype and no bite. I’m picky about the quality of my fish (dining hall California rolls don’t make the cut) and I can tell you that my under-$20 meals at Blue Fin trump the $100+ dates at Uni any night. (And for the record, that is a ridiculous sum to spend on a first date!)
MP: Agreed. What is your favorite meal in the city?
Lena: The Middle Eastern coffeehouse Cafe Algiers serves a merguesa (spiced lamb sausage) sandwich with hummus on flat bread. It’s very savory and well-seasoned. But when I’m looking for comfort food, I go to Peach Farm in Chinatown. While moving me into Harvard, my mother spent freshman week scouring Boston’s Chinese restaurants and determined that Peach Farm was the most authentic Cantonese in the city. I still call her while ordering to translate to waiters my favorite dishes.
MP: As its title implies, a lot of your blog, Sex and the Ivy, is about dating and sex. What are your favorite date restaurants?
Lena: In Cambridge, Temple Bar’s atmosphere is romantic and upscale without being pretentious, and all its dishes are equally impressive. It’s hard to find a place that does everything well, but the bar as great as its kitchen. When you really want to prolong your time with someone, a superb dessert and drink menu is key and this place doesn’t disappoint with after-dinner offerings.
MP: You’re from the West Coast originally. Have you found any sushi/burrito places in Boston that come close to living up to the ones back home?
Lena: I don’t even attempt to look for authentic Mexican here. I’ve been over the border quite a few times and there’s just nothing beyond the Southwest that can compare what Mexican food tastes like in Mexico! Sushi, on the other hand, can be fantastic in Boston. My favorite restaurant, besides the aforementioned Blue Fin, is Fugakyu in Brookline. I also have a weekly dinner date with a girlfriend at Cafe Sushi in Cambridge which marks down nigiri to $1/piece on Sundays. What can I say – I like it raw!
MP: Where are your favorite places to grab coffee?
Lena: I don’t drink coffee (we stick to smoothies in So Cal) but Cafe Pamplona in Harvard Square is a landmark and has a great signature drink called Coffee Pamplona which is a shot of espresso with sweet condensed milk. For an uncaffeinated pick-me-up, LA Burdick is where to go for the richest, chocolateiest hot chocolate you’ll ever taste.
MP: What do you think is the best-kept dining secret in Boston?
Lena: BerryLine is a frozen yogurt shop in Harvard Square that just opened this fall and has become a campus sensation. It’s not typical frozen yogurt in that it has live cultures and actually tastes like yogurt instead of ice cream. They also use fresh, locally grown fruits and berries, unlike the syrupy stuff typical of ice cream toppings. The owners, who got their Ph.Ds at UCLA, were inspired by the local Pinkberry craze in Los Angeles and decided to bring the concept to the East. This place hasn’t been discovered by too many Bostonians yet but it’s going to be huge.
Sex and the Ivy [Official Site]
[Photo: Lena Chen]