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Two-and-a-Half Stars for Mei Mei and More

Photo: Mei Mei/Meg Jones Wall

The newly opened Mei Mei, the brick-and-mortar version of popular food truck Mei Mei Street Kitchen, picked up a very pleasant two-and-a-half star review from Devra First in the Globe this week. Lunch items, which are similar to what the truck offers, are "very appealing, savory and filling," but the "imagination" really comes out at dinner, when "the food is playful, clever, well composed. Dishes begin with traditional Chinese flavors and preparations, then break out in flash mobs energized by contemporary food culture." Only a few things fall short — there are the pork dumplings, which are "too heavy, and the skins lack snap," and fruit sauces that "can be too sweet." First ends with disappointment that the state cap on liquor licenses means that Mei Mei can't serve alcohol for now, because "No one deserves [a license] more than this team of young entrepreneurs working to build a small, independent business in the city." [BG]

For Boston Magazine, Corby Kummer gives a frustratingly divided review on Beacon Hill Bistro, heaping praise on executive chef Josh Lewin but lamenting the kitchen that is apparently failing him. To set the stage, he illustrates that the clientele "will put up with a lot in the way of mediocre service and food in exchange for a place where they feel comfortable and among their own." The Beacon Hill address is "haute-WASP central, with ladies in Mummy's old mink and smiling blond families who could pose in ads for J. McLaughlin and North River Outfitter." While Lewin is a "talent who deserves higher local visibility," execution is mixed, with "a lot of good dishes, including ones that got spectacularly better on repeat visits—except when they got spectacularly worse," finds Kummer. "It's as if someone is trying to sabotage a well-meaning kitchen." Despite issues in the front and back of the house, it's clear that is a "genuine talent to watch," and "he deserves to be seen at his best." [BM]

Also for Boston Magazine, Richard Chudy continues his "Man Food" column by trying out the porchetta sandwich at the Pennypacker's brick-and-mortar location in Magoun Square. He finds that it is "love at first bite" and "should be required eating material for anyone with even the vaguest interest in anything porky." The sandwich is "rich and very pronounced" but also "well balanced," and those who partake of it could probably use a nap afterwards. [BM]

For the Globe's "Cheap Eats" section, James Reed slams El Centro Dos, the Brookline Village sibling to a South End restaurant that Reed generally enjoys. From the server, "a stone-faced young woman who is as frosty as the snow drifting outside," to the omission of numerous menu items, Reed's "initial impression" was "humdrum." Future visits helped a little bit, at least, with the second trip capturing "more of the original location's spark." There's a "terrific" sopa de tortilla, "the epitome of Mexican comfort food," and the "nearly perfected" Oaxaqueñas, "an underappreciated staple of Mexican cuisine that's similar to enchiladas." But from a dry tres leches to a weak beverage program, the bottom line is mediocrity. [BG]

In line with Devra First's recent review praising the hospitality at Fairsted Kitchen, MC Slim JB strikes the same tone in his review for The Improper Bostonian. He finds the new Brookline restaurant likely to be "destined" to be able to "combine an exceptional focus on hospitality with terrific food," resulting in "a long-running smash." The highlights are plenty, from the bar program, which takes "cocktails, wine and beer equally seriously," to dishes like the pig-head lettuce wrap, "offal in Franco-Vietnamese drag for beginners." Overall, it's "serious, inventive food in a casual, convivial—you might even say loving—package." [TIB]

Mei Mei (Boston)

506 Park Dr., Boston, MA 02215 (857) 250-4959 Visit Website

Fairsted Kitchen

Beacon St, Brookline, MA (617) 396-8752

Beacon Hill Bistro

25 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114 617-723-1133 Visit Website