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"More like soft drinks than tea," I told her, shaking a burgundy napkin into my lap. "But not carbonated. The bubbles are sort of like squishy, chewy balls. Like Gummi Bears." (I didn't dare mention the word tapioca the starchy pearls used to make those chewy orbs because that would have ended the discussion immediately.) The exotic flavors were intriguing enough that Alexandra and her 16-year-old sister agreed to try the beverages, especially after I promised that they wouldn't taste like, you know, tea. Alexandra chose strawberry; her sister decided on passion fruit.
And Duck brought some appetizers for us to share. The teens are notoriously fussy eaters (one refuses to touch vegetables), so obviously the crispy fried eggplant and Vietnamese spring rolls were out. The kids gave high marks to the crab rangoon and crispy fried tubes stuffed with chopped shrimp, drenching them with a sweet sauce that looked and tasted like melted orange marmalade. Jeanne and I preferred the steamed pork-and-chive dumplings, a more grown-up starter.
The menu at this Bo Lings is slimmer Ng has reduced the number of offerings and added a few different cultural choices, such as pad Thai, Singapore curry noodles and Malaysian-inspired laksa lemak.
Jeanne couldn't be persuaded to sample one of those and stuck with a more familiar favorite, moo shu pork, served with paper-thin pancakes and plum sauce. I rarely order the dish anymore, but the Ngs' new kitchen did a fabulous job with it. Alexandra and Roxanne shocked me by ordering two of the more recent additions to this menu. Roxanne's Szechwan-peppercorn chicken was so luscious that she and I almost fought over the slices of white breast meat slathered in a fiery mahogany sauce made with Chinese peppercorns, garlic and fermented bean paste. Alexandra's honey-and-walnut chicken, meanwhile, was a plate piled with golden puffs of batter-fried chicken pieces lacquered with a shiny honey-mayonnaise glaze.
The mayo seemed an odd ingredient, but Richard Ng assures me that it's become a beloved delicacy among Asian diners. "The Japanese really love it," he says. "And in our dish, it adds a slightly sour note to the sweet honey."
It was tasty, just too sweet for me. (For a sugar-loving 14-year-old, it was nirvana.) I was much more thrilled with my own half-order of Beijing roasted duck: a square china plate heaping with juicy, bite-sized pieces of duck meat covered with gorgeously greasy, crispy bits of amber skin. It was a truly decadent (and fattening) choice, but I greedily pressed the meat and duck skin, along with slivers of chilled cucumber and feathery scallions, into yeasty steamed buns for one of the most succulent sandwiches ever.
We were too stuffed to consider dessert, though Bo Lings is now offering such Western selections as cheesecake, "chocolate lava cake" and, of course, tiramisu.
I remembered the tiramisu when I returned a couple of nights later with Patrick, who agreed that we wouldn't eat too much in order to save room for the sweet. We shared the vegetable lettuce wraps (which tasted just like the P.F. Chang's version) and the sensational Szechwan dumplings. We then skipped the soup and moved eagerly to the entrées. I wish that a more potent "light ginger sauce" had coated the shrimp, pillowy scallops and chicken on the House Special Sizzling Rice. Alas, the sauce wasn't just light it was flavorless.