Mother's Day got off to a great start this year. First, I was treated to a homemade pancake breakfast courtesy of Husband, which included his famous blueberry pancakes, bacon, and fresh fruit. The kids presented me with some sweet handmade cards (I find it interesting that my youngest still draws me with short cropped hair even though it's been down to my shoulders for a while now). We spent most of the day at the park kicking a ball around, and then we decided to go out to dinner at Mulan, the new Taiwanese restaurant that opened in Waltham where the old Beijing Star used to be. It's the second outpost of the original Cambridge location, which had received favorable reviews from Husband and his lunchtime companions.
Things weren't looking too good at first, as we stood on Main St. outside Mulan. The line was long, which always makes Husband antsy, and the kids were requesting things that weren't on the menu. It was starting to look like mutiny. In this case, mutiny would take the form of dinner at the Ninety Nine Restaurant instead. Now, don't get me wrong, I'll take the Kids Eat Free special at the Ninety Nine once in a while when the Red Sox win, but not on Mother's Day. I refuse. So I scolded everyone into submission, knowing that it meant one more strike against a potentially good meal.
But what actually happened is that we got seated within the 20-minute window they predicted. I've never seen anyone so competently manage a crowd as the woman running the hostess station. Friendly is not the word I'd use to describe her demeanor, nor entirely rude, but she got the job done efficiently. When she barked her orders, everyone listened, and that place moved like clockwork.
We got a big table right in the middle of the room, where the kids proceeded to devour the salted peanuts and pickled vegetables set in the center of the table. They sampled the tea, and liked it. Because we ordered our food while we were still waiting outside, the dishes began arriving 5 minutes after we sat down, which meant the kids had no chance to even think about whining. The boys are somewhat adventurous eaters at home (not necessarily by choice), but we haven't challenged them too much when it comes to restaurants. We've gone to a few Chinese or Thai places over the years, but mostly we opt for the typical kid-friendly fare, like pizza at Flatbread or a burger at the Warren Tavern after the 10YO's soccer win in Charlestown. Our thinking boils down to this: When we go out to eat, we don't want a fight. Also: If we're going someplace exotic, let's not bring the kids! On the other hand, they're old enough to try new experiences, and the older one actually seems to enjoy it.
The garlicky green beans arrived first. There were no utensils in sight, so the kids grabbed the chopsticks and started practicing. I feared it would devolve into angry frustration and possible tears, but they always managed to get the food into their mouths somehow. The older one got the mechanics down pretty quickly despite the awkward logistics of a left-hander trying to teach a right-hander how to do anything. The 7YO developed his own style where he clutched the chopsticks down by the tips and kind of wedged the food in between them. It worked just fine. It helped that they absolutely loved the green beans.
Next, in quick succession, came the eggplant with basil, scallion pancakes, chicken wings, crispy salt and pepper pork chops, crab rangoon, and big bowl of noodle soup for the 10YO. (Yes, we ordered way too much, but it was Mother's Day, damnit!) The kids absolutely devoured the chicken wings and pork chops. The scallion pancakes and crab rangoon weren't their favorites. No problem. More for Husband and me. But, aside from the green beans, it was the eggplant with basil and chilies that absolutely blew my mind. I have GOT to try to make this at home. They used the miniature fairy tale eggplants we get in our CSA and it was absolutely fantastic. Even the kids said it was "okay" (the kids have never liked eggplant).
Everyone had a great time, the prices were good, and the kids enjoyed reading their fortunes. Best of all: we had leftovers enough for a whole other meal the next night so I didn't have to cook. Both kids even asked for chopsticks!
Mulan, 835 Main St., Waltham and 228 Broadway, Cambridge (Kendall Square), MA