'Confucius was here (and thought our food rocked)." "He who laughs at himself never runs out of material." "Dragons make great pets . . . in bed." The mirrored walls at Myers+Chang are decorated in handwritten slogans that sound like a fortune cookie on acid. The hot-pink outline of a dragon unfurls across the windows. The restaurant has its own MySpace page; Bowie's "China Girl" cues up when you load it, and it informs you that Myers+Chang is a 99-year-old single Asian Virgo with the body type "More to love!" No one is who he says he is on the Internet, kids.
But the brainchild of affianced restaurateurs Christopher Myers (Radius, Great Bay, Via Matta) and Joanne Chang (Flour) is lovable, a dim sum diner serving up chopsocky style with a big wink. The music is loud and highly shuffled (Sam Cooke! The Police!), the waiters are interactive, and the food - Asian dishes, mostly Chinese, in smallish portions perfect for sharing - is high in flavor and low in price. (Theoretically, at least. The average cost of a dish is about $9, but it takes restraint to keep from ordering more, and they start to add up.)
Chef Alison Hearn, formerly of B&G Oysters and Ten Tables, has graduated to two woks, which you can watch being manned from a pink molded-plastic barstool before an open kitchen at the back of the room. The menu is divided into snacks, dumplings, salads/wraps, soups/noodles/rice, and wok/grill/braise. Dishes come to your table in the order in which they're ready. Your meal is thus also highly shuffled - your nirvana chicken may arrive before your red curry squash soup, with a dish of dumplings coming at the end, just when you've forgotten you ordered them and are feeling too full to eat another bite. To drink, there's sake, wine, and beer - including one called Butternuts Porkslap Pale Ale - plus red and white sake sangrias. (Though the white mostly tastes like juice; it would be a great brunch cocktail.) House-made sodas come in flavors such as aloe-yuzu and lychee-vanilla. For dessert: complimentary mini macaroons and your check folded into the slot on the back of a cartoonish gold piggy bank.
That nirvana chicken probably won't catapult you into the state for which it's named - it's incredibly tender but a bit bland, tasting mostly of chicken and soy sauce, "something that would be good to eat after a long workout," one diner observes. Anything but bland, however, is the tiger's tears, a salad of grilled steak mixed with Thai basil, slices of fresh chilies, and a taste-bud-rousing dressing of fish sauce and lime. When one attains nirvana, cravings and desire are said to cease. Your desire for the tiger's tears may not cease, though. It's addictive; don't be surprised if you crave it again the next day.
Also craveable is Esti's hot and sour, a soup named for Myers's best friend and business partner Esti Parsons. The broth is peppery, gingery, quite sour, and well balanced, just as hot and sour soup should be. It's also the consistency of soup, not pudding. Stick your spoon in and it falls right over - look, Ma, no cornstarch.
All of the soups at Myers+Chang, which opened in September, are excellent. Red curry squash soup, a newer addition to the menu, is thick and rich. Its monochromatic orange belies the rainbow of flavors that hit your tongue with the first spoonful: autumnal squash, fragrant lemongrass, creamy coconut, and a zing of chili. A few scallops dredged in toasted rice powder, then fried, also appear in the bowl. They offer textural contrast, but the soup would still shine without them. Pho is flavorful simplicity: beefy, slightly spicy stock; tender shreds of meat; and a hank of thin, mild noodles to slurp up.
It's a kinder treatment of beef and noodles than the beef and broccoli chow fun, which is a disappointment. There's too much beef and not enough noodles, the pieces of stalky Chinese broccoli are sometimes fibrous, and the whole thing is far too greasy.
Dumplings, too, are sometimes greasy; spicy silky tofu isn't particularly silky. But disappointments here are few. Usually when I put on my pompous waiter hat to compile the "may we suggest" items for each review, the choices are clear. There was that standout appetizer, those perfect entrees - done. At Myers+Chang, much of the menu is worth mentioning. It would be quicker work to list the items we may not suggest. How could I leave out the sticky, charred, tea-smoked spare ribs? They're like meat candy. And the braised pork-belly buns, slightly sweet and enticingly spongy? What about the smoky clams in black bean sauce and the refreshingly cool Thai ginger chicken salad? And then there's the piece de resistance, the whole lobster, still in its shell but hacked into manageable pieces and drizzled with coconut curry. The flesh is tender, and there's sticky rice to mop up the sauce; it's messy, but it makes your feast into a banquet.
The dishes here aren't formal, they're not always authentic ("we took various Asian styles as our starting-off point, and we're trying to apply our own whatchamacallit to it," Myers says), they're just the kind of thing you want when you're out to enjoy a casual night with friends. Myers+Chang knows how to have fun. That's all well and good, but fun restaurants aren't always restaurants you want to eat at, and vice versa. Myers+Chang is both. It makes great food . . . in bed.