About a year ago I was standing inside 506 Park Drive trying not to get plaster dust on my clothes while Margaret, Irene and Andy described the restaurant they were going to open. I knew the truck well and loved it, but could they really make it serving sit-down dinner with $15-20 entrees, here, on a side street in Audubon Circle next to an empty storefront and across the street from some BU dorms? Well, I'm not privy to the financials, but my stomach says yes.
I dropped by on a Saturday night with Professor M and the place was just filling up. By the time we left, there was a handful of people waiting to be seated. The professor had the roasted mushrooms (caramelized parsnip, house malt vinegar, toasted almonds, arugula, herbs) and I had the Biang Biang Cacio e Pepe (hand pulled noodles, chili oil, green garlic, black and sichuan peppercorns, Consider Bardwell Manchester (cheese), house guanciale, and miner's lettuce), pictured below.
This dish brings together all that's great about Mei Mei: playful creativity that partially hides some serious depth of knowledge of global food, local ingredients, and excellent execution. Biang Biang noodles (such as those featured at Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe) are a classic in Chinese cooking, and Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper pasta) is a pillar of Roman cooking as one might find at Cinquecento. Mei Mei casually fuses them and does it with house guanciale (that's pig jowl, folks), local cheese and miner's lettuce. It all seems totally natural and would be entirely at home on a white table cloth.
The noodles were, as Biang Biang should be, chewy, with lots of peppery flavor working nicely with the cheese. The guanciale was shaved like parmesan, almost transparent and melty like lardo, and the miner's lettuce (see what wonders you get when you buy locally?) added a bright note and looked a bit like the lily pads on the chalkboard mural on the wall.
I'm still bummed out by the lack of liquor license and the not entirely convenient location, but the food and the friendly service make it an experience I'll seek out again.