Friday, May 7, 2010

Cambridge Cheap Eats: Japanese Food at Porter Square's Porter Exchange Mall

My brother Charlie always takes us to these small inexpensive places with terrific food. Today we went to two Japanese places in Cambridge's Porter Square. In the Porter Exchange Mall at 1815 Massachusetts Avenue, you'll find a tempting range of Japanese food. From sushi to comfort food and pastries to tea shakes and bubble tea, you can satisfy almost any craving for Japanese food on a budget.

Cafe Mami: Japanese Bistro
1815 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02140 Lunch 11:45 am - 3:45 pm
(617) 547-9130 Dinner 5 pm - 8:45 pm
Cash only. Lunch Specials run until 2 pm Closed on Tuesdays

Seating is limited (8 small tables and a lunch counter) and Cafe Mami is always busy. Their $5 lunch specials are great value, but even their regular priced dishes are very good value. Salad, miso soup, unlimited rice, and authentic Japanese comfort food for prices that range from $5 to $8.99. Special recommendations include: Chili Tomato Hamburg Set (Ground marinated beef steak in Mami's spicy chili tomato sauce) for $8.99, Wafu Hamburg Set (Ground marinated beef steak with homemade ginger sauce and Ponzu sauce) for $8.99, Rock n' Chicken Set (deep fried marinated chicken cooked in Mami's special spicy sauce) for $8.99, Cutlet set (Deep fried breaded chicken or pork cutlet with Tonkatsu sauce) for $8.99, Cutlet Curry (Japanese style chicken with beef broth curry made from scratch) for $8.99, Yaki Beef Tofu Set (thinly sliced beef panfried with fresh onions, tofu, beansprouts in Mami's special spicy sauce) for $8.99, Ninniku Chicken Set (tender chicken panfried with garlic and fresh lemon then simmered in Mami's homemade ginger sauce) for $8.99 and the various donburi selections ($6-$7). If you make it there in time for the $5 lunch specials, I recommend the Gyu Don (Beef bowl with thin juicy slices of beef simmered in onions with Mami's special sauce) or the Yaki Don (Spicy Sliced Beef Bowl, similar to the Gyu Don but spicier and with bean sprouts and onions) or the Oyako Don (Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl with tender slices of chicken and egg cooked with onions in Mami's sweetened soy sauce). For a special treat, have the enormous green tea milkshake ($3.50), order it to go because if you're having food - you might not be able to finish off the entire shake in one sitting!

Japonaise Bakery & Cafe
1020 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA 02446 (617) 566-7730
1815 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140 (617) 547-5331
1032 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215 (617) 738-7200

"Japonaise Bakery...has the best Japanese donut, which is filled with mung bean, no, sorry, the sweet azuki bean with cream: best dessert ever." - Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger restaurant & star of the Emmy nominated public tv series Simply Ming

If you're in the mood for a Japanese pastry 0r homemade ice cream or frozen yogurt, Japonaise Bakery & Cafe is less than a 2 minute walk away. In the same Porter Exchange Mall, you'll find light, tasty, and unforgettable chocolate horns. The chocolate horns are sweet bread filled with chocolate custard cream and dipped in Belgian chocolate. For something a little different, try the Azuki Cream which is a croissant baked with red sweet bean (azuki) filled with light sweet cream and dusted with powdered sugar. Whenever we drop by, we always take home a chocolate horn and an azuki cream for later - and we invariably wish that we'd bought more.

Japonaise's African Queen cake won Best of Boston's award for light chocolate cake.

If you want frozen yogurt, choose from vanilla, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, mango, kiwi, pineapple, nectarine, red bean or banana flavors. Ice cream comes in green tea, red bean, coconut, ginger, and vanilla.

How to get to Porter Exchange Mall by public transportation?

Using the Red Line of the T - get off at Porter Square stop. Take a left on Mass Ave after exiting the station. Walk one block down and Porter Exchange Mall will be on your left.

Check out for point to point directions.

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