Overview: Opened in 2011 by Christopher Lin and his father Joseph, Seven Star Street Bistro offers a fresh take on Chinese cuisine with local ingredients and several dishes made in house. The bistro was inspired by Seven Star Mandarin House, which was successfully run by Joseph in Newton Center for more than two decades, before it closed in the late-1990s. The father and son team have taken a tiny space on the Roslindale side of Belgrade Avenue, given it a facelift, and now operate an American-Chinese restaurant that has received rave online reviews and garnered its own story in the Boston Globe in January 2012. What it lacks in space and frills, Seven Star compensates in personality and quality food.
Atmosphere: The “Asian street bistro” sign invoked intrigue every time I drove by the unassuming establishment. The place isn’t quite what you would expect, unless what you’re anticipating is a tiny, minimalist, and no-nonsense -- yet bright, clean, and friendly -- eatery. Most of its business is take out, but the sit-down experience is one to be had, if only once. The space consists of a counter, a long table seating about eight, a chalk board, flat screen television, and out-of-sight kitchen which exudes culinary noises and steam. Behind the counter are customized, stylistic t-shirts, boasting the red and white Seven Star logo (for sale, $20). Keep in mind before going: there is no public restroom.
Drinks: All soft drinks, Seven Star offers traditional American soda (Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, $1), all-natural Izze soda (clementine, blackberry, grapefruit, $2.50), Sweet Leaf organic iced tea (original, citrus, raspberry, $2), and bottled water (still, sparkling, $1.50).
Appetizers: Small bites (“xiao chi”) include a variety of both meaty and vegetarian options, the latter indicated with a “V” on the menu’s margin. Several meat dishes can be substituted with tofu, which Seven Star happily accommodates. Among the xiao chi options are a hearty portion of peking ravioli (dumplings with ginger sauce, $6), steamed wontons (with sweet soy shallot sauce, $6), and scallion pancakes (with ginger sauce, $6; or rolled with sliced beef and hoisen sauce, $8).
Entrées: Seven Star divides its entrées into two categories: rice and noodles, and wok dishes. More than half of the dishes are vegetarian or veggie substitute-friendly. Lo Mein noodles ($8), pan fried flat noodles ($8), and fried rice are served with the option of meat, shrimp, or tofu. Steamed rice options include white ($1/$3), brown ($2/$4), and black forbidden ($2/$4). Wok meals include five flavored chicken (garlic, sesame, anise, ginger, and Thai basil, $10), Hunan sesame beef ($10), Shanghai shredded pork (with ginger, $9), and crispy shrimp and scallops (with ginger, $13), all of which are available with tofu.
Service: Since Seven Star is primarily a take-out joint with counter service, servers are practically nonexistent. However, over the phone and in person, the staff that I encountered was friendly and knowledgeable. The woman behind the counter (who is the owner’s fiancée, according to fellow patrons) explained that “Asian street food” is authentic cuisine made of fresh, primarily local ingredients and made to order. The attitude at Seven Star is down-to-earth yet pleasant and uplifting.
Chef owners: Christopher and Joseph Lin
Location: 153 Belgrade Avenue (between Walworth and Penfield Streets), Roslindale
Contact: (617) 325-8686, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://sevenstarstreetbistro.com/
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday: 5-10PM; Sunday: 5-9PM; Closed Monday and Tuesday