A special evening at the ballet can only be enhanced with dinner beforehand. But where can one dine within a convenient walk to the Opera House by 7:30 p.m. show time? Shōjō is a great option, and is located right in Chinatown, a few blocks (8-minute leisurely walk, in fact) from the Opera House, where Boston Ballet’s “All Kylian” is currently running performances through March 17.
Shōjō is located at 9A Tyler St. in Boston, underneath and to the left of China Pearl, where Shōjō owner Brian Moy has worked for 20 years. This is a casual dining spot; in fact it’s more nightclub than restaurant scene, and offers a great selection of Asian-fusion dishes made with local, fresh ingredients. For those who like to watch vintage Kung Fu flicks, a seat at the bar is where you’ll get the best big-screen view. Shōjō has late night hours seven days a week and will soon offer weekend brunches.
We begin with a few cocktails: Singapore Sling with vodka instead of gin, served in a slender, tall glass with a plastic sword pick of cherries soaking inside. I opt for a Gin Gin Mule, with the house ginger beer and citrus-infused gin and lemon. You can taste the ginger without feeling you’ve gone overboard on the spice. Next time I visit, I’ll be sure to try out the sake. Had I known this is Shōjō’s spotlight drink, I would have ordered a glass from their wide selection of sakes.
As we sip and search the perimeter, we can’t help but notice the painted murals throughout – mostly of a monkey seemingly on an adventure. This mythological monkey is the namesake of the restaurant and as you read the mural from left to right, it becomes apparent that the creature is on a search for the river of sake. Ready to eat many tasty bites, I begin with a new item on the menu (available through April) – Shōjō’s play on pork chops and applesauce --- bacon wrapped, cured pork tenderloin ($18) I highly recommend. Flavorful, tender and served with Asian gnocchi (made from Asian rice cakes) topped with Kung Pao sauce and toasted peanuts.
If you enjoy suckling pig, you’re in luck. A small plate of Suckling Pig Bao ($8) offers two rolled rice patties stuffed with house made kimchi (fermented, pickled cabbage cream sauce) and smoked barbeque sauce and inside, the crispy, crackly pig skin with fat and meat. If you like suckling pig…
I prefer the melt-in-your-mouth braised short ribs over taro mash soaked in star anise sauce with a dollop of Chinese spinach ($17), as well as the duck fat fries dipped in sriracha aioli that gives a little spicy kick in its finish. Coconut soup topped with foam should be called mushroom/coconut soup, as the smoky flavor of mushroom dominates. Another good entrée is the kimchi butter poached lobster sauce in the Japanese pumpkin agnolotti, an interesting blend of flavors ($16). And try the XO condiment of Hong Kong, which is a crunchy blend of Virginia ham, dried scallops, dried shrimp and shells and chili flakes/oil. Very interesting flavors.
Dessert of chocolate sesame balls ($5) is served in a silver pail, hot out of the fry-o-later and made in the traditional version with chewy rice coated in sesame seeds, but inside, instead of red beans, you get a chocolate filling. Sort of like a beignet, but not.
The intent of the dishes, says owner Brian Moy, is to offer Asian dishes “recognizable, but not the same version.” The same could be said for the Boston Ballet performance of “All Kylian,” which is where we headed after Shōjō.
Three powerful works by world-renowned contemporary choreographer, Jiří Kylián, set the stage for Boston Ballet’s spring opening. The first, “Wings of Wax,” was first premiered in 1997 at the Nederlands Dans Theater. It features an enormous tree suspended from the stage’s ceiling – upside down with roots and bare branches showing. A stage light encircles the scene as if a UFO, and dancers clad in black leotards seem to fly in and out of existence, with pliable bodies that move in synch as a troupe.
If the first act was haunting, then words cannot describe “Tar and Feathers,” which begins in a literal roar from a ballerina that looks anything but ferocious. What is most interesting in this act is the piano – on 10-foot stilts right on stage, played by Japanese pianist Tomoko Mukaiyama. The next most interesting aspect is the voice heard that recites Samuel Beckett’s poem, “What is the Word.” More sharp, evocative moves are performed in response to a large structure of clear plastic to the right of the stage that might be Superman’s kryptonite, but when the act is concluded, a ballerina exits while stepping on bubble wrap. You can help but chuckle through this act of slithering, gyrating and twitching, an alternative to the contemplation of having a haunting nightmare.
Finally, “Symphony of Psalms” concludes the show, with dancers in flowing neutral-toned skirts and a backdrop of Persian tapestries that almost steal the scene if not for the 58 vocalists of new World Chorale. The music is, again, haunting, with the sound of what seems to be a church pipe organ and/or chamber music.
Boston Ballet is the first-ever American company to present these ballets. Performances run through March 17 at The Boston Opera House.