For your dining, dancing pleasure By KATHLEEN McKENNA For The Boston Globe
On a recent Saturday night at the height of the holiday-party season, my husband and I were mystified to find we had nothing to do. So, we assembled a group of similarly available friends and created a party of our own.
The restaurant we chose dubs itself the "party capital" of Abington, and after a fun-filled evening of abundant and memorable food, drinks, and music, we agreed that the ambitious title fits.
It's called Great Chow 18 (because it's on Route 18) and, in addition to serving up a mind-bogglingly vast menu of tasty, pan-Asian cuisine, it boasts a party atmosphere that, depending on your age, might make you feel as if you've time-traveled back to the dance floor at your high school prom.
Great Chow 18 is the sister restaurant of Great Chow in Wollaston, which has been a Quincy favorite since it opened a decade ago. Its website states that the new location, modeled on the concept of "carefree and innovative California dining," is "all about having a good time and a great meal in one package."
Our evening got off to a somewhat rocky start, despite the promise of the waterfall in the lobby and the restaurant's warm and welcoming decor. While the hostess informed us that our table for eight wasn't quite ready, I noticed there were two separate dining rooms - one that was brightly lit and brimming with families with small children, the other only slightly dimmer but full of adults.
When I tried to sweet-talk the hostess into seating us in the grown-up room, she said that was unlikely and directed us to some uncomfortable-looking chairs in the vestibule. We headed instead to the nearby Fortune Cookie Lounge, where we ordered margaritas (there's a full bar and a variety of Asian beers) and gazed in wonder at three of the most enormous TV screens we'd ever seen.
We had barely tasted our drinks when the hostess told us our table was ready, in, thankfully, the grown-up room. Drinks in hand, we sailed past the inviting sushi bar and teppenyaki grill, and took our seats around a table that was adjacent to a roped-off section that could only be a dance floor.
We turned our attention to the never-ending menu. I chose appetizers, sushi and sashimi platters, a salmon and a steak selection from the teppenyaki grill, and an array of chicken, pork, beef, and vegetable dishes.
I was afraid I'd ordered twice as much, or not half enough, as we needed. But the waitress flashed me a smile and said, "Just right." I relaxed. The night was getting better, and the best was yet to come.
All of a sudden, someone dimmed the lights and a smiling young man jumped onto the aforementioned dance floor, microphone in hand. "Welcome to the party capital of Abington!" he boomed.
Something with a good beat that was easy to dance to poured from the speakers and, to our collective amazement, several of our fellow diners left their dinners and sprinted to the dance floor. For us, it was like having a front-row seat at a raucous wedding reception, without the burden of a bride and groom.
Now this might sound like the last thing you want when you're out for a nice dinner with a group of friends. But the metamorphosis from restaurant to disco made our night. Looking around, it was evident that most everyone there had been waiting for this moment and that the anticipation probably accounted for the sometimes sketchy service.
Our food arrived piping hot and in a timely fashion. Standout dishes included the barbecue spare ribs ($10.45), chicken with pea pods ($10.95), and beef with black bean sauce ($10.95).
We also enjoyed our selections from the teppenyaki grill - the sirloin teppenyaki platter ($18.95) and the salmon teppenyaki platter ($14.95). Both are available with Japanese noodles or rice (we chose the noodles), and the portions were big enough for everyone to sample both plates.
A few of our choices, such as the sweet-and-sour pork ($10.95) and the chicken teriyaki appetizer ($9.95), were deemed just average. But the chicken pad Thai ($9.45) was tangy and satisfying, and the curried vegetables ($8.75) were plentiful and savory. We all agreed that the sushi platter ($20.95) was exceptionally good.
Considering all the food we ordered, we had scant leftovers, and a gratifyingly small bill (approximately $35 a person, including drinks).
We passed the dishes around and around the table, pausing between bites to comment on cute young couples two-stepping, or ladies of a certain age fox-trotting. I can hardly remember a more entertaining meal. A post-meal survey of my dining partners produced agreement: "It was all good.
As the website said, Great Chow isn't just about food. It's about having a good time. And all of us did - including the members of the waitstaff, who were soon on the dance floor alongside the customers.