What he’s having: Zoe’s juicy tea-smoked duck
A weekly notebook about food during the Covid-19 shutdown. Remember, if you’re dining out, doing takeout or getting delivery, the people serving up the food are part of the front line; keep it in mind when tipping.
Takeout: Zoe’s Chinese
Zoe’s, the venerable Sichuan and Hunan Chinese restaurant on Beacon Street by Star Market and R.F. O’Sullivan & Son burgers, almost shuttered for good back in 2013 when the roof caved in. Now, in the face of the Covid crunch on eateries, it continues to soldier on as it has since opening on the line between Cambridge and Somerville in 2000. More known for quality takeout than eat-in ambiance, Zoe’s is positioned well – and the quality has not abated.
It had been a while for me, but I knew exactly what I was getting when I ordered tea-smoked duck, a generous portion of fowl smoked at different temperatures so the skin is crisp and the fatty layer between is rendered into flavorful broth that keeps the meat juicy, commingling with the rubbing spices and essence of the smoking wood. It comes chopped into finger-manageable portions, and on the bone it comes off easily. It’s so rich and full of flavor that no sauce comes with it; no sauce is needed. I’m not sure I can order from Zoe’s without getting this dish, which is too bad: The menu is vast and unique, with sections for Sichuan (if you like spicy, the Ma Po Tofu has you covered) and Hunan (pork focused), as well as pan-Chinese offerings. For me I added the steamed juicy pork buns, a dumpling-like dim sum staple that exploded in my mouth with soupy richness and a tinge of spice.