Wusong Road (Cambridge, MA)

Those that know me well, know that I rather love the combination of good cocktails and the occasional Americanized Asian food, and that usually means one thing: a Tiki Bar. However, doing this well is challenging. Even a few years ago, Massachusetts had quite a few hold-outs from the mid-20th century Polynesian Pop craze, including Chicopee’s Hu Ke Lau, Cambridge’s Aku-Aku, and Saugus’s Kowloon. In their day, they were popular, often packed every night of the week, and they survived for decades even as the Polynesian Pop craze faded, although the drinks often got watered down and the food a bit more mass-produced. Starting in the 2010s there’s been a noticeable resurgence in Tiki culture. A few places still hang on (like the abovementioned Kowloon, although they are supposed to close and rebuild as a smaller restaurant), and the occasional new place has started to open (like Tiki Rock in Boston, but despite the resurgence, there have been a lot more closures than openings. It’s actually a bit hard to find a place to go with friends for some quality cocktails and good (Americanized) Asian food food at the same time, but in November 2021, the regional Tiki bar scene got noticeably better with the opening of Wusong Road in Cambridge.

Wusong Road has got a nice little building with a bit of history. Located just off of Harvard Yard, and less than a quarter mile from the Harvard campus, the site is the former Conductor’s Building from the Boston Elevated Railway’s 7th division; street cars from the railroad would pull alongside the building and the conductors could embark and disembark. In the way that urban renewal often works, the building sat empty for decades, just off of Harvard Square, before the MBTA (which had long ago both absorbed the Elevated Railway and replaced it with the underground T in this part of Boston) sold it, and it became Wusong Road, a restaurant and Tiki bar. In their own words, Wusong Road is named after an old railway in Wusong, China, and the menu focuses on “lush atmosphere, craft cocktails, and curated Asian American inspired small plates.”

The interior of Wusong definitely plays to the “lush atmosphere”, with a nice combination of carved wood, bamboo, and palm leaves doing a surprisingly good job of complementing the still-exposed old brickwork of the train building. The result is a 1st floor bar with a lot of booths and low tables for seating (there’s also a bar upstairs, which I haven’t yet visited). For most days, Wusong focuses on walk-in traffic instead of reservations, restricting most of the reserved events to upstairs, so as long as you avoid the really busy times, chances are you can get into Wusong. However, one word of caution: don’t expect to linger too long if you came for lunch: Wusong has distinct lunch and dinner openings, and uses the down-time between to prep, so expect to get pressed to leave starting at 3 so they can work on dinner.

Since it’s a Tiki bar, I expect the cocktails to be good, classic, Tiki cocktails, so I started with a classic, a Mai Tai. The Wusong version is pretty much a straight-forward one: Appleton Jamaican rum, agricole rum, Martinique rum, lime, orgeat, and Pierre Ferrand Curacao. The result is nicely done, very flavorful, and nicely presented, although I’ll have to mention that it comes with possibly the largest swizzle I’ve ever seen, suitable for use as a bookmark. You want a classic Mai Tai done right? Wusong’s got you covered.

Next up was a Boston Tiki Tea Party: Plantation Barbados rum, Souchong tea infusion, grapefruit, and pineapple juice, served up in a barrel-shaped Tiki mug. Here, the nice, slightly smoky notes of the Souchong tea combined nicely with the mixed juices and rum for a pleasantly and unique cocktail.

As far as the food goes at Wusong? The menu focuses on small plates, so if you’re looking for a full dinner, be prepared to order several items. But we were quite pleased with the food, first up being a pair of Wusong’s Bao buns. They had a lot of options for the filling, but we went with the panko chicken variety. Here, I can’t hide my chronic tardiness in my reviews… usually, they decorate these as little pigs, but you can see this was a December visit, and they went with Santa and Gift themes. Despite the novelty, these were good little sandwiches: the panko chicken nice, flavorful, and crispy. Dressed up with a bit of a srirachi aioli and pickles, and these were basically good little sliders.

Next up, some Dan Dan Mien: fresh egg noodles, a pork and sesame ragout, with some Chinese chives and more than a little bit of chili crisp, this is exactly the sort of simple noodle dish I like: a proper Dan Dan focuses on two things: some slightly toothsome noodles, and the spice-laden chili oil and crunch (here provided by the chili crisp), and this ended up as a nice blend of pepper (hot and Sichuan peppercorn notes), noodles, crisped pork bits, and the crunch bits of soybean. Also a winner.

And if you’re doing small plates, it’s pretty much required that you serve up dumplings, and on our visit, they had four different varieties available either steamed or fried. We opted for the pan-fried pork and chive dumplings. Again, a simple dish, but delivered well, with the dumpling itself perfected steamed to a slight al dente texture and then fried just to a light crisp.

Overall, Wusong Road perfectly ticks off all the things I look for in a Tiki bar: great cocktails, including well-made classics. Good small plates to help nourish you with a snack, but substantial enough that you could assemble a reasonable meal out of a few items. Add in some good staff and a great decor, and this has been a great addition to the Cambridge dining scene, and probably the top Tiki bar destination for New England. I’ll definitely be back, with friends in tow.

2 Responses

  1. dominique 17 May 2023 at 20:55 #

    I would recommend Baldwin Bar on one of your visits if you want excellent cocktails and delicious Sichuan food. Little tough to get to but worth it. They have a sister place in Brookline (Blossom Bar) which is more crowded/younger set/noisy. We went to Wusong and Baldwin in the same week and the former was more like a Disney version/Rainforest Cafe; the later was like having dinner in an old house in the middle of nowhere with better food and cocktails than Wusong.


    • kaszeta 17 May 2023 at 21:03 #

      Yeah, I’ve done Blossom Bar a few times (and reviewed Sichuan Garden). Great spot.

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