Up until a few years ago, hand-pulled noodles were a rarity in the Boston area, with Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe being one of the first to bring it to the region. But now it is getting easier and easier to find them locally, with such places as Gene's in Boston, Woburn, and Westford, Xi'An Street Foods in Allston, Chili Square in Quincy, and Home Taste in Watertown offering up variations on them. And it is this last place that is the focus of this review, with this little Watertown eatery serving an outstanding version of the dish along with some other terrific options including another less-common item that reaches the heights of--if not surpasses--the noodles.
Like some of the other hand-pulled noodle spots mentioned above, Home Taste looks rather plain from the outside, seeming like it could be one of countless Chinese-American takeout spots that are found in the Boston area. The interior of the place is equally unassuming, with approximately 10 tables of the type that scream "takeout spot," while the decor is pretty spartan but pleasant enough for those who decide to dine in. Home Taste is indeed primarily a takeout and delivery place, however, with the counter being a busy area for diners who are picking up their phone orders, and for those who do call in, the orders usually don't take long at all (sometimes being as quick as 10 minutes).
The menu at Home Taste actually has quite a bit of Chinese-American favorites and Sichuan items, with good takes on General Tso's chicken and lo mein being offered as well as crab rangoon, boneless spare ribs, and kung pao beef, while the Sichuan part of the menu heats things up a bit with such options as a chicken and cabbage with hot chili sauce, fish heads with pickled chili pepper, and sliced beef and pickled cabbage with chili. One of the signature items is the aforementioned hand-pulled noodles, which are made by pulling and slapping the dough on a counter or table, stretching it out and forming wide, flat noodles as the dough continues to be stretched and folded. Three of the versions offered at Home Taste include an absolutely sublime option with sliced cumin lamb, an equally tasty noodles with chopped beef, and--for those who love heat and garlic--spicy hot oil seared noodles with plenty of chili oil and chili powder. As delicious as the hand-pulled noodles are, another item known as Chinese burgers may be even better in a way, with stewed and seasoned beef or pork (or cumin lamb or spicy minced chicken) being stuffed into a flatbread bun that looks a little like an English muffin, making for a treat that could easily get in the way of ordering the hand-pulled noodles (especially if you eat two or three of them). One other item of note at Home Taste is the wonderful handmade dumplings which can be ordered steamed or pan-fried (the steamed pork cooked dumplings are a bit like an elevated version of Peking ravioli), with these tasty little morsels rivaling some of the best dumplings found in the region. Plenty of vegetarian dishes are also available here, as are "diet dishes" that are cooked by steaming, and Chinese-American combo plates are also offered as well.
If you haven't tried hand-pulled noodles yet, do yourself a favor and definitely seek out a restaurant that has them--and if you live or work in or near Watertown, Home Taste is an obvious choice for them. On a related note, a second location of the eatery will soon be coming to Arlington Heights, so yet another option for this marvelous dish--and Chinese burgers, dumplings, and much more--will be on the way to the western suburbs of Boston as well.
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