>> Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Ever since Noodle Alcove closed in Chinatown, we have been lamenting the loss of fresh, handmade noodles in Boston. More recently, we discovered that Beijing Star in Waltham makes their own "dao xiao mian," or knife-cut noodles. Though pretty solid, it was a bit far to drive for a weeknight meal. We had high hopes for East by Northeast as well. Unfortunately, that place was quite expensive and had unconventional flavors, which again left us with no comforting, authentic fresh noodle soup restaurants nearby.
Imagine our delight when we received a phone call from our good friend Peter.
"Hey guys - guess what took over the old Wisteria location? A Taiwanese/Northern Chinese place that makes fresh noodles."
We had been circling around Union Square looking for parking to try out a new Mexican restaurant. Moments after he called, we immediately stopped looking and headed straight to East Cambridge to try this place out.
Unique Dumpling has two menus - an American one (which has all your "classics" such as Crab rangoons, General Gau's chicken, and egg rolls) and a gloriously authentic one with items such as shredded pig tripe in chili sauce, pork feet braised in soy sauce, and tea flavored eggs, not to mention the fresh homemade dumplings and noodle soups!
Pork and Leek Dumplings ($5.95)
You can order a set of 12 dumplings for around $6, or take home a frozen pack of 50 for around $15. We thought the dumplings were OK. For Boston, it's not bad. Of course, it's nothing close to my favorite dumpling place in America, or even my favorite dumplings in Boston, but it's decent, and they are definitely homemade.
Steamed Juicy Pork Buns ($5.95)
Similarly, their soup dumplings are also only OK - authentic, but not particularly exciting. The skin is thicker than what I prefer, and the flavors are average. Nevertheless, it's nice to have access to these types of authentic dishes so close to home, and the prices are not bad at all.
Shredded Pig Tripe with Chili Sauce ($3)
This was one of the most flavorful dishes, and they are not shy with the chilis! It was borderline too hot for me, but Bryan loved it. Nice flavors, and they recommend it as one of their best dishes.
Pork and Mustard Greens Noodle Soup ($6.95)
We ordered this noodle soup after coming back to Boston from a late flight. It really hit the spot. In general, their soups are relatively light, not too oily, and pretty healthy. Of course, this dish has the wonderful fresh chewy handmade noodles that Bryan loves. The texture of the noodles was quite "Q" (al dente in Taiwanese) and had a good bounce to them. The soup was pretty light, to the point that some might find it not salty enough. I am generally sensitive to salt, so this worked perfectly for me. Plus you can always add more salt if you think there's not enough in there.
Beef Tendon Noodle Soup ($6.95)
This is supposedly one of their signature dishes, and it's pretty good. The beef and tendon pieces have been stewed for a long time, and thus are quite flavorful and soft. I love beef tendon, so I really enjoyed the meat in this dish. The soup is a bit lighter and has less depth than other good beef noodle soups I've tried. Perhaps this goes along with their whole theme of healthier, less salty dishes. Of course, the fresh chewy noodles make this dish pretty enjoyable, though be prepared for a sizeable soup-to-food ratio (i.e. the bowl is huge but a big portion of that is just broth).
Stir Fried Spinach with Garlic ($8.95)
A lot of restaurants cook their green vegetables in a ton of oil. I really like how the stir fried spinach here was pretty light and healthy. It still had a nice garlic flavor infused throughout, but the dish tasted more like home-cooked stir fried spinach (cooked in juices) rather than restaurant shiny-oily spinach (cooked in oil). Portions were super generous.
Da Lu Mian ($6.95)
The authentic version of this dish is not soupy, but saucy. This version of Da Lu Noodle
Soup was definitely saucy, poured over the fresh, chewy homemade noodles. I thought it was funny how they crossed out the word "soup" on the menu, since I'm sure more than one person expected a big bowl of broth and was disappointed. This dish was fine, though not as good as some that we've had in California.
This beef pastry was OK- I didn't love it. It was a bit greasy and didn't have particularly exciting flavors, but it was alright. It was decently crispy and flaky, and the filling was nice and hot.
Sweet Red Bean Paste Cake
This dessert was awesome! Imagine a red bean mochi cake pan fried so that the edges are nicely golden brown and crunchy while the insides are gooey and hot. I loved this dessert.
The menu here is pretty authentic. I don't think any of the dishes are earth-shatteringly amazing (I still like Shangri La and Gourmet Dumpling House more), but for Cambridge, they are pretty good. I especially like how they don't over-salt their dishes, and I like how there are several relatively healthy and tasty options on the menu. The owners are really nice, and the lady actually told me we could try ordering anything we wanted, since the chef actually knows how to make many dishes. One example we thought of was "three-cup chicken," which she confirmed they could definitely make.
So finally, finally we have an affordable and tasty option for fresh handmade noodles in Cambridge. Best yet, it's open late and they deliver. Definitely check this place out if you're in the neighborhood and looking for a good, inexpensive, and authentic bite to eat.
569 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02141