The former owner of Peking Quick One, Yan Fen Zhang, opened a small place dedicated to Northern Chinese specialties in March.
Home Taste, 3106 Delaware Ave., is committed to serving authentic Chinese food. There is no General Tso’s chicken or fried rice on the menu. What it does have is five types of dumplings, dishes based on house-made noodles and fluffy pork-filled steamed buns, from a part of China that eats as much bread as rice.
House-made noodles, dumplings, buns and steamed bread set the restaurant apart from the recent wave of authentic Chinese restaurants that have opened near the University at Buffalo's Amherst campus.
[Click here to read an illustrated guide to five other authentic Chinese places in Amherst and Tonawanda]
It's a humble little restaurant. Home Taste doesn't offer you rice automatically; you have to ask for it, and water, too. It’s cash only, and opens at 11 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The phone number is 322-0088. (Hat tip: Marty McGee)
Dumplings can be steamed or fried, in five flavors: pork with cabbage ($6), pork with celery ($6), chicken with leek ($8), fish with leek ($9.50), and my favorite: pork with leek and shrimp ($10). That gets you a dozen fat dumplings with fresh fillings.
These don't come with a little cup of seasoned soy sauce. There is soy sauce, chile oil and black Zhenjiang vinegar on the tables, for you to doctor them up yourself.
The combination of pork, onionlike leeks and shrimp makes these some of the best dumplings in Buffalo.
Don't worry, Home Taste will fry 'em up if you prefer.
At $6 for 12, the juicy pork with napa fried dumplings are a steal. Nobody in Buffalo is offering Shanghaiese soup dumplings yet, but this makes me feel like we're getting closer.
Cold dishes are another strength of Home Taste. I counted six vegan dishes among them, but I'd eat them because they're tasty, nutritious and inexpensive. Here's gently marinated fresh celery with dried tofu that's been rehydrated to a faintly chewy state, like a stiff crepe ($4), and cucumbers marinated in garlic and cilantro ($5).
Cold matchsticked potatoes in garlic and chile sauce ($4.50) might sound weird, but it's delicious. It's a relative of the hot stir-fried versions served at Peking Quick One, 359 Somerville Ave., Tonawanda, and other authentic Chinese places.
This salad of gluten, dried tofu, mushrooms, peanuts, and bamboo shoots ($6) is another Chinese secret Home Taste can let you in on.
The silky poached scallion chicken, served cold, is a deal at $7.50. It's cut bone-in, so there's nibbling involved, but the lush texture of the chicken put me in a forgiving mood.
Stir-fried dishes include spicy chicken chunks stir-fried in a blizzard of dried peppers ($9).
It was solid but if I was hankering for this dish I'd go for the crispier version at China Star, the Sichuan specialist at 4001 Sheridan Drive, Amherst.
House-made noodles can be enjoyed in a half-dozen contexts, including a mix-it-yourself noodle salad kit with a bowl of salty pork sauce that's loaded with something much like doenjang, that miso-ish fermented soybean paste Koreans like ($8.50).
One person might be able to eat an entire bowl of spicy braised beef noodles ($8.50), loaded with chewy hunks of beef, if they were hungry.
I preferred the Qishan minced pork noodle, with smaller pieces of chopped pork and a vinegary tang to the broth. (Photo at the top of this story.) It's a dish that's thousands of years old, dating to the Zhou Dynasty, according to China Daily Online. Another international sensation has made its way to Buffalo. It wasn't dangerously spicy, despite its protective coloration.
More fiery was the cauldron of napa cabbage in mala broth with pork and chewy bean-thread noodles at the bottom ($8.50). Mala uses the faintly numbing Sichuan peppercorn to good effect.
For a Chinese equivalent of roast and dinner rolls, pork feet with fried tofu ($9) with an order of steamed "wisted roll," ($5) made of twisted dough that's steamed into bread. The meat is sweet, tender and garlicky, fragrant with star anise, but you have to work between the bones. The tofu puffs don't soak up much of the sauce. Hence the bread.
My hunt for a satisfying version of the thin, crispy southern-style scallion pancake continues, but Home Taste has a thicker doughier version, "leavened pancake" ($4), that's good in a different way.
Unlike the other authentic Chinese restaurants in the area, Home Taste does not offer an American Chinese menu. If you need fried rice, sesame chicken and fortune cookies to make you happy, go elsewhere. If you're looking to explore new areas of the Chinese national menu, or get reacquainted with old favorites, check it out.
Here's the menu:
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