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Mar 31, 2008 11:33 AM

Gitlo's "clear noodles"

I don't know if this specific question has been tackled, but I hoped someone might be able to shed light on this one. What do we suppose these clear noodles (or silver pin noodles, or whatever) are made out of? My wife is gluten intolerant, but I'm quite sure would absolutely love these wormy little delights. I tried to ask when I was there on Saturday but, as has been well reported, "service" is just not a high priority there. The answer to the question was "I don't know," and that was about that.

Meanwhile, after arriving at 11:30 or so Saturday morning (and I know that's totally the wrong time to go), I would have to say that they're going to go out of business if they can't start turning tables over faster. We were 2nd in line...and remained 2nd in line for 45 minutes. Ended up sitting after an hour...considering how little they charge, and how slowly things happen there (oh, and the food was, almost unfortunately, awesome), I worry that they won't be able to survive.

Thanks all!


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  1. Dim sum ain't fast food, and most people who eat it know that. Those expecting speedy turnover at a dim sum place, be it Gitlo's or Chung Shin Yuan or one of the palaces in Chinatown, is going to be bound for disappointment. And when those people stop going, the regulars who know what they want and what to expect will enjoy the place much more.

    3 Replies
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

      Honestly, given the reports on how slammed they've been since the Globe report - it might be a good thing if some of the crowd decides to not bother.

        1. re: jgg13

          This is quite a dilemma...when they weren't busy and probably making no money, the food was quite delicious, cooked to order and although slow, it didn't matter because no one else was there to cook for so waiting wasn't too bad nor was the service; Now that they are busy, they apparently cannot keep up with the crowds, and based on the reports, the waits to both sit are too long and then once you're seated, the wait to get your food is too long; in addition, they are running out of food. Unfortunately, sounds like a no win situation unless they get their act together soon. It was, at least initially, a nice and different alternative to Chinatown.

      1. get back to your original question, they seem to be rice-flour noodles, but may contain sme cornstarch as well. The best way to find out what's in them is to ask Gitlo himself if possible - the waitresses definitely don't seem to know very much about the food.

        23 Replies
        1. re: Allstonian

          rice flour IIRC. My mother used to make them.

          Not sure what this means for those who have gluten allergies though...

          1. re: Spike

            Except for the frankly expected slam regarding being a "trendy," this was pretty much what I was hoping for. Rice flour, corn starch, and mung are all in bounds. Wheat is the enemy, though SHOULD be missing from both the awesome daikon cakes (best I've ever had) and rice noodles with XO sauce (though I'm not sure about that one--the XO sauce seemed to just be fried bits from the bottom of the pan, and there was a suspicious crispy coating on the noodles).

            Be that all as it may, it's those clear noodles that I'm after. I'll have to grab the owner next time I'm in the 'hood.

            P.S. Am I the only one that's noticed that every time you complain about service on this board, there's a line of people waiting to tell you what an idiot you are? I'm sure that this little comment will get my post deleted, but I hope a few people read it anyway.

            1. re: jkv

              I don't think you had people telling you what an idiot you are. You have to understand that a place which went from being relatively comfortable serving a handful of people at once (based on staffing, kitchen size, type of food, etc) is now getting jam packed constantly, with a never ending line. The service is going to suffer until if/when they manage to cope.

              1. re: jgg13

                Indeed. And all I said was that I don't think they can survive if this persists. No whining or complaining, and yet still the unwarranted slam.

                Don't get me wrong--I saw two different groups who actually brought the Globe review with them, which is honestly pretty hilarious. I'm just saying that the use of terms such as "those people" and "trendies" isn't really helping anybody.

                1. re: jkv

                  I have been going to Gitlos from early on and pleading with people to go because I found the quality to be very good, the owner is a nice guy and it would be nice to see them succeed, for selfish reasons so that I can keep going back and enjoying it and because I know first hand how difficult and risky the restaurant business is. Since I have been pleading with people to go, I would not and should not now resent the "trendies" or "those people" for going because if and when "those people" disappear, so too does the business and that is not good for anyone.

                  1. re: bakerboyz

                    I would never think to dis "those people", but at the same time, i'm not going to bother to go all the way over to Allston (when Chinatown itself is much closer to me) when from all accounts, its a total s**tshow over there these days.

                    1. re: jgg13

                      jgg: give Windsor cafe (opposite china pearl) a try in's the same kind of order off the menu deal so stuff comes out hot (though the custard tarts this weekend were cold for some reason)-:

                      1. re: Spike

                        Still wiating for a chance to go there. Definitely looking forward to it :)

                    2. re: bakerboyz

                      Although to be fair, my reference to "those people" refers to people who think there should be fast turnover of tables at a dim sum restaurant. It doesn't matter if it has 8 tables or 80, a dim sum restaurant worth the name is not going to have fast turnover.

                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                        why not? i'm not a dim sum fanatic, but as far i can recall (mostly at places with 80+ tables), turnover has never been a problem. when there's a line, it usually moves relatively quickly. i certainly don't have the impression that it's the chronic and genre-defining condition you seem to suggest. it sounds like the situation the OP (and other recent gitlo's threads) are describing is unique to gitlo's.

                        1. re: autopi

                          No, you see the same problem -- less exacerbated because it has probably three times the tables and three times the staff -- at Chung Shin Yuan in Newton, where the line extends halfway across the parking lot most weekend mornings. Dim sum has an intrinsically leisurely pace, especially at a place like Gitlo's where the dishes are made to order. Even at a place like China Pearl, where you can get your entire table covered with dishes 30 seconds after you sit down, it's not a gobble-'n'-go experience, or if it is, you're doing it wrong.

                          The thing is, if Gitlo's started shooting out dishes at lightning speed and your whole order was on your table 30 seconds after you placed it, then people would come on here and go "Waaah, the daikon cake was cold! Waaah, the dumplings were soggy! Why can't they cook everything to order when you order it?" So they can't please everyone, and someone's always going to complain, so whadaya gonna do? As I said, the people who are only going to Gitlo's because the Boston Globe told them to will be gone soon enough, and the people who understand that a good dim sum meal is not the Asian equivalent to a McDonald's run don't mind waiting because they know it's worth it.

                          Why else do people stand on line for brunch at Centre Street Cafe for an hour, or wait ten minutes for a Speed's dog, or stand on a hot parking lot getting eaten alive by mosquitoes outside the Clam Box? Because they know that the wait is going to be worth it.

                          1. re: autopi

                            Agreed, I've never had to wait more than a few minutes for a table at any big dim-sum hotspots (Boston or elsewhere) even when in the middle of a long line.

                            1. re: Prav

                              A big two-story dim sum place like China Pearl can easily have a hundred tables in it. Gitlo's has, even with the new layout, maybe 8 or 10 tables? So at a busy time of day, there's going to be a longer wait at Gitlo's than there is at a bigger restaurant, period. But what I'm saying here is that even WITHOUT a wait for a table, dim sum is -- or should be -- a leisurely experience that takes a fair amount of time.

                              My own personal experience -- and I go out for dim sum quite a lot -- is that on average, a visit to a cart-service dim sum place takes about an hour from seating to settling the bill and leaving. And again, that's at a cart-service place, where I might be eating something 30 seconds after I first sit down. The ironic thing is, even at Gitlo's -- where the food is supposedly soooooooo sllllllooowwww to come out, and where they dare to stagger the courses so there's not half a dozen things on the table going cold at once -- I find that the time I tend to spend at table is...yeah, about an hour!

                              But if there's only seven to nine other tables and there's 15 parties wanting to get seated, that means there are people waiting for tables, and that leads those people waiting to get cranky, and possibly it also means that the people who are already seated are going to -- likely unconsciously -- going to feel rushed and harried. So it's not going to feel properly leisurely, as it should. But I just fail to see how it's the restaurant's fault that Mr. Crankypants on line for a table keeps pointedly looking at his watch and muttering, when the kitchen is running at the same pace it was when I was the only person in the place for lunch.

                              Now, the obvious response to that is "Well, then they should start sending the dishes out faster!" Um...why? Why should they do that? What purpose would that serve, especially if it leads to the dishes not being as good anymore?

                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                I think the original poster was just looking at the mathmatics of it all. If they have only 5 tables that turn over once an hour and they are selling $30-$50 to a table. Thats a max of $250/hour gross which isnt alot of money when you have 2-3 on the payroll in addition to rent, etc.. But then again, Its better then the 5-10 tables a day which i think is where he was when he started.

                                1. re: hargau

                                  Yep. That's totally what I was saying. And a table of 2 couldn't possibly even approach $50. We stuffed ourselves and topped out at...wait for it...$16 before tip! Because of pacing (not complaining) we were in our table for about an hour. The prices are insanely low, and if they can't pick up the pace even a little, how can they possibly survive?

                                  Look, I can't imagine that there are a lot of people reading this board that don't appreciate going somewhere knowing fully well that there will be a ridiculous wait, but will do that in a second because of the excellent food. Not everyone will do it, but if all that's standing between great food and me is time, well I can handle that.

                                  Thus, I agree that the faint of heart will end up walking away from the long waits (or will pass out from low blood sugar--that's the faint of heart for you). That should eventually help the patron a bit. However, that certainly won't help Gitlo's. I don't know what the answer is, but I'd guess that squeezing another person into the kitchen (which of course may be completely impossible) is a start, accompanied by a nice solid price increase.

                                  And I can't believe I just wrote that last bit.

                                2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                  hey BFP, i agree with you that dim sum is typically (and is best enjoyed as) a leisurely sort of meal, not fast food. but that's a different point than how long one normally expects to wait for a table at your average dim sum place. b/c of size relative to dim sum noshing population, usually in my experience you don't have to wait too long for a table--even if, once you've gotten a table, you can (and should) take all the time in the world. so i'm not sure we're disagreeing about anything here.

                                  anyway, to keep this on point, i agree with you that i would prefer gitlo's take it slow and keep the quality high than focus sheerly on cranking things out. hopefully in a few weeks the furor will die down and i can give the place a shot!

                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                    Well, there are other, if somewhat unconventional, ways to get dishes out faster. For example, when there is a line, they could encourage people to pre-order before they actually have a table. With good communication between the front of the house and the kitchen, they could pace the dishes so that they would show up within a few minutes of being seated. That way, people wouldn't have to wait as long, the food would still be fresh and hot, and they could also turn tables faster on average, increasing their profit. As a bonus, once people have pre-ordered, they might be less-inclined to go elsewhere if the wait took a little longer than expected.

                                    The original Pizzeria Uno (and Due) in Chicago used to use this method (maybe they still do) because their pizzas took a very long time to bake, and space was limited.

                                    Increasing the efficiency of a restaurant - and making people wait less in the process - isn't exactly a bad thing, if the quality of the food doesn't suffer.

                                    1. re: overproofed

                                      I've definitely pre-ordered at both Uno & Due in the last few years (as well as *not* pre-ordered, so they must do it only when needed). Ginos East, OTOH, I don't recall ever pre-ordering but the space is much larger and its less swamped w/ tourists and such.

                                  2. re: Prav

                                    I think the key word here is "big" :-)

                                    At the large dim sum places, you're essentially eating buffet style but they push the food around instead of you getting it. The bigger the place and the more crowded, the better the quality of food because it doesn't keep going around. There's also always turnover because of the large #tables.

                                    At a place that's essentially a hole in the wall, the same dynamics don't apply. The kitchen is tiny, there aren't enough tables, food is cooked to order, etc. Pack a huge crowd in and things *will* go wrong, though I'd have to agree the waitress could do better at figuring out what has arrived by checking off things on the slip you fill in (Windsor Dimsum Cafe does this and the waiter even comes over to ask you if everything has arrived even if he thinks so).

                                    1. re: Spike

                                      Still something that is odd about Gitlos is the entire pacing thing, i think the cook just cant multi-task or something. They are not "making" the dumplings/items to order for the most part. They are simply steaming or frying them to order. They have them premade on trays ready for the final cooking. A few dishes like the noodles do require actual cooking, putting together. This is evident by 1) the way they run out of items so often and 2) i have seen them making trays of dumplings, rolls, etc...

                                      So here is what confuses me about the place. I went there before the boom and there was only 1 other table of people. We placed the order yet things slowly came out one at a time to both our tables. I dont understand why if you order 3 types of steamed dumplings they cant stack all 3 steamers up and shoot them all out at once. Same with the fryer. I dont understand it. They seem to be steaming orders 1 at a time. Its simply a matter of pulling out 3-4 pieces from the fridge, putting them in a basket and steaming..

                                      1. re: hargau

                                        That seems to be a deliberate choice on their part, the whole bringing out the items one at a time thing. I have eaten there many times when I was the only customer in the joint and the dishes would still arrive staggered like that. I don't know if it's the chef's idea or Gitlo's, but that's definitely their way of doing things. I've never asked why, but I might if I'm there during a slow period. Gitlo always likes to stop and chat if he has a moment.

                                        1. re: hargau

                                          that's one thing I didn't like about the Windsor cafe. I ordered a bunch of different dumplings (6 types). They all came out at once, so we had to wolf them down so they wouldn't get cold.
                                          Everything has pros/cons I guess.

                                          I think if one of us could take pics of Gitlo's kitchen, that would reveal a lot about the pace of things coming out...I'm thinking it's a lot smaller than most people expect...

                          2. re: jkv

                            To be fair, I think the offense is actually pointing out (fair) criticisms of darlings on the board, not just service issues. Mention the cold at Angela's and you'll hear it. Mention the blah dining room at Gargoyles and you'll hear "sit at the bar!!!". I do it too if someone maligns my dear tuna tacos at East Coast Grill or whatever -- just saying don't take it personally.

                      2. I have not been to Gitlo's, so I haven't seen them firsthand, but clear noodles are usually made with mung bean starch.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: lisa13

                          I've had a Korean noodle with sweet potato starch.

                          1. re: trufflehound

                            I was going to chime in that Korean clear (aka glass) noodles, such as in the dish jap chae, are made with sweet potato starch.

                            1. re: digga

                              If they are "liangfen", the Chinese starch noodles are most commonly made with meng bean starch, this is distinct from "fensi" bean vemicelli which are usually made from meng bean flour.

                        2. Silver pin noodles are made with wheat starch.

                          1. The pin noodles version in my dim sum cookbook calls for a mixture of wheat starch and tapioca starch. Probably not safe if your wife has gluten allergies, unfortunately.

                            I'm taking a break from Gitlo's for a month or so while the excitement dies down and they get their act together. It will be worth the wait! This isn't unusual for a new restaurant and I can only imagine the challenge of adapting to the hype with such a small space and staff. They will get the hang of it, I think.