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Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe, Chelmsford

greygarious Mar 29, 2012 09:56 PM

I noticed this place in passing today. It is on 110, opposite the trailer park and a couple of doors east of Countryside Veterinary Hospital. Very small hole-in-the-wall that used to be, I think, a pizza takeout. Googling unearthed some Yelp reviews that were quite favorable. The cuisine is from the noodle-centric Shan Xi area of Western China, and you can see noodles being handmade on the premises. Apparently there is very little seating, no table service, and a busy lunch business drawing people from the high-tech firms nearby. I don't have familiarity with the dishes - and am posting mostly as a heads-up to hargau, lexpatti, tatsu, and other north-of-Boston Hounds.

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  1. trufflehound RE: greygarious Mar 30, 2012 05:04 AM

    I went there months ago and had some wonderful spicy pork noodles. They gave me a taste of flatbread that didn't wow me.

    1. Luther RE: greygarious Mar 30, 2012 06:26 AM

      Biang biang mian in Metrowest! I'm so there

      1. mjg0725 RE: greygarious Mar 30, 2012 09:33 AM

        I have been once recently. Never had cuisine like this before going here. The Menu, which you can see here from FB ( https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/... ) is very small and lacks variety IMO.

        The Hand Pulled Noodles were very thick and toothsome. They only had one prep with them however and I believe it was chili powder, some green I could not identify, Cilantro, oil and an overpowering pile of garlic. I would request to go easy on the Garlic next time, or take some out myself.. Never had noodles that were anything like this before. They were excellent and I feel that he needs to incorporate many more dishes with these noodles, like the famous Cumin Lamb from Xian Famous Foods.

        The Pork flatbread was ok, not sure I would get it again. Loved the crunchy soft texture of the flatbread, however the pork filling in mine was lacking any real flavors other than the pork itself. Too one dimensional. It was very small as well.

        On the weekends he makes the Xian Chilled noodles by hand.. Been meaning to get back for these because they look pretty special. He said only on the weekends because of the amount of work involved in making the noodles.

        Would like to see what others think of this place that might have had this cuisine before!!

        12 Replies
        1. re: mjg0725
          mjg0725 RE: mjg0725 Apr 13, 2012 10:31 AM

          Glad to see this place has really taken off on this board. Also glad to see some people that know this cuisine and are raving about it. Cannot believe I am so close to something so unique.

          Looks like we'll be getting my wish, maybe as soon as next week! Talked to Gene today and he is planning on adding Spicy Cumin Lamb over his Hand-Ripped Noodles!! He just has to get his small kitchen set up to properly store and prepare the dish.

          Since this post I have tried the Liang Pi or Chilled Noodles on the weekend. They are not as thick as the hand ripped ones, but they are as addictive. The sauce is given to you on the side with takeout orders and it is separated into two layers, the top being a rich chili infused oil and the bottom is a vinegar of some type and when combined and tossed on the noodles, it is wonderful. Never had a noodle dish with vinegar being such a predominant flavor before.

          As for the Biang biang mian, or House Pulled noodles, I cannot get over how good they are and I am completely addicted to them. Cannot wait to have them topped with lamb.

          1. re: mjg0725
            KWagle RE: mjg0725 Apr 30, 2012 02:43 AM

            SInce I probably can't make it to a Chowdown in early May, I rousted Andy Tannenbaum and Sam Lipoff and we went up there tonight. We had most of their Shaanxi menu, aside from the liang pi, which they were out of, and the noodle soup, since one of us doesn't eat pork.

            I found the pork sandwich underwhelming, but enjoyed the beef sandwich. The cumin lamb on skewers was also damn good stuff. Sadly, they don't make a lamb sandwich, but one could improvise from the lamb skewers. We had the lamb stew, served with presumably stale-ish bread (I believe there's another version with noodles) which the diner is expected to break the bread into chunks before the soup is added. It was a fine dish, though not spicy. Everything was good, but of course the standout was the hand-pulled noodle (singular) with a truly addictive oily sauce with just the right amount of garlic and heat. I could eat several bowls by myself.

            I will be sad to miss any special dishes Gene happens to make, and I hope he's open to the idea of making more complicated dishes by special order in the future.

            1. re: KWagle
              mjg0725 RE: KWagle May 1, 2012 03:36 PM

              The Lamb Skewers are very small and he only serves them as a special on the weekend right now. They were $1.50 the last time I got them. He uses a gas grill outside the back door of the restaurant to "properly" cook these. He says they take a couple of days to marinate. They are very small and have a ton of flavor from the cumin and they are nice and spicy due to the chilis. They are very rich, crunchy on the outside and buttery tender on the inside. I would love them inside his flatbread, however, i think they are the best when mixed up in the Biang biang Mian. Gene also agreed they are excellent when mixed with the noodles. Order a few skewers if you want a substantial amount of meat to accompany the noodles.

              I would think they are made similar to this recipe:
              http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

              I too wish he would really expand on his menu offerings. He seems to be doing well and he has been extremely busy (Place was pack to the gills on Sat & Sun night and all the picnic tables were full outside as well). So, hopefully a menu expansion is in the near future!? One can only hope!

              Very excited for the Chow down!

              1. re: KWagle
                f
                FoodDabbler RE: KWagle May 4, 2012 07:23 AM

                I like your precision with number on the hand-pulled noodle.

                On occasions when I have to talk to lay audiences about the power and beauty of mathematics, I use the hand-pulled noodle as an example of exploiting exponentiation. Take a cylinder of dough that's a foot long and a little over an inch in diameter, and "pull" it 10 times. In about ten seconds you get something over a thousand feet long and less than a millimeter thick.

                1. re: KWagle
                  lipoff RE: KWagle May 4, 2012 04:51 PM

                  I can't believe it took me so long to get up there. Shaanxi food is some of my most favorite in all of China, and even if this is a hike from Cambridge, I am so excited that this place is here. I'll be going back this weekend. =)

                  The lamb stew is one of my favorite dishes, ever, and this version is so much better than what used to be served at the now defunct Beijing Star in Waltham. As good as I've had in Xi'an.

                  The hand pulled noodles are really remarkable too, freshly made, each bowl a little different, each so tasty.

                  I was actually not, however, a fan of the "flatbread" sandwiches. I found the bread that worked so well when torn up and bathed in the lamb soup just didn't work as well as a sandwich. I only had the beef version, but I found the cumin almost indetectable, the beef cut too thick, and the red and green bell peppers a truly odd addition. I was also surprised that there was no lamb version of these. There's nothing like really good rou jia mo, but these didn't hit the spot for me.

                  The cumin lamb skewers, however, were wonderful. Not super-strongly spiced and pretty thick for this style (in China one often gets skewers from street vendors that are thin little scraps of meat that have been coated thoroughly a spice mixture and so one gets a different balance of taste and texture). I have to say though, that I really like Gene's way too.

                  So happy about this place.

                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                  1. re: lipoff
                    tatsu RE: lipoff May 5, 2012 09:16 AM

                    I was wondering about the bell peppers in the beef sandwich. I have never had this sandwich, but the peppers did feel a bit out of place. Maybe it's his one concession to American tastes?

                    1. re: tatsu
                      greygarious RE: tatsu May 5, 2012 11:47 AM

                      I have no idea how authentic - or in - the peppers are. But since the bread is dense in a bagel-y way, I was happy for the addition of some vegetables. The peppers are lighly-cooked, so there's still an appealing crunch. As for American tastes, the right half of the menu board caters to that.

                    2. re: lipoff
                      Dinsdale45 RE: lipoff May 5, 2012 12:39 PM

                      So, seven menu items (if you exclude the Americanized right half of the menu), including two flatbreads, and weekend-only noodles. The cuisines of China are some of the most varied and diverse in the world. I think they can do better than that.

                      1. re: Dinsdale45
                        tammyh RE: Dinsdale45 May 5, 2012 12:54 PM

                        true, but personally I'd rather they work on doing a few things well for a while first before adding other things on.

                        1. re: Dinsdale45
                          greygarious RE: Dinsdale45 May 5, 2012 01:18 PM

                          Dinsdale, aren't you being unduly harsh? I'm sure you realize that 50% of restaurants fail in under a year. If you were starting a Kirgilnix restaurant in a tiny, mostly take-out space, in a down economy, would you not do the prudent thing and also offer some familiar choices for the more skittish among your American customers? In larger restaurants, the buffet option allows owners to introduce their specialties to the uninitiated. Adventurous Chowhound types are a small minority of the dining public. Few people are willing to order a completely unfamiliar meal that they might not like.

                          Gene has said he is planning to add/substitute some different dishes during the warmer months. Fingers crossed that the restaurant is successful and will continue to grow.

                          1. re: greygarious
                            Dinsdale45 RE: greygarious May 5, 2012 03:47 PM

                            Of course I don't fault Gene for having Americanized options, that's just how you do business. I just wonder about the other side of the business decision, going with only 6-7 other menu items. Most other "authentic" Chinese restaurants that appear to be favored by expats and Chowhounders have quite a few more choices. How often do you eat anywhere that offers 6-7 menu items? If you're not into noodles or bread, you're out of luck. He's making the good stuff for a select few, anyway, why not offer more? As I said before, this place is right around the corner, and I hope he succeeds, because we're lucky to have this representation of regional Chinese cooking.

                            http://www.tourdechina.cn/Blog/shanxi...

                  2. re: mjg0725
                    c
                    cambridgedoctpr RE: mjg0725 Jun 20, 2013 10:25 AM

                    ok, how to you compare Xian's to Gene's.

                    i will definitely make the comparison myself once he opens up in Boston.

                  3. mjg0725 RE: greygarious Mar 30, 2012 09:38 AM

                    More from Southern NE Thread.

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/819510

                    1. crowdingthepan RE: greygarious Mar 30, 2012 02:44 PM

                      Wow, this is why chowhound is absolutely indespensable. I'm totally hitting this for lunch tomorrow. I'm not super well versed in this regional chinese variant, but I've liked what I've had at X'ian Famous Foods and Lan Zhou Hand Pulled Noodles in Queens. I can hardly believe that this is a just a short drive from my NH home. We're getting awfully close to having zero reason to drive to NYC anymore. I'll report back with all of my highly unqualified thoughts.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: crowdingthepan
                        crowdingthepan RE: crowdingthepan Apr 1, 2012 06:32 AM

                        What a find! My wife and I hit Gene’s for lunch yesterday, and it was fantastic. The “Xian Chilled Noodles” are incredibly tender and bathed in tangy vinegar and chili oil sauce, mixed with bean sprouts and little cubes of what I believe is a sort of Chinese seitan called mian jin . Some of the other comments I’ve read indicated that the meat in the flatbreads tended toward unappealing dryness, but I didn’t find that to be the case. Our fresh bun was filled with quite moist cumin laced beef and tender peppers. I actually like this example more than the much lauded cumin lamb burger I had at Xi’an Famous Foods, which was served on an incredibly dry and crumbly bun. The main thing I’ll be returning for is the biang biang mian, though. The thick, hearty chewy noodles are sitting in rich smoky chili oil and are topped with crushed chilis, cilantro, and a solid 1/8 cup of finely minced raw garlic. You stir the whole thing up and slurp and chew your way to spicy bad breath nirvana. The staff and chef couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming, taking great interest in how we heard about the place, and what we thought of the food. I’m so happy that this place exists.

                         
                         
                         
                         
                        1. re: crowdingthepan
                          Dave MP RE: crowdingthepan Apr 2, 2012 09:57 AM

                          Thanks for the great report. I wish I had known about this place a few months ago!!

                          Dave MP

                      2. Ferrari328 RE: greygarious Apr 3, 2012 09:51 AM

                        Tried the Biang biang mian today and took off 3/4 of the minced garlic that was on top and it was still garlicky enough for me, otherwise I thought it was excellent, but I have never had this dish before... The flatbread with pork didn't really do it for me. Not to excited about the bread or the pork filling. The “Xian Chilled Noodles” are only available on the weekend.

                         
                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Ferrari328
                          justbeingpolite RE: Ferrari328 Apr 3, 2012 10:07 AM

                          Me, too, Ferrari. Just finished my takeout. Maybe I saw you there. I agree, a ton of garlic that I didn't finish (and am oozing the rest out my pores as we speak), but delicious. I normally vehemently oppose the use of "toothsome" in these posts, but it may be the best adjective for these delicious, chewy noodles. I also agree that the pork flatbread was not as exciting, maybe I'll try the beef and the House noodle soup next.
                          Also, no crowd at all today at noon, almost disappointingly quiet for this unique places future.

                          1. re: justbeingpolite
                            Luther RE: justbeingpolite Apr 3, 2012 01:36 PM

                            No need for "toothsome," as these noodles are "Q."

                          2. re: Ferrari328
                            crowdingthepan RE: Ferrari328 Apr 3, 2012 03:14 PM

                            I kinda' had the same feeling about the flatbread. While, as I said, I liked it better than the similar "sandwich" I had in queens, the overall package didn't light my fire. Maybe I'm just applying western expectations to a chinese specialty, though. I'll probably try the pork version just to say I did, bit I plan to focus on the noodles. And, OOOHHH, the noodles!
                            After we finished the fully garlicked biang biang mian, we spent the rest of the day reflecting on how happy we were that we didn't have to attend any office meetings.

                            1. re: Ferrari328
                              g
                              grant.cook RE: Ferrari328 Apr 7, 2012 04:34 AM

                              I tried the flatbread yesterday... agree, it wasn't a sandwich I'd return for. The bread had an odd doughiness and a cardboard-y outside and the pork didn't have a lot of depth of flavor. Hopefully the noodles are better - most people seemed to be eating those when I arrived.

                              I compare it to Foumami in the Financial District, and Foumami's sandwich is far better..

                              1. re: grant.cook
                                greygarious RE: grant.cook Apr 7, 2012 07:03 AM

                                The consensus of reviews so far seems to be that the pork sandwich is so-so but the beef one is good.

                                1. re: grant.cook
                                  tatsu RE: grant.cook Apr 7, 2012 12:19 PM

                                  Thanks to greygarious for the head's up, I am never in that part of the woods (and woods it is), so I made a special trip. It's one of the more exciting finds this year!

                                  First, Gene is a GREAT guy and we loved talking to him. He is super focused on quality and will not compromise or sell out. You have to totally respect his food! We can't wait to go back.

                                  The sandwich. Rou Jia Mo is pretty classic stuff. Perhaps some here aren't so fond of it, but it's a Xi'an thing, and I respectfully say, maybe you wouldn't understand. I'm not claiming I do either! Sure I wish it were a bit fuller in texture, and like every "classic" different people make it differently, but it seems highly intentional on Gene's part. I will say while we were there in the dead of late afternoon, 3 Boston University kids, from Xi'an, were on a furious chow session. Gene says they come every week, eat in, and take home about a dozen sandwiches to go to tide them over between visits. That says a lot. This is not just "The restaurant was full of expats". (Which I hate, expats have better palates than anyone else?) Gene already knows that some people don't like the sandwich and he doesn't mind at all. He's making the sandwich the right way and that's all there is to it.

                                  The noodles are a total joy to eat, both the "ripped" You Po Che Mian and the thin cut Shao Zi Mian. We were just loving it to no end. The garlic in the You Po is essential to me, it is the spiciness in the dish, more so than the chili oil or flakes. Even Xi'an Famous Foods scales back, but Gene, no. I love that. Sure I was tasting garlic long into the night, but wow, what a noodle dish.

                                  I cannot wait to go on the weekend for the Liang Pi. He said people wait an hour to get at it. He gave me an in so I don't have to wait as long, heh heh.

                                  The Yang Rou Pao Mo (Lamb Stew) is next on the list too.

                                  Ok, I have some killer food shots. Frankly the better I like the food, the better my shots it seems.

                                  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?s...

                                  1. re: tatsu
                                    Dave MP RE: tatsu Apr 9, 2012 05:18 PM

                                    tastu, thanks for your report. I'm excited to hear that you liked it, and I'm kind of bummed I didn't get to try this before I left Boston - especially after seeing your pictures (particularly the first one)

                                    It's worth pointing out that this place is just off of 495, so for people who are driving between Maine and New York (for example), it's a great place to stop.

                                    1. re: tatsu
                                      tammyh RE: tatsu Apr 10, 2012 09:21 AM

                                      tatsu, I am DROOLING!! I'm guessing that the first picture is of the You Po?

                                      1. re: tammyh
                                        tatsu RE: tammyh Apr 11, 2012 06:31 AM

                                        Hi tammyh! That's correct, it's "ripped" off the daily batch of dough and cooked per order. In the middle it's nearly twice as thick as a lasagna noodle and probably a good half meter in length. (There is simply one giant noodle in the bowl, which makes for interesting eating, if you are not used to cutting your noodles.)

                                        1. re: tatsu
                                          tammyh RE: tatsu Apr 11, 2012 09:18 AM

                                          nice, sounds like one continuous/massive "shaved noodle" (y'know, where they take a ball of dough and shave off slices).

                                2. Dinsdale45 RE: greygarious Apr 3, 2012 02:16 PM

                                  Since this is in my backyard and they seem like nice people, I really want to give them my business, but I'm trying to go easy on carbs and their menus is so limited. I can only go so far with big chewy noodles.

                                  1. greygarious RE: greygarious Apr 4, 2012 09:37 PM

                                    I had an early dinner there with 2 friends, the first visit for all of us - but not the last! One DC loved her spicy beef sandwich, with peppers and a strong hit of cumin. I had the (non-spicy) lamb stew, in which the lily flowers were a new flavor for me. A filling, soupy stew. The other person raved over the handpulled noodles. I tried it and loved it - surprisingly not too spicy for me - so got a takeout order for tomorrow's dinner. The chef/owner explained to us that the entire portion is actually ONE long noodle! So a knife came in handy. This simple dish is a lot more than the sum of its parts.

                                    1. e
                                      eatanddestroy RE: greygarious Apr 11, 2012 12:47 PM

                                      I was about a half hour away from Gene's and had about an hour to kill so I checked it out. I got the You Po. It was damn tasty. The noodles were amazing! The flavors were great! I'm still stinking of garlic hours later.

                                      I'm looking forward to going back there next time I'm in the area. Definitely worth the 30 minute drive.

                                      Thanks so much for posting about this place!

                                      1. Ferrari328 RE: greygarious Apr 11, 2012 12:57 PM

                                        I had the Noodle Soup today and the noodles was really good as was the soup and pork. Wish there was more of that delicious pork..

                                        http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

                                         
                                        1. greygarious RE: greygarious Apr 11, 2012 07:05 PM

                                          I stopped by for takeout at 5:30 today. A table of 6 Chinese students from Worcester was there -Gene brought out a huge, delicious-looking/smelling platter of something not pictured on the menu. In response to my inquiry, Gene said it was a chicken dish not on the menu. So I briefly explained the idea of a Chowdown. He would be happy to have one. I will start a separate thread. I have not been to one, much less organized one, so perhaps if there is enough interest someone more experienced will either take over or provide advice. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/843699

                                          I had the spicy beef flatbread sandwich, which was moist and delicious, the lightly-fried bell peppers providing a pleasant crunch. And of course those yummy noodles!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: greygarious
                                            KWagle RE: greygarious Apr 12, 2012 12:03 AM

                                            I'd be up for it in late April.

                                            1. re: KWagle
                                              tammyh RE: KWagle Apr 12, 2012 06:46 AM

                                              ditto. and there's no weekend possibility? just Tuesday or Wednesday?

                                              (FYI, I tried replying to the new thread you created, but the reply box wouldn't open for me.)

                                              1. re: tammyh
                                                Allstonian RE: tammyh Apr 12, 2012 08:31 AM

                                                The other thread is locked, that's why the reply box won't open.

                                                Presumably the options are Tuesday/Wednesday because those are slow nights - a chowdown would effectively force the restaurant to close for a private party, given its tiny size. I can see why he might not want to do that on a busier night.

                                                1. re: Allstonian
                                                  c
                                                  cocoabrioche RE: Allstonian Apr 12, 2012 09:22 AM

                                                  Yea, it didn't open for me either: I'd be up for a Tuesday or Wednesday! Not a great chowdown organizer, but I'd love to go for yummy noodles with appreciative folks!

                                          2. greygarious RE: greygarious Apr 12, 2012 10:49 AM

                                            Chowhound will not allow the organizational details of a Chowdown to be posted, only the announcement that one is proposed. If you want to participate you will have to e-mail me, as I mentioned previously. Please include Gene's or Chowdown in the subject line.

                                            Allstonian is right, a Chowdown means a tiny restaurant such as this can't simultaneously handle much routine business, so it's not feasible other than their typically slow times.

                                            1. KWagle RE: greygarious Apr 30, 2012 04:43 PM

                                              Another note: We were there on Sunday around 6:30, and when we left at 8 or so (their nominal closing time) they had just filled most of their tables a second time. So they seem to be doing pretty good business. If this is typical, I'd be surprised if they didn't have longer weekend hours pretty soon. And it might be good to be prepared to eat outside. :-)

                                              1. Dinsdale45 RE: greygarious May 1, 2012 10:01 AM

                                                I want so much to like this place, Gene seems like such a nice guy. I went back and had the lamb stew, which was OK, but not full of flavor. Not spicy at all. It pretty much was a big bowl of bread chunks with a few shreds of lamb and black fungus. I bought beef and pork sandwiches to take home, and it looked like they did a better job at least warming up/semi-toasting the bread (the first time I had it, the bread was cold, as if right out of the fridge). I must've missed the lamb skewers on the menu, but I really want to try those. There must be more regional dishes Gene can offer on the menu.

                                                How similar is this cuisine to Uyghur? I believe they both are from W. China. I ate Uyghur dishes in Brooklyn, once, and I notice a similarity, especially with the number of lamb dishes.

                                                10 Replies
                                                1. re: Dinsdale45
                                                  Luther RE: Dinsdale45 May 1, 2012 12:58 PM

                                                  Biang biang mian (the one long broad noodle with tons of garlic) and most of the other dishes are traditionally associated with Shaanxi province, which is in north-central China. The Uyghur ethnic group is from Xinjiang, all the way in the NW corner of the country.

                                                  Qualitatively I'd say the two cuisines share their love of flatbread, cumin and lamb kababs. Uyghur food, due to its proximity to central Asia, shares more with that region such as the use of rice pilafs, and flavors associated with the Soviet republics.

                                                  1. re: Dinsdale45
                                                    KWagle RE: Dinsdale45 May 1, 2012 03:31 PM

                                                    Where did you find Uyghur food in Brooklyn? That would easily warrant a road trip from either DC or Boston!

                                                    It would be nice if Gene were able to serve a more varied menu. Chinese restaurants don't seem to have the kind of rotating specials that Western restaurants do, but that would be one way for Gene to offer more dishes without having to hire more staff or build a bigger kitchen. I'd be happy with a list of dishes you order in advance, which does seem to be common.

                                                    The lamb skewers were on a sheet of paper hanging from the menu board, in handwriting clear enough that I could figure out what they were (though it was Sam who spotted the sign.) It's really worth learning a few dozen food characters (and, obligatory plug, Pleco can help you do that.)

                                                    I think the noodles (plural because we ordered three :-)) were the standout here. This is why I never eat the Western carbs (bread, rice, potatoes, cereal, and pasta are a true blight in the Western diet IMO, no matter how "whole" they are.) I really like to be able to eat chow fun and other Asian starches (sticky rice!) on occasion.

                                                    1. re: KWagle
                                                      c
                                                      cambridgedoctpr RE: KWagle May 1, 2012 03:33 PM

                                                      Are the noodle dishes like Xian's Famous Food in New York?

                                                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                                                        tammyh RE: cambridgedoctpr May 1, 2012 06:36 PM

                                                        from what I saw in Tatsu's pictures, I'd say no ... Xian's noodles aren't thick like that at all. I obviously can't speak to the broth/flavorings as I haven't had it yet.

                                                        1. re: tammyh
                                                          tatsu RE: tammyh May 1, 2012 07:08 PM

                                                          I haven't eaten at Xi'an Famous Foods, but I took a look at pictures. Xi'an's "ripped" hand pull noodles do look a lot thinner and more uniform. Gene does not call it "Biang Biang". He calls it by another name, "You Po Che Mian" (his spelling) and they are what they are supposed to be in their folklore, "as big as a belt strap'. When you hold one up, it's more like a whole live moray eel! It is pretty darn impressive to behold. I made sure to cut one and examine the cross-section last time. "Wow!", is all I have to say. That is some seriously constructed noodle.

                                                          I think the Pao Mo, or Lamb Stew is probably the most challenging for westerners. It does not have much spice or the balancing of savory to sour or heat, things we are becoming expectant of. The bread is not really the same as his sandwiches at all. Even if it is the same dough, which I'm not sure, it's not rolled out as much and it's definitely undercooked. It finishes "cooking" as the broth is poured over it, after it's been shredded by the diner.

                                                          Xi'an FF's Liang Pi (The chilled noodle and gluten in a sour chili oil.) and Gene's are dead-ringers for each other, but I would wager than Gene's is a better version. His noodles are simply the finest you can get. I put him right up there with the best soba makers I know. Heck, the finest bread bakers I know, one of which I took with me last Sunday.

                                                          I like both sandwiches really. The flavors are very subtle and the bread is curious. It seems most of my friends prefer the beef, but I sort of feel it's just a bit closer to what we are used to again. There is no doubt the pork, while not as jazzed up, is a very slow roasted meat, as good as the best pulled pork, just a totally different seasoning.

                                                          Gene's is a challenging place for many western diners, I think, even the more experienced among us. You really have to leave all your previous tastes at the door. It's a bit more rewarding that way, in my opinion.

                                                          1. re: tatsu
                                                            c
                                                            cambridgedoctpr RE: tatsu May 4, 2012 01:26 PM

                                                            xian's noodles are not uniforn, they are very good.

                                                            1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                                                              tatsu RE: cambridgedoctpr May 5, 2012 09:13 AM

                                                              Good to know.

                                                      2. re: KWagle
                                                        Dinsdale45 RE: KWagle May 2, 2012 03:38 AM

                                                        The Uyghur place was Cafe Kashkar on Brighton Beach Ave, right in the middle of Little Russia. I was only in Brooklyn for 3 days, and I wanted to try things I can't get around Boston. I thought it was pretty good, but my wife and 2 kids hated it. More for me...

                                                      3. re: Dinsdale45
                                                        greygarious RE: Dinsdale45 May 1, 2012 03:38 PM

                                                        You chose the mildest items on the Shaanxi menu, The platter of chicken and vegetables, which is an off-menu item pictured among the photos on the wall, is VERY spicy. Much more so than the biang biang mian. We'll be having both at next week's Chowdown.

                                                        1. re: Dinsdale45
                                                          h
                                                          hargau RE: Dinsdale45 May 11, 2012 06:41 PM

                                                          I tried it and wasnt thrilled..
                                                          Pork flat bread sandwich was ok but very salty and very greasy.. Dripping with grease.. Not much flavor otherwise.

                                                          The singular noodle appeared like it was going to be spicy but the red flake on it really isnt. Lots of raw garlic. Noodle too thick and chewy for my tastes. Two of us only finished about 1/2 of it.

                                                          The noodle soup was the best thing we had but even that was a bit odd. We liked the noodles in this and the vinegary/spicy broth. Also the beef pcs in it were tasty and seemed to have been grilled. What threw us both on this was the veggies in it. Reminded me of frozen green giant veggie medley. Cut green beans, corn, lima beans, cubes of carrot, cubes of brownish potato.. meh...

                                                        2. p
                                                          ProperBostonian RE: greygarious May 4, 2012 09:13 AM

                                                          this place sounds great...what day of the week is the best day to go? on what days of the week does the chef work?

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: ProperBostonian
                                                            greygarious RE: ProperBostonian May 4, 2012 11:16 AM

                                                            This is a tiny place - chef-owner Gene is probably always there. There is probably more takeout than dine-in (trays and plastic utensils for the latter). Lunch is busy, Sat/Sun is busy all the time.
                                                            Monday they are closed. Tuesday and Wednesday are the least busy evenings. If you go on a weekday after the lunch rush and before 6pm, you'll probably be the only customer.

                                                          2. Ferrari328 RE: greygarious May 9, 2012 11:14 AM

                                                            Went back today for lunch and tried the Biang Biang Mian noodles and they where as good as the first time especially now when I was a bit more prepared in what to expect. Such a different meal and I love it and can't wait to see what gets added to the menu. I so regret missing last nights Chowdown here.

                                                            http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

                                                             
                                                            1. MC Slim JB RE: greygarious Jun 13, 2012 05:24 AM

                                                              Great piece in the Globe today on Gene's: http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/...

                                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                Luther RE: MC Slim JB Jun 13, 2012 03:45 PM

                                                                Fun piece, not as ignorant as I'd expect from a Globe feature on ethnic food. Fun how they kindly describe the stiff flatbread and ultra-oily meat as "supple" and "juicy" to avoid scaring away newbies. With that mention of NYC vs. Boston I wonder if Gene will go head to head with Jason for the downtown Boston Xi'an foods market... Gene's liang pi has a much finer texture than XFF, for sure. I can appreciate the stronger flavor and greater number of additional ingredients in the XFF version but Gene's is elegant in its simplicity.

                                                              2. Ferrari328 RE: greygarious Jun 14, 2012 02:08 PM

                                                                Just got written up in Serious Eats as well.
                                                                http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/06/ch...

                                                                1. Aromatherapy RE: greygarious Jun 18, 2012 09:14 AM

                                                                  Finally made it here, mid-afternoon on a weekend. Tried the chilled noodles (which they were almost out of, whew) and a lamb skewer. I can't imagine improving on either.

                                                                  Place was busy, and Gene's wife said they were getting quite a few new customers from the Globe article.

                                                                  1. t
                                                                    T.B. RE: greygarious Jun 25, 2012 05:29 PM

                                                                    Third time was definitely the charm for us at Gene's. Not that visits one and two were bad, mind you, just that my Partner in Chow and I finally got what we wanted. You see, they'd run out of Chilled Noodles while we were standing in line the previous weekend (visit number two). Such a tragedy, but we soldiered on and tried the cumin lamb skewers. I was happy to find another lamb prep I actually like (it's not usually a favorite of mine).

                                                                    Yesterday we made sure to show up before noon (when the place started filling up) so I could confirm that I do indeed like Gene's Chilled Noodles better than the ones I had at Xi'an's Famous after visit number one (to be fair, I should explore more of that menu next time I'm in NYC; such a hardship, I tell you). Gene's chili-vinaigrette strikes the right balance for me, and those tender noodles really are good.

                                                                    We also got an order of Hand Pulled Noodle (may be our favorite dish there) with two lamb skewers to go with and a pork flatbread to mop up the extra garlic sauce. On visit number one we'd tried the beef flatbread, but it turns out we just like the pork better.

                                                                    We also really like garlic but recognize that PGPG (post-Gene's persistent garlic) can be an issue. Mitigation at local ice cream stands (Kimball Farm, Great Brook Farm State Park, et al.) afterwards works for us.

                                                                    Oh yeah, yesterday there was another hand-written sign up (with a $1 price) next to the one for the lamb skewers. I asked and possibly misheard it as "seasoned egg," but was too full to try it. Anybody know more about what that dish might be?

                                                                    Gene's is definitely our kind of place. Thanks, greygarious, for posting, and to all the Hounds who followed up with research. It's interesting to see the crowds showing up there after the Globe article, even if they are eating "my" noodles :-). I'm glad they're doing well.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: T.B.
                                                                      mjg0725 RE: T.B. Jun 28, 2012 09:41 AM

                                                                      He also now sells the tea poached eggs for $1 each. Tasted exactly as explained here:
                                                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_egg

                                                                      1. re: mjg0725
                                                                        t
                                                                        T.B. RE: mjg0725 Jun 28, 2012 11:49 AM

                                                                        Thanks, that explains what I misheard. I look forward to trying them, either straight up or in the new noodle dish you mention below. Sounds great!

                                                                    2. mjg0725 RE: greygarious Jun 28, 2012 09:19 AM

                                                                      Gene has added another noodle dish to the menu! Sprint, do not run to get it too.

                                                                      It is a variation of his Chilled Noodle dish that he sells on the weekends. He changed up the noodles, The are a thin version of his Hand pulled noodles, about as wide as linguini, but about 2x as thick as cooked linguini (He may use this same noodle in his house noodle soup). They were very chewy, but tender and soft at the same time. He uses the same chili oil/vinegar sauce that he uses in the chilled noodle dish. To this he adds Cilantro and a sliced Jalepeno and red pepper garnish. There is also a whole thinly sliced "Tea Poached" egg in it that adds a nice contrast and protein to the dish.

                                                                      He also now sells the tea poached eggs for $1 each.

                                                                      Cannot wait to get this dish again. If you are a hearty eater and are getting it to go, I recommend getting two servings because one is not going to cut it.
                                                                      Gene has done it again for me.

                                                                      1. opinionatedchef RE: greygarious Jun 28, 2012 10:26 PM

                                                                        grey,just want to thank you for steering us to gene's. We met a friend there today (Thurs.) for 1pm lunch. The room was almost full when we arrived; we were the only haolis there. We had the thick noodles, the thin noodles w/ broth, corn, etc, the cold noodles with cilantro that mjg mentions above, the pork and beef rolls, the lamb skewers and the chix wings >for extra protein. of course it all disappeared, with much delight had on our part.

                                                                        I read through all the posts last night and it's funny no one mentioned that the pork (in the bun)has permeating it the distinct and appealing flavor of star anise. We all preferred it to the rather bland beef bun. (And, btw, ours was not at all drip-down-your-chin.) The lamb skewers were so interesting and delicious, with that thick cumin chili pepper spice crust and the fatty almost bacon-like bits. I de-skewered a few and ate them on my thin noodles. (We asked gene if he had started doing the shredded lamb over noodles but he smiled and said no, not yet.) The chicken wings were just simply batter fried/no spices, a nice foil for the occasional too-hot mouthful of noodles. We really enjoyed ourselves, so thx so much for your keen hounding!

                                                                        1. Ferrari328 RE: greygarious Jun 30, 2012 09:43 AM

                                                                          Finally got a chance to get here on a weekend to try the Xi'an Chilled Noodles. He serves them only on the weekend since they take about two days to prep. The dough is made and then he separates the gluten and the result is a silky smooth cold noodles served with beansprouts, minced garlic and chili oil. The separated gluten is steamed and then served with the noodles. Quote from Gene: "First I separate them and then I put them back together again". He also have a new dish called Xi'an Cold Noodles so don't confuse the two! I also had the cumin and chili encrusted lamb skewer and that was a treat as well. Life is good when you get a chance to try dishes like this.
                                                                          Can't wait to get back and try the new dish.

                                                                          http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

                                                                           
                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Ferrari328
                                                                            opinionatedchef RE: Ferrari328 Jun 30, 2012 10:40 AM

                                                                            gosh, with all the CH talent out there, can't someone make a youtube of him tearing his noodles?!
                                                                            not some guy in china, but Gene, our own MA Gene! what fun that would be!

                                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                                              mjg0725 RE: opinionatedchef Jul 1, 2012 05:02 AM

                                                                              During the Chowdown, we actually spoke to him about this and he seemed rather shy/uneasy about allowing someone to be in his kitchen and taking pictures and being filmed. He was supposed to come out and give us a demonstration, but for some reason, it never happened. Maybe some media outlet or persuasive customer can get him to come out and do it sometime?

                                                                              1. re: mjg0725
                                                                                greygarious RE: mjg0725 Jul 1, 2012 09:27 AM

                                                                                As I recall, he seemed concerned that allowing people other than staff into the kitchen was against regulations or an infraction of the terms of liability insurance. Between the fact that he comes from a country where breaking small rules may have dire consequences, and that this is his first time in the restaurant business here, it's understandable that he'd be cautious.

                                                                                1. re: greygarious
                                                                                  opinionatedchef RE: greygarious Jul 1, 2012 12:46 PM

                                                                                  sure. But wouldn't it be cool to see some TV channel film him?!

                                                                                  Topic switch, i was thinking about some of the comments above about the limitations of the (very small) menu. While chewy carbos are consistently loved by me, i do hope he'll soon start doing some vegetable dishes and a stir fry of protein and veggies. Bring on the snow peas, mushrooms etc.!

                                                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                                                    greygarious RE: opinionatedchef Jul 1, 2012 04:35 PM

                                                                                    The spicy chicken platter we had at the Chowdown has plenty of vegetables. There are other choices on the Americanized Chinese side of the menu. Personally, I hope Gene continues to play to the strengths of Shanxi cuisine. Diners can get the more typical stir-fries at a zillion places.

                                                                                    I do agree that it would be nice to see him pulling noodles on Chronicle, Neighborhood Kitchens (if they go beyond both Boston and the Latino cuisine emphasis), or even - gasp! - Phantom Gourmet. Selfishly, I hope that if his business outgrows the space, he does not relocate inside of 128. It's nice to have a few top-notch food choices that don't entail a long drive and parking hassles.

                                                                            2. re: Ferrari328
                                                                              FinnFPM RE: Ferrari328 Oct 25, 2012 05:45 AM

                                                                              Regarding the chilled noodles: how exactly is the gluten served? Is it separated out of the dish, or added back in? Could a Gluten-Free person eat just the noodles?

                                                                              1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                Ferrari328 RE: FinnFPM Oct 25, 2012 05:54 AM

                                                                                You can just ask that the gluten is not added back so that you just get the gluten free noodles.

                                                                                http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

                                                                                1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                  t
                                                                                  T.B. RE: FinnFPM Oct 25, 2012 06:16 AM

                                                                                  Not really. Since you're starting with soaked wheat flour, there will still be at least traces of gluten in the precipitated starch that makes the noodles. Not something I'd rec for anyone GF.

                                                                              2. Dinsdale45 RE: greygarious Jul 18, 2012 07:58 AM

                                                                                Hope this doesn't hurt business...

                                                                                http://chelmsford.patch.com/articles/...

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Dinsdale45
                                                                                  tammyh RE: Dinsdale45 Jul 18, 2012 09:50 AM

                                                                                  that's some bad luck. but I'm sure Gene's will do fine. people travel all the way up just to eat there.

                                                                                  1. re: Dinsdale45
                                                                                    tatsu RE: Dinsdale45 Jul 18, 2012 02:42 PM

                                                                                    The townie package store is where that crap is coming from. Gene doesn't serve beer! None the less, that little strip mall is beneath him. I hope he can make some money and move elsewhere.

                                                                                  2. t
                                                                                    twinky101 RE: greygarious Jul 18, 2012 09:47 PM

                                                                                    this is great! i read about this guy, been meaning to go out there. so ...bread?? steak and bread?? hmm..wonder if that helps him make a decent living in a place where there may not be so many people interested in the traditional noodles. can't wait to try it out. i hope it works out for him.

                                                                                    1. opinionatedchef RE: greygarious Aug 1, 2012 10:31 PM

                                                                                      on the July Vacations thread, allstonian posted this:

                                                                                      Gene's Flatbread Cafe will be closed 8/18-23.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                                                        Allstonian RE: opinionatedchef Aug 4, 2012 06:21 AM

                                                                                        I did no such thing. I've never even been to Gene's.

                                                                                      2. Dinsdale45 RE: greygarious Aug 2, 2012 07:35 AM

                                                                                        Went to Gene's again. The lamb skewers were great. I'll order those every time. The special soup tasted like Campbell's chunky beef vegetable with 5-Spice. They were out of the Xian chilled noodles, so I got another (new) cold noodle dish to go, with the tea-smoked egg and vinegar sauce. It was OK, but nothing special.

                                                                                        1. mjg0725 RE: greygarious Aug 14, 2012 10:04 AM

                                                                                          Genes will be closed August 18 until August 23 for vacation. Open the 24th.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: mjg0725
                                                                                            Allstonian RE: mjg0725 Aug 14, 2012 10:22 AM

                                                                                            Yep - reported upthread here:
                                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8415...

                                                                                            And also over here:
                                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/856515

                                                                                          2. FinnFPM RE: greygarious Oct 2, 2012 11:50 AM

                                                                                            We're going to try and make a dash out there for dinner tonight -- can anyone recommend a few dishes that MUST NOT be missed?

                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                              h
                                                                                              hargau RE: FinnFPM Oct 2, 2012 12:31 PM

                                                                                              There are only a few dishes to be had, so i doubt you will miss any if you go with 2-3 people. Seriously i think there are like 7-8 items if you dont count the american stuff. 2 of us went for a snack and tried 4 of them in one sitting with no leftovers. I dunno, place doesnt really impress me. I like the idea of it though.

                                                                                              1. re: hargau
                                                                                                FinnFPM RE: hargau Oct 2, 2012 06:45 PM

                                                                                                I just moved to the Rt. 2/495 area and man am I glad that there were a few threads on the board that mentioned this place. I've been assembling a list of places to try in this area; after seeing Eater link to a Tiny Urban Kitchen review of the place, replete with very pretty pictures of all the food (http://www.tinyurbankitchen.com/2012/...), it shot to the top of my list. Like, we decided we needed to go TONIGHT.

                                                                                                And we did. We got two orders of the biang biang mian, one of each flatbread sandwiches, and a bowl of the house noodle soup. Gene laughed and said "for just you two?"

                                                                                                We loved it, though. I've never really had food like that before. The noodles had the hottest garlic I've ever tried in my life, and I love love love broad, chewy noodles, so those were like heaven for me. The soup was also incredible and full of flavor; it was a wonderful mix of spiciness and true flavor. I figure most people here have eaten there, so I won't belabor the point too much. The flatbread sandwiches were just very good, not great. Can't wait to go back and try the chilled noodles next time.

                                                                                                We finished it all, too. For some insane reason we stopped at Kimball Farm in Westford to get ice cream on the way home. Oi. I blame it on the garlic oil high.

                                                                                                1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                                  KWagle RE: FinnFPM Oct 3, 2012 01:57 AM

                                                                                                  When Andy Tannenbaum, Sam Lipoff, and I went there, we also stopped at Kimball's afterwards. Man, that was a completely foolish idea!

                                                                                                  1. re: KWagle
                                                                                                    jgg13 RE: KWagle Oct 23, 2012 03:52 PM

                                                                                                    Is there a reason why the dude who wrote my old OS text from college is notable here or was this just name dropping for name dropping's sake? :)

                                                                                                    1. re: jgg13
                                                                                                      KWagle RE: jgg13 Oct 25, 2012 01:55 AM

                                                                                                      Not the same AT, but he does work in computers.

                                                                                                  2. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                                    mjg0725 RE: FinnFPM Oct 3, 2012 07:21 AM

                                                                                                    Glad you liked it Finn. The chilled noodles are my favorite dish there, surpassing the house noodles. It is quite a gem.

                                                                                                    I just hope he expands the menu some more!!

                                                                                              2. Ferrari328 RE: greygarious Oct 23, 2012 11:40 AM

                                                                                                Stopped by Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe in Chelmsford today, not because I was in the neighborhood since there is nothing around him but because I hadn't been there for a long time. Gene was his normal happy self and the lunch business looked OK but I'm worried since he's so far from anything and the menu is so limited. I do agree with the other posters that it's too far away from anything and the menu is too restricted.
                                                                                                X'ian chilled Noodles just hit the menu the last time I was here so it was today's choice. Cold chewy noodles served with julienne cucumber and carrots and some minced cilantro and some beansprouts. You also got a tea cooked (Smoked?) egg with it. Chili oil and some vinegar were on the bottom of the bowl and you can mix it all up if you want. There was some serious knife-work being applied to the cucumber and carrots. The julienne was unbelievably precise! This was one delicious dish! Everything comes nicely together, not too spicy and the vinegar gave it a good acidity and the veggies added crunch. The portion size was good.

                                                                                                http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

                                                                                                 
                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Ferrari328
                                                                                                  tammyh RE: Ferrari328 Oct 23, 2012 11:53 AM

                                                                                                  he's serving the chilled noodles on the weekdays now? have I missed something?

                                                                                                  1. re: tammyh
                                                                                                    justbeingpolite RE: tammyh Oct 23, 2012 12:03 PM

                                                                                                    For awhile now. They're not the same as the weekend chilled noodles, I think. Perhaps not fresh made, hand cut? But very tasty, as Ferrari says. I have mine with an extra tea egg, and a lamb skewer or two on the side. . Hits the spot for lunch.

                                                                                                    1. re: tammyh
                                                                                                      Ferrari328 RE: tammyh Oct 23, 2012 12:07 PM

                                                                                                      Sorry should have clarified, this is not the weekend only noodles but a spaghetti like noodles.

                                                                                                      1. re: Ferrari328
                                                                                                        t
                                                                                                        T.B. RE: Ferrari328 Oct 23, 2012 02:00 PM

                                                                                                        I think the cold noodles (#8 on the board, as opposed to the weekend-only #6 chilled noodles) are the same ones as in the house special soup. With the tea egg and veggies the cold noodles are more of a complete meal than the weekend-treat/appetizer chilled noodles. I like them both.

                                                                                                        1. re: T.B.
                                                                                                          FinnFPM RE: T.B. Oct 23, 2012 02:25 PM

                                                                                                          All of our weekend Gene's plans are always getting superseded, so I've still only had the hot noodles. I'm so impatient, though, so I think I might like the cold even better than the hot, because I'm always burning my tongue on the hot ones. Man, I wish he delivered. To everywhere.

                                                                                                    2. re: Ferrari328
                                                                                                      opinionatedchef RE: Ferrari328 Oct 27, 2012 09:55 AM

                                                                                                      ferr, your detailed description, and photo, are sooo helpful;these noodle dishes can easily get confused. Thx much.

                                                                                                    3. FinnFPM RE: greygarious Oct 27, 2012 05:29 PM

                                                                                                      We went tonight for dinner -- 6PM -- and had to wait for a table, as the place was full. They were out of the chilled noodles (sad!) but I got the #4, which is currently maybe my favorite dish anywhere. I daydream about these noodles. We just love it here. There was a "Help Wanted" sign on the window, which I take as a good thing for his business prospects.

                                                                                                      Now I just really need to find a group to do this dapanji with...

                                                                                                      1. mjg0725 RE: greygarious Nov 11, 2012 05:24 AM

                                                                                                        Gene's website is now live at http://genescafe.com/ complete with pictures of the dishes. I do not see any mention of his Lamb Skewers that should not be missed for $1.50 each. I think the cumin and spiciness of the buttery lamb goes very well with all his noodle dishes.

                                                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: mjg0725
                                                                                                          FinnFPM RE: mjg0725 Nov 11, 2012 05:40 AM

                                                                                                          Cool, thanks. The lamb skewers aren't on the larger visual menu (these are the same pictures hanging at the restaurant) but they are on the scanned menu, in the bottom corner under "side dishes."

                                                                                                          We ate there last night. Another little change is that they've now obtained a "sold out" sign to hang under their Xi'an Chilled Noodles for when you inevitably arrive too late to order any.

                                                                                                          1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                                            c
                                                                                                            ColoradoXJ13 RE: FinnFPM Nov 12, 2012 06:02 AM

                                                                                                            I saw that very same 'sold out' sign last weekend when I was there at 3:30ish, the woman at the counter (Gene's wife) said they had sold out at 1:30, and I was even more disappointed when a group of chinese college-age students were served four plates of the chilled noodles as I was finishing up my meal with my DC. I didn't ask, but a co-worker of mine confirmed that one can apparently reserve noodles ahead of time, I wonder if this applies to everyone. Not sure if I like this policy at all.

                                                                                                            1. re: ColoradoXJ13
                                                                                                              FinnFPM RE: ColoradoXJ13 Nov 12, 2012 06:31 AM

                                                                                                              Huh. That's very interesting. We actually saw a table of six Chinese college-age kids there while we were eating, and they all had the same thing: a big plate of noodles. We were mystified as to what they were eating. I've never gotten the chilled noodles -- they're ALWAYS sold out, and since they were "sold out" then, the thought never even crossed my mind -- but after you're report, I feel pretty sure that's what it was.

                                                                                                              That does seem a bit strange. There's no indication that you can reserve dishes. That does seem a bit stupid, especially if they're all made ahead of time. A "secret" menu item I can understand, but when it's a normal, advertised item, why create this weird secret queue system at the expense of your normal walk-in customers?

                                                                                                              1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                                                mjg0725 RE: FinnFPM Nov 12, 2012 06:44 AM

                                                                                                                FinnFPM please private message me, email in profile.

                                                                                                                1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                                                  l
                                                                                                                  lc02139 RE: FinnFPM Nov 12, 2012 07:26 AM

                                                                                                                  I can't remember if I saw the reservation deal on some post somewhere or from Gene's when we finally got our weekend noodles after a couple of tries. I don't have a problem with the reservations policy since it isn't only for "special" people, just people that call in to guarantee them business. Wouldn't you be upset if any restaurant didn't reserve food that you ordered even if it was a special?

                                                                                                                  1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                                                    greygarious RE: FinnFPM Nov 12, 2012 08:13 AM

                                                                                                                    Yes, you can call ahead to reserve the chilled noodles. Gene mentioned this during the Chowdown held there last May. When I made my first Sunday visit there, the noodles were available at 1:30. "Mrs. Gene" told me that the sellout time varies a lot.
                                                                                                                    The day before was bad weather, and they lasted till 4, but she mentioned that the previous weekend someone had called to put dibs on 20 portions so they sold out fast.

                                                                                                                    I don't see a problem - it's no different than calling ahead for takeout at any restaurant. The caller may get the last order though he arrives to pick it up after a dine-in customer has been told they were sold out.

                                                                                                                    1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                                                      Luther RE: FinnFPM Nov 12, 2012 08:19 AM

                                                                                                                      Although it's uncommon in the US, making a reservation (for a party and/or specific dishes) at "cheap" restaurants with minimal service is a common practice in a lot of Asia.

                                                                                                                      1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                                                        lipoff RE: FinnFPM Nov 12, 2012 08:37 AM

                                                                                                                        I've called ahead to reserve the cold noodles before. Because it's a 45 minute drive from Boston and I'd missed them at least five times in a row, I think the practice is more than justified.

                                                                                                                        1. re: lipoff
                                                                                                                          FinnFPM RE: lipoff Nov 12, 2012 09:03 AM

                                                                                                                          Hey, if an open-ended reservation of an eat-in dish is a cultural thing I don't know about, that's fine. You can do things however you want at your restaurant.

                                                                                                                          My main problem with the take-out comparison is that at most places, you can't call up for takeout at noon and then go get it at 7PM. I think it creates a bit of a weird information gap. If I walk into a place, get told that a certain dish is all sold out, and then see some people walk in a half-hour later and get it, that's going to piss me off 100% of the time, unless I already know that there's a queue system. Most Americans, I'd wager, have never heard of such a thing.

                                                                                                                          I guess I don't have a fundamental problem with the practice per se, but part of me remains a little annoyed they don't advertise it. And that, of course, is a cultural preference of mine.

                                                                                                                          1. re: FinnFPM
                                                                                                                            g
                                                                                                                            grant.cook RE: FinnFPM Nov 12, 2012 10:23 AM

                                                                                                                            I think the advertising budget at Gene's is probably about the same as their IT budget. But I am not surprised they keep it on the downlow - too many people call in, it would get to be a real PITA to manage..

                                                                                                                            1. re: grant.cook
                                                                                                                              FinnFPM RE: grant.cook Nov 12, 2012 11:13 AM

                                                                                                                              If you've got a menu, then your marginal cost for advertising your reservations process is $0.00.

                                                                                                                              Ultimately, though, I totally agree with you. It'd be a pain to manage this, which is MY cultural perspective and the roots of my annoyance in the first place: if the dish is so freakin' popular that it's a headache to manage how quickly it sells out, then they should raise the price to the point where demand is no longer furiously outpacing supply.

                                                                                                                      2. re: ColoradoXJ13
                                                                                                                        g
                                                                                                                        grant.cook RE: ColoradoXJ13 Nov 12, 2012 07:36 AM

                                                                                                                        I don't mind that sort of policy - if someone is willing to commit, more power to them. This isn't much different than places down in Maryland or Delaware where you need to call to reserve your crabs.

                                                                                                                        I suspect its not a huge % of the covers they would do. And if its sort of an informal thing with the local Chinese community, I'd cut him some slack for saving some food for college kids perhaps far from home making the trek out from Cambridge.

                                                                                                                  2. g
                                                                                                                    grant.cook RE: greygarious Dec 28, 2012 11:24 AM

                                                                                                                    Had lunch there a couple of time in the past week - got the hand pulled noodles once, and today the lamb soup with hand pulled noodles. And of course, lamb skewers.

                                                                                                                    Delicious and spicy as usual.. decently busy as well.

                                                                                                                    I have to smile every time I look up at the right side of menu board and see the obligatory must-have standard Chinese Restaurant fare (e.g. pu pu platter). I have never seen anyone eating anything for it.. its pretty much all noodles, soup, skewers, and flatbread sandwiches all the time..

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: grant.cook
                                                                                                                      FinnFPM RE: grant.cook Dec 28, 2012 03:22 PM

                                                                                                                      I'm constantly tempted to eat that stuff, because that'd probably be really good lo mein etc.

                                                                                                                      Not as tempted, of course, as I am to order from the regular menu.

                                                                                                                    2. Ferrari328 RE: greygarious Jan 10, 2013 12:29 PM

                                                                                                                      He just got a write up on Serious Eats.
                                                                                                                      http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/01/ge...

                                                                                                                      http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

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                                                                                                                        T.B. RE: greygarious Feb 20, 2013 01:59 PM

                                                                                                                        Stopped by for take-out noodles today and noticed a new menu item, something like "lamb soup with hand-pulled noodle" (designated by #2, which has not been in use since I've been going). The combo sounds promising, will likely try it next time I'm eating in.

                                                                                                                        The new display card is over towards the right. The rest of the Xi'an menu is intact, so I think they pulled one of the American menu cards from the far right to make room.

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: T.B.
                                                                                                                          mjg0725 RE: T.B. Feb 20, 2013 03:20 PM

                                                                                                                          I ask him everytime I go in there if he has anything new. He always smiles and says no, much to my chagrin. Hoping that you read the "soup" part of this dish wrong and it is actually a stir fry lamb with the handpulled noodle dish he made for our chowdown! Been on him to add this to the menu for a year now. Will report back soon.

                                                                                                                          1. re: mjg0725
                                                                                                                            FinnFPM RE: mjg0725 Feb 20, 2013 05:57 PM

                                                                                                                            I'm not sure this is really a new dish. This is basically what he's been serving as the #7 for a little while, at least in my experience. The lamb stew has been advertised as being the stew with the ripped up pieces of bread, but we have never had it served that way -- whenever we order it, it's been with the hand-pulled noodles.

                                                                                                                            So maybe he's now differentiating between lamb stew with the torn flatbread and lamb stew with the noodles. We had the #2 last weekend -- ordered as the #2 -- and it's definitely a soup. Sorry mjg.

                                                                                                                          2. re: T.B.
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                                                                                                                            grant.cook RE: T.B. Feb 21, 2013 07:19 AM

                                                                                                                            This is the lamb stew for those of us who don't want to spend 10 minutes ripping up the flatbread into small chunks.. so he just replaced the bread with the noodle.

                                                                                                                          3. Dinsdale45 RE: greygarious Feb 20, 2013 02:45 PM

                                                                                                                            It would be so great if Gene could add some of these Xi'an dishes, or maybe combine his noodles with meat and vegetables.

                                                                                                                            http://www.xianfoods.com/menu.php

                                                                                                                            1. Chris VR RE: greygarious Mar 10, 2013 08:31 AM

                                                                                                                              Pretty late to the Gene's bandwagon but we finally got there and absolutely loved it. We had the hand pulled noodles, the lamb stew and the chicken skewers. The lamb skewers were on the menu but the chicken skewers were to keep my 6 year old happy. The noodles were too spicy for her and she doesn't always love cumin so I'm glad we got her the chicken, but I'm totally getting the lamb next time because there's nothing sadder than polishing off that dish and having nothing to sop up the garlicky chili bits of leftover cilantro. A spoon did the trick but it needed something else and it seems lamb is it.

                                                                                                                              We loved the lamb stew, the bread was like litte sinker matzoh balls and the soup, while not spicy, wasn't boring as I've seen it described by some. It had a nice savory richness. Breaking up the two pieces of stiff bread went pretty quickly among the three of us but would have gotten tiresome if it had just been one person. I would have liked more lamb but it seemed pretty balanced overall.

                                                                                                                              The noodles... well I can't say anything that hasn't been said, so I'll just say my husband said life is now sectioned into two parts; before those noodles and after. And yes... I'm still tasting garlic today but I wouldn't want it any other way.

                                                                                                                              It's a hike from us but a hike we'll gladly make again. We got there at about 5:15 on a Saturday and there were a number of tables open but they were all full by the time we left.

                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: Chris VR
                                                                                                                                greygarious RE: Chris VR Mar 10, 2013 08:47 AM

                                                                                                                                Chris, Gene gave me a tiny styrofoam cup with a lid, that I used to take home the garlic-filled oil left in the bottom of the bowl. I used it the next day when making a stir-fry. Now, when I get the noodles for take-out, I bring my own Rubbermaid container for them to put it in, since their styrofoam clamshells are prone to leaking.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Chris VR
                                                                                                                                  FinnFPM RE: Chris VR Mar 11, 2013 08:24 AM

                                                                                                                                  That "before those noodles and after" distinction is actually very accurate for me as well. I find myself seeking out flavors that are even remotely similar to those.

                                                                                                                                  Last night I caught myself spreading Guizhou Black Bean Chili on pieces of toast, and I chuckled/shook my head at what Gene had wrought in my life.

                                                                                                                                2. t
                                                                                                                                  T.B. RE: greygarious Jun 17, 2013 07:38 AM

                                                                                                                                  Tried a new dish at Gene's this weekend: cumin lamb hand-pulled noodles (number 9, almost didn't notice the hand-written sign under the picture menu). Pretty much as it sounds, slices of cumin-flavored (braised?) lamb (not the grilled skewered chunks) mixed with hand-pulled noodles, onion, green bell pepper, and bean sprouts, garnished with chili sauce and cilantro. I found it pretty tasty and my lamb-loving sib really liked it.

                                                                                                                                  It might be a good bet for folks who wanted more veggies and less at-table mixing. I'm not a bell pepper fan and prefer the garlic-chili sauce on the regular hand-pulled noodles, so I'll probably stick with supplementing those with the cumin lamb skewers.

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: T.B.
                                                                                                                                    mjg0725 RE: T.B. Jun 17, 2013 03:48 PM

                                                                                                                                    Nice he finally got this up on the menu. Been trying to talk him into adding it for a year and a half now since he served it to us on the Chowdown. I believe the lamb is just done in the wok quickly before being tossed with the noodle. Cannot wait to try it.

                                                                                                                                  2. hotoynoodle RE: greygarious Jun 17, 2013 07:59 AM

                                                                                                                                    went yesterday around 2:00, at least 12 cars in the parking lot, line out the door. :)

                                                                                                                                    just 2 of us, so we got the xi'an chilled noodles (weekends only) and the classic hand-pulled noodles.

                                                                                                                                    the texture of the noodles was amazing!!! loved the chili/garlic oil on both.

                                                                                                                                    there are a couple of tables outside, so it was quieter than inside which was mobbed and hectic.

                                                                                                                                    lovely friendly lady at the register (gene's wife?), gene, plus one other cook and an older lady keeping things tidy.

                                                                                                                                    GO GO GO!!

                                                                                                                                    1. mjg0725 RE: greygarious Jun 18, 2013 09:13 AM

                                                                                                                                      Gene is coming to Boston!
                                                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/906043

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: mjg0725
                                                                                                                                        c
                                                                                                                                        Chikkinlittle2 RE: mjg0725 Jul 26, 2013 10:55 AM

                                                                                                                                        Opened in Boston 24 July. Only open 11-4p. Attached is menu. Canned/bottled drinks in cooler case. Gene hand stretches tender but chewy noodles for each dish. Soup has noodles that appear to be extruded or sliced more thinly. Reminiscent of udon in width. We got #4 and #9. Both quite spicy in different ways. Great flavor and quantity.
                                                                                                                                        On Bedford street down from Hyatt Regency and across from the Regal restaurant.

                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                      2. Ferrari328 RE: greygarious Jun 18, 2013 11:22 AM

                                                                                                                                        Went up there today to try the new #9 and it was excellent! Basically the hand pulled noodles with a good amount of cumin lamb added and the tablespoon of raw garlic removed. It was topped with bean sprouts and slivers of raw onion and there was some bell peppers hiding in there as well. Make sure you get the noodles from the bottom, there is where all the good stuff is hiding ;-). Incidentally the #9 dish is $9 including tax, funny how that worked out. The picture is taken after I managed to make a dent in the food!

                                                                                                                                        http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ferrari328
                                                                                                                                          Chris VR RE: Ferrari328 Jun 18, 2013 01:00 PM

                                                                                                                                          There are bell peppers in there as well, according to T.B.s description? Sounds like something I'd love but I can't eat those little stinkers.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Chris VR
                                                                                                                                            mjg0725 RE: Chris VR Jun 18, 2013 02:14 PM

                                                                                                                                            Chris, when you order ask to omit the peppers. They will happily oblige.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: mjg0725
                                                                                                                                              Chris VR RE: mjg0725 Jun 18, 2013 05:05 PM

                                                                                                                                              Good to know. I don't like to make extra work for the kitchen, and I never know how separated out the peppers are from other ingredients, so I tend to try to avoid dishes made with peppers, but I'm willing to give it a try!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chris VR
                                                                                                                                                t
                                                                                                                                                T.B. RE: Chris VR Jun 20, 2013 09:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                I got the number 9 to go and didn't see the green peppers until later. I can eat them but don't care for them, so avoiding the distinct strips worked for me. Don't know how much they're cooked with the other ingredients before combining.

                                                                                                                                                I share your reluctance to make extra work for the kitchen. If I'm ever there when it's not crushingly busy I'll try customizing them more to my taste (e.g. without peppers and with garlic, like in the regular hand-pulled noodles).

                                                                                                                                          2. re: Ferrari328
                                                                                                                                            c
                                                                                                                                            Chikkinlittle2 RE: Ferrari328 Jul 26, 2013 11:06 AM

                                                                                                                                            I see that you had real bowls. You must have been to the Chelmsford location. The Boston location only has those heavy black plastic disposable bowls. Food is great, bell peppers were sparse, thinly sliced strips, easy to find and did not noticeably stand up to the spiciness of the broths. I do not like bell peppers at all.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chikkinlittle2
                                                                                                                                              FinnFPM RE: Chikkinlittle2 Jul 26, 2013 01:42 PM

                                                                                                                                              You're responding to a post that was made over a month prior to the Boston restaurant opening, so yes, they must have been to the Chelmsford location.

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