Sunday, September 2, 2012

Finally, finally, made it out to Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe in Chelmsford, MA.  This appears to be a pizza joint converted into a Chinese take-out place.  From the name, you wouldn't expect to find a few of the best Xi'an dishes outside of Flushing, Queens.  As might be expected, you order at the counter, help yourselves to utensils and napkins, grab sodas out of the fridge, and are served on trays.

Larry T and John B joined me for a romp through the menu.  Everybody had their own bowl of Hand-Pulled Noodles -- imagine a 3 foot long noodle, roughly equivalent to a lasagna sheet in texture and made entire by hand.  Star of the menu, certainly.  Served warm with a spicy chili sauce and minced garlic in a lot of chili sesame oil.  Stir it up, and dig in.  Larry was having some difficulty making a neat, polite bite full using only chopsticks, which occasioned this piece of advice:  "Look, it's too long. It'll be easier to just put one end into your mouth and start sucking." 

We each also had our own flatbread sandwich, filled either with pulled pork or spicy strips of flank steak with chili peppers and lots of cumin.  Sadly, the pork was nothing special.  The steak - made of beef rather than the typical lamb, no doubt in deference to local patron's taste - was much better, with the cumin redolent of the best of such sandwiches. 

Despite being, admittedly, full at this point, we couldn't let this opportunity pass.  So we shared two more noodle dishes.  The Xi'an cold noodles were typical thin wheat noodles in a milder version of the minced garlic in chili sesame oil sauce, with toppings consisting of shredded carrots and cucumbers, bean sprouts and cilantro.  Also included was what was described as a tea egg, but to my eye looked and tasted more like a soy-simmered egg.  Stir it all up, and voila!

The last noodle dish was the House noodle soup.  The same thin wheat noodles in a chicken-based soup with a splash of vinegar and the same spicy chili sesame oil.  The veggies in the soup were what I'd guess would be corns, peas and carrots out of a frozen bag.  One wouldn't think it special, but for the thin strips of scrambled egg (think Tamago, but not rolled) and especially the double-cooked pork belly, which elevated this otherwise plain noodle soup.

The only real disappointment was due to the fact that my favorite Xi'an dish, the Liang Pi noodles (on the menu as "Xi'an Chilled Noodles") sells out early and are available only on weekends.  We missed out.  Doh.  We were also tempted to try the Lamb stew with noodles, but ran out of appetite.  A return for the Liang Pi noodles and Lamb stew is on order.

It should be noted that Gene's also serves a few, uh, American dishes, no doubt to appease the local workforce stopping by for lunch - or more likely, the less-adventuresome friends who are being dragged here for lunch.  These include Lo Mein, chicken teriyaki, crab rangoon, chicken fingers, etc.  No, we did not order any of those.

Bottom line -- very highly recommended for anyone who appreciates Chinese noodle dishes, particulary Xi'an style with lots of garlic and chili sauce.  Worth a try, in any event.  We'll be back.

Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe
257 Littleton Rd
Chelmsford, MA 01824
(978) 256-6789

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