Saturday, May 18, 2024

Gusto Eats guide: The diverse Chinese cuisines of the Northtowns

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For a midsize city away from the coasts, Buffalo has a remarkable abundance of diversity in its Chinese restaurants.

Western China’s lamb-intensive Xi’an dishes, Sichuan fire wielded with subtle force and Northern Chinese pasta-and-potato repertoires are all within reach.

If you know where to look, of course. In Buffalo, that means leaving the city limits and heading for the Northtowns.

In Kenmore, Tonawanda, and Amherst, restaurants inspired by the hungers of Chinese people attracted to the University at Buffalo with their families have given Western New Yorkers a chance to explore more dishes of the Middle Kingdom.

White radish with pork bone broth soup at Home Taste.

Libby March

3106 Delaware Ave., Kenmore; 716-322-0088;

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A Northern Chinese restaurant making fresh pasta into hand-pulled noodles in the Qishan noodle soup ($12.50), and the wrappers for dumplings (12 for $9 to $12) turned out in an unbeatable variety of fillings, including rarely seen fish dumplings. Another unheralded delight is Home Taste’s cold appetizer game, including poached chicken in chile oil and salads of celery and tofu skin, shredded potato dressed in vinegar and chile oil, and wheat protein nuggets with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and peanuts.

Qishan minced pork noodle soup

The Qishan minced pork noodle soup, featuring hand-pulled noodles at Home Taste.

Libby March


Steamed pork, shrimp and leek dumplings at Home Taste.

Libby March

Poached spicy slices of pork at Peking Quick One

Poached spicy slices of pork at Peking Quick One in Tonawanda.

359 Somerville Ave., Tonawanda; 716-381-8730.

A kitchen away from home for a generation of Chinese grad students at the University at Buffalo has become a regular part of Tonawandan diets. Poached spicy slices of pork ($12.95) with rice is a rousing introduction to Sichuan ma-la interplay between numbing and fire. Sour cabbages stew with noodles ($9.95) is a bracing endorsement of chunky-cut sauerkraut simmered with pork and chewy bean thread noodles.

Sour cabbages stew with noodles at Peking Quick One

Sour cabbages stew with noodles at Peking Quick One.

Split cucumbers at Peking Quick One

Marinated split cucumbers at Peking Quick One.

3309 Sheridan Drive; 716-832-3188;

Takeout-only these days, the restaurant offers Shanghaiese dishes not seen elsewhere locally. Gluten marinated Shanghaiese style ($12.95) is one of the vegan dishes that would seem to make a meatless life plausible. Sour cabbage fish with long doughnut ($20.99) remains an excellent reason to mix pickles, whitefish fillets, and plain – not sweet – crullers in a pleasantly new context.

Chicken with fresh spicy pepper at Golden Hill

The chicken with fresh spicy pepper at Golden Hill Asian Cuisine.

Golden Hill Asian Cuisine

4001 Sheridan Drive; 716-631-7198;

Attentive service in a lunch-friendly sit-down environment with the usual lunch specials, which are fine. But the real adventure is on the menu’s back page. The ballet of pain and pleasure in the chicken with fresh spicy pepper ($14.95) brings heat-seekers back for another ride. Xi Hu beef soup, a placid cilantro broth with minced beef and ginger, is a soothing bowl for four. The hand-shredded cabbage ($10.95), cooked to a smoky, juicy crisp, shows a first-class wok handler at work back there in the kitchen.

Boiled fish with pickled cabbage soup at Golden Hill

The boiled fish with pickled cabbage soup at Golden Hill is served with a ladle and a small strainer to help eaters scoop out chunks of fish and cabbage.

Cold beef tripe with hot oil

The cold beef tripe with hot oil at Golden Hill Asian Cuisine.

Xi An Gourmet pork burgers

Xi An Gourmet’s Chinese burgers are a popular Chinese lunch dish. Minced pork, left, and sliced beef. Both meats are cooked for over three hours.

15 Willow Ridge Drive, Amherst; 716-691-8880;

A whole roast leg of lamb at $44.95 declares Xi An’s attention to the favored meat of China’s westernmost lands. Chinese burger with pork or beef ($4.20) introduces Chinese housemade rolls, like a spongier English muffin. Lamb or beef soup with bread ($7.45) offers fortified broth and chewy meat with what are essentially Chinese croutons.

Xi An Gourmet beef soup with bread

Xi An’s beef soup with homemade bread is cooked for more than five hours.

Xi An Gourmet dry noodle with minced pork

Xi An Gourmet’s dry noodle with minced pork is served with bean curd, eggs, vegetables and two scoops of preserved minced pork.

1280 Sweet Home Road; 716-568-0080;

Takeout-only, but with a menu worth exploring. Leek, shrimp, and egg dumplings (20 for $14.99) are among the delicate touches on an expansive menu. China Taste is also good with the rough stuff. Duck’s blood cubes, tripe, and beef in chile sauce ($16.99) remains one of the rare dishes I’ve enjoyed that made me understand Klingons better.

3381 Sheridan Drive, Amherst; 716-836-2600;

Venerable Chinese place with a bewilderingly long menu still does the basics right. When the hankering for congee, rice porridge, lands on a snowy night, the pork and preserved egg ($8.49) is my go-to. Szechuan pickled vegetable, pork, and bean curd soup ($10.99) brings pickles and pigs together in a pleasantly engaging potage.

3188 Sheridan Drive, Amherst; 716-834-0218;

If you’re interested in a meal as social gathering, Chinese hot pot cuisine offers a stirring example. Simmering vats of broth, ranging from mild as tea to tangy three-alarm Sichuan elixir slicked with chile oil, are used to cook thin slices of meat, like Japanese shabu shabu. Other fixings take longer, from leafy vegetables to fish meatballs. Meanwhile, guests can linger at the sauce bar, custom-mixing dipping sauces from a palette of pain, pleasure, and garlic, in which to dab their chopsticked mouthfuls.

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