Review: Home Taste

EATinton logo: Fred Kalil
Frederick Kalil reviews

A recent check-in at Home Taste, satellite of an identically named mothership in Watertown, brought a fresh reminder of the challenges faced by restaurants.

People are ready and eager to eat out, yet understaffing and economic pressures result in a compromised experience.

However much we long to click our collective heels together and magically return to the before times, we’re left to make the best of it.

Hand-pulled noodles

Featuring prominently on Home Taste’s extensive menu are hand-pulled noodles, presenting an obvious bet. The server was helpful in recommending which dishes are a good choice of treatment for the thick-style noodles, and our selected version with pickled chilis and bok choi was by consensus judged a success. We were instructed that the chilis and bean sprouts crowning the bowl are meant to be mixed in with the heap of noodles before digging in.

Tangy and savory, the dressed noodles were agreeably chewy if perhaps very slightly overcooked. Also, they are so long that you may want to drill yourself on chopstick skills beforehand. No one quailed at the heat conferred by the chili pickle.

Thinner vermicelli-style noodles are also house-made, so, with our server’s approval, we tried those as sesame dry noodles. They arrived as described and were pretty unassuming: a tangle of lightly coated peanutty-tasting strands, a bare hint of smokiness contributing a grace note of interest. Secreted among the garnish of bean sprouts, slivered carrot and scallion, we detected tiny bits of candy-like radish pickle.

The heat-seeking imperative

Feeling the need for some serious heat, I lobbied for the mala soup casserole. Typically laced with the numbing spice of Sichuan peppercorns, our lamb pot tasted conspicuously bereft of them. What it did include—fish cake, bok choi, tiger lily, seaweed, cilantro, and my constant nemesis, surimi—left me under impressed. Entreaties to be supplied with soup spoons were answered with serving spoons. While sympathy was unanimously extended to a single server clearly pulled in all directions at once, forbearance may be required.

What finally did deliver a blast of heat was the fish fillet with pickled cabbage, a substantial bowl of promisingly murky depths abundantly populated with flounder and ungainly clumps of wood-ear fungus along with the titular cabbage inclusions. While roasted dried red chilis festoon the surface, be cautioned that lurking beneath await additional slices of small greenish-yellow peppers camouflaged by the surrounding stew. I’m unsure which ingredients prompted the emergency oral delivery of white rice to extinguish a sudden explosion of fieriness, but it’s the kind of challenge I expect to face. Kudos to the kitchen for succeeding in knocking me to my knees.

Deeper menu sampling

Our appetizers included the cucumber salad with mashed garlic, toasty flavored with crunchy bits from excellent chili oil (a condiment found on each table). While the scallion pancake pastry was thin and delicately flaky, it was disappointingly short on scallions. Of the steamed dumplings, a brief mention will suffice. Both pork with cabbage and house versions we tried were filled with similar finely ground, tight-knit fillings densely packed. We were left asking ourselves whether the vegetable dumplings or Chinese burgers might have represented stronger options.

At least on the night we attended, branching out to a more commonly encountered menu item proved less than rewarding. A dreary rendition of mapo tofu was oilier than most, with distracting inclusions of red and green pepper, and a paucity of pork. However, it did succeed in prompting a neighboring patron to lean over our table with pointed finger aloft to inquire what we were eating.

Presentation at Home Taste is as unvarnished as the modest interior would indicate. One dish was brought to the table in an aluminum takeout container, and plastic thimbles of dumpling sauce were pressed into double duty in response to a soy sauce request.

To her credit, our harried server managed to keep our water glasses filled without asking -- a boon when consuming food with high sodium content. 

Home Taste

1312 Mass. Ave., Arlington


Hours: Wednesday through Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Closed Tuesday

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This restaurant review by YourArlington freelancer Frederick Kalil was published Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023.

A resident of Arlington, Kalil has been eating food since birth. Starting from a home where family cuisine ranged from kibbeh to cretons, he has sought high standards and a world of flavor at his own table and when dining out. After years of writing about dining options for the neighboring Tufts community, he now explores local kitchens for his fellow Arlingtonians