Metro, Food

Starfoods Stirs Up Homemade Hot Pot in Newton Centre

Warm light floods out the windows of Starfoods—a quaint restaurant offering Chinese noodles and hotpot—onto Centre Street in Newton. The restaurant’s red brick exterior and the colorful posters against the windows invite passersby in, promising both comfort and food.

“We want to make this restaurant like a shared kitchen, you know,” owner Sofia Tang said. “If you don’t want to cook … but you just want to eat something like [you’d] eat at home. Very simple but very fresh, like your mom made some soup for you.”

Tables line the walls of the restaurant in two neat rows, each equipped with a hotpot stove, a mini hotpot wheel, and carefully wrapped utensils. By the entrance, an electronic kiosk offers customers the option to order their food via a touchscreen, while an employee mans the register for those who’d rather order face to face.

“It’s, yeah, a very clean, comfortable place,” Jennifer Yang, a restaurant employee, said. “I like the cleanness everywhere.”

The sprawling menu offers a variety of noodle options, including udon bowls, ramen bowls, and fried noodle plates. The spinach and tofu noodle soup is a warm and filling vegetarian option—the savory broth paired with crunchy bean sprouts, thick fried tofu squares, and ramen noodles make for a delicious mouthful. 

When Starfoods opened in October, it only offered noodle dishes. The restaurant added hotpot to its menu in January, and the addition has been successful, according to Tang. 

“It’s more popular because around us, they have many noodle soups already,” she said. “But … the traditional Chinese taste of hot pot—I think in Newton Centre, we are the only ones who have [it].”

Tang said Starfoods’ broth only uses fresh ingredients and requires six hours of cooking. It represents the restaurant’s warm and welcoming environment, according to Tang. 

“It’s fresh ingredients, like the whole chicken, and the beef bone,” she said. “If you have our broths, you can feel how we treat you. We treat you like a family member.”

This commitment extends beyond the broth, according to Tang, who said that all menu items are handmade with fresh ingredients.

The original bubble milk tea, for instance, is made with whole milk and real sugar instead of the powder drink mix used at typical boba shops. It is one of Starfoods’ most popular orders, according to Yang. 

A perfect ratio of tapioca pearls swim in the milky, sweet drink, which is served in a colorful plastic cup, the way it would be in a classic boba shop.

The scallion pancakes also taste fresh. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, the doughy appetizer complements the tang of its dipping sauce perfectly. Its arrangement on the platter is emblematic of the Starfoods experience—clean presentation and good food.

Tang said as she gained experience as an owner, her confidence in the business grew. Customers that show up stay, she said, as they are drawn in by the welcoming ambiance and satisfying dining. 

“I can say people always come back … some people will come once or twice a week,” Tang said. “I have a customer, he brings his kids every day, every evening.”

Starfoods is open for dine-in, takeout, and delivery at 19 Pelham St. from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday to Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

February 5, 2023