I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people correlate Xi’an Famous Foods to Anthony Bourdain (I’ll admit it, I did it too). “He raved about it,” people would say. And when I complain about the lack of solid Chinese food in the city, people immediately direct me to Xi’an.
So I tried it today. East Village location. Ordered the lamb cumin burger and the standard liang pi noodles for dinner. And it just fell flat. The burger buns, which has a texture reminiscent of English muffins, were a bit stale. Everything just did not compare to the hot, flaky goodness at Shaanxi Gourmet in Los Angeles.
And the meat, was just too cumin heavy. Now I know it’s supposed to be a cumin burger and it was good — dare I say delicious — but just compared to the stuff at Shaanxi, Xi’an did not live up to the hype.
Oh and the liang pi? I couldn’t even finish it. There just wasn’t anything interesting or complex about it at all. Now I did get a comment back from the owner on my video:
Hi clarissa, i was just about to crash for the night when i saw your vid. i don’t usually comment on these, but i felt kind of bad you didn’t get a chance to truly experience my food (kinda insulting to me to compare us to Shaanxi Gourmet). Having our food fresh in store is not the same as takeout. For ex: the noodles seem pre-mixed – not good – it will spill and flavor will settle to the bottom leaving the noodles flavorless, so we usually do have bags of sauce for to-go orders. Thx tho! ~Jason
First of all, thank you so much for the response. I actually live a block away from the EV stop so freshness wasn’t compromised that much. I’ve never really had resto owners get back to my reviews. But although Xi’an didn’t meet my expectations, it was delicious. In fact — Xi’an was probably one of the best Chinese food joints I’ve had during my time in NYC. It just didn’t live up to all that hype, but that’s completely understandable. There was just too much hype.
Western Chinese food is supposed to be heavy. At Shaanxi in L.A., that heaviness is complemented by a intricacy of flavors. Xi’an’s fare, in comparison, seemed to be monochromatic. Here’s the lamb, the bun, the peppers. Here’s a big slab of cold noodles and a lump of hot sauce.
But tomato tomäto right? It’s all a matter of preferences.
I’m still excited to try the pao mo and other dishes on the menu.
I’ll admit it — I’m a bit spoiled. I grew up and was raised on the food of the San Gabriel Valley. Speaking of which, I recently launched a talk show on it with my partner from 626 Foodettes.
Check out our first episode, on the socio-economic issues of the 626:
Also for this week, I’m beginning to write for CityEats. Sign up, check it out — it’s the new big thing. CityEats is a restaurant reservation website. Think OpenTable, but just much more organized, with beautiful pictures and editorial reviews of the restos so you know what you’re getting yourself into. [I swear, I've spent hours frustrated on OpenTable, going back and forth between Yelp reviews, because it just didn't give me enough information.]
For CityEats’ blog, I made a American Lamb Sloppy Joe sandwich — recipe courtesy of the Meatball Shop. And let me just say…I’m not much of a cook.