August 9, 2010

Xi'an Famous Foods in NYC

What we love about Chinese cuisine is its diversity.  Though there's a plethora of Cantonese food in the city, we can also enjoy Sichuan's spicy foods and Hunan's fiery foods.  And this past weekend, we went with a couple of friends to Xi'an Famous Foods to try Xi'an food for the first time.

Xi'an is the capital of China's Shaanxi province and contains a minority Muslim population.  We could taste the Muslim influence through many of the cumin lamb dishes.  The new East Village location of Xi'an Famous Foods is a tight space (with seating for 12, it's more like a take-out spot).  But with deep, spicy flavors and dirt-cheap prices (we were stuffed after spending $10/person), Xi'an Famous Foods is worth the visit.

Though the space is small, we could easily find this place.  Look for the small crowd forming outside and the celebrity photos (Anthony Bourdain, Kelly Choi) and reviews plastered on the window, and you'll find Xi'an Famous Foods.

While waiting in line (there was a 10 person line on Sat at 7pm), we scanned the menu for dishes we could order and share.
With all of our spicy foods, the Sweetened Sour Hawberry Tea ($1.50) was a hit.  Hawberries are red berries with a bitter, sour, and sweet taste.  Though they reminded me of Chinese medicinal remedies (from my childhood), I like this tea because the flavor was subtle.

We all liked the Savory Cumin Lamb burger ($2.50) and the Stewed Pork Burger ($2).  I preferred the savory cumin lamb burger for its flavor (love cumin!) and texture (it's basically cumin ground lamb versus a patty).  I found the pork burger really greasy, messy, and fatty (of course, it's the fat that makes it tasty).
Special Spinach Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles ($5.50):  We didn't find that much difference (beyond the color) between this dish and the following, non-spinach noodle dish.  Maybe it was because the "cold skin" (which isn't actually skin, but more like wheat sponges) was the star, being soaked in a flavorful, spicy broth that starts out tasty in your mouth, then you eventually feel the heat.
Liang Pi Cold Skin noodles ($4.50):  The noodles are thick and made of wheat flour. They have a silky, chewy feel to them.  And with the bean sprouts and cilantro, the dish has spicy, but almost a refreshing flavor too.
Spicy and Tingly Lamb Face Salad ($9.75):  Interesting was the operative word on this dish.  We ordered 2 plates of this dish (but ended taking one home).  The first time we had it (at the restaurant), it was not spicy.  There was more heat to the version we brought back home.  The salad part was crunchy and bright.  The "lamb face" part is composed of soft tendons and muscles that were spongy and easy to chew.   
Savory Cumin Lamb Hand-Pulled Noodles ($6):  We all loved this dish (again, the cumin and lamb combo drew us in).  The hand-pulled noodles (as we've had before) were very long, wide and thin (like ribbons).  With the bean sprouts, scallions, lamb meat, cumin, chili oil, etc, this was a very addictive dish.
Unfortunately, they were all out of the Lamb Spine dish ($5.50), so we'll have to return to try it out.  If you thought you knew Chinese food and like spicy foods, try something different and check this place out! The new Xi'an Famous Foods is located at 81 St. Mark's Place (btwn 1st and 2nd Aves) in NYC.

Xi'an Famous Foods on Urbanspoon


  1. Bryan & I will be going to Xi-an at the end of September! I had no idea their food was so lamb & cumin based.

  2. You'll love it - it's a great cheap eat and there's a location in Chinatown plus the original in Queens. Though there were pork options, we all gravitated towards the lamb/cumin combos.


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