NYC Dining Out: Xi'an Famous Foods
New York is a wild mix of pretty much every kind of food you can imagine. Much of the food is great, there's plenty of average (almost every Mexican food place), and terrible has a significant showing as well (Times Square, I'm looking at you). However the most common adjective for finding a meal is expensive.
Team Phenix was in the city over winter break this past week and we pretty much hit every category. However, my favorite find was great AND cheap. WooHoo!!
The meal came together because we were in the East Village around dinner time, and I had NO clue where to go. I pinged a girlfriend who is not only a foodie, but has also earned a degree from NYU (which is close) and asked her for the scoop.
She was quick with her reply - go to either Katz Deli (Where Harry Met Sally) or Xi'an Famous Foods for, and I quote, "NOODLES!!!"
I'm not one to resist a noodle shop, so away we went.
When you walk into the space, one of the first things you'll notice is the spicy smell. This is no ordinary Chinese food spot. There's a mix of cumin and pepper in the air. In fact, the Xi'an cuisine is different from the more common Chinese food we eat in the US because it comes from the Western part of the country, and, also notably, the local specialty is hand-ripped "biang biang" noodles.
The second thing you'll notice is all the press up on the walls. Zagat surveys, NY Times, Anthony Bourdain, Man vs Food, etc. You name a famous food critic and chances are their glowing opinion is on the wall. The website has even more - read here. Clearly I am late to the deliciousness party!!
Also on the wall is The Menu.
Or is it a work of art?
If I weren't so hungry and drooling over the smells, I would have spent time reading every last description. Unless you like making decisions on the fly, it would probably be helpful to scan the website in advance. As for us, we really wanted dumplings and noodles (no soup) so that narrowed the selection considerably.
The lamb dumplings were great and my son rated them second only to the ones he's had in San Francisco (tough crowd).Even better, at least according to Ellie and me, were the spinach versions. Oh my goodness! Such deliciousness. For an entree we shared the Stir-fried Cold Skin Noodles WITHOUT the hot sauce (which was also withheld on the dumplings above). I imagine EVERY noodle dish is going to be this good so unbuckle those pants. Wow!!As for me and my asbestos tongue, I ordered the spicy beef noodles. Good grief they were hot -- which means perfect! And the noodles were melt-in-your-mouth scrumptious. I couldn't have been any happier!Seating is a challenge, so be prepared to share seats, stand, or get your noodles "to go." But if you DO risk having your noodles "to go," understand the flavor may not keep. The establishment feels so strongly about this you'll see this sign floating around which says:
*WARNING: PLEASE READ Food tastes best when fresh from the kitchen. When hot noodles cool down, they get bloated, mushy, and oily. If you must take your noodles to go, please at least try the noodles in the store or right out of the to-go containers when it's handed to you, so you can get the best possible Xi'an Famous Foods experience.Glad we didn't have to take the risk. There are multiple outlets of Xi'an Famous foods - six in Manhattan, two in Flushing, and one in Brooklyn. In other words, you will have plenty of chances to find this "find" and I certainly hope you do.
Next time I'm getting the lamb and cumin noodles...