Ever since I moved to NYC in 2006 I have been meaning to try Xi'an Famous Foods. Up until recently you had to trek out to Flushing to eat at the Golden Mall if you wanted to try the restaurant, but sometime in the last year (I think January 2010, but it could have been December 2009) they opened a branch of the restaurant in Chinatown. It was a huge deal, but somehow Alex and I never made the trek down there. The problem with the Chinatown branch was that it was basically a take-out place with no seats or tables to eat at, just a counter. And then in July 2010 they finally opened a branch with a few tables and seats in the East Village on St. Marks. We finally made it down to the EV to try it out and boy was it worth the trip, even if we had to sit on a nearby bench to eat our food in Styrofoam containers because the restaurant itself was so packed! So I apologize for our pictures, which are far from fantastic, but that's what you get when you eat from takeout containers on the sidewalk. That yellow blob in the picture of our half-eaten pork burger above is one of the many taxis that went zooming by while we were eating. How's that for atmosphere?
Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles might not sound (or look) like much, but they are amazing. The wheat noodles and tofu mixed together in a chili oil with cilantro and scallions are fantastic. For the record, there is no skin of any sort involved. I haven't tasted anything like them since I returned from China in 2005. They were hands down our favorite dish. We also tried the Savory Cumin Lamb Hand-Pulled Noodles and they were our second favorite dish of the evening. The noodles were soft and doughy, but in the best way possible, and clearly homemade. The lamb was very flavorful, with lots of cumin (which I love), but I wish the dish had a bit more of what the Chinese call "ma la" to it - that spicy, Sichuan peppercorn numbing pepper effect. Instead the sauce was a little lighter than I had been expecting, but was still seriously delicious. The last dish we tried tonight was the Stewed Pork Burger. I was torn between the Savory Cumin Lamb Burger and the pork burger since Chowhounds are always debating which one is better, but I figured I would round out our meal with pork instead of more cumin lamb. I really enjoyed the pork burger, but Alex thought it was just a tad dry, which isn't that surprising as Alex loves things saucier than I do.
More (including more pictures) after the jump!
As delicious as everything was that we tried tonight, I can't wait to go back and order more. On my list of things to try next time are the Spicy and Tingly Beef Hand-Pulled Noodles, the Spicy & Tingly Lamb Face Salad (if they have it because they are always running out), and the Savory Cumin Lamb Burger. If those dishes are even half as delicious as the ones we have tonight I will be in heaven.
Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles
Savory Cumin Lamb Hand-Pulled Noodles