Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Spicy and Tingly Lamb Face Salad

I love the names of dishes at Chinese restaurants. Spicy Pig Pudding Salad with Garlic and Lamb Spine with Ribs are also on the menu at Xi'an Famous Foods whose newest outlet has just opened at 81 St Marks Place.

Savory Cumin Lamb with Hand Pulled Noodles is what I had and it totally changed my perception of Chinese Food forever. I decided to to eat at Xian for several reasons (in no particular order): I was starving after yoga, it was cheap, it had tons of press outside (Anthony Bourdain, New York Magazine, the New York Times so I am slow on the uptake on this one), it fills a space that has never really seemed to take off and it always amazes me how one place is ignored and the second the right new place opens it's bustling, I've always wanted to go to Xian, and finally, most importantly, the food looked and sounded so unusual and delicious I just had to try it!

All the noodles are hand pulled, thick and chewing with a smooth edge and a ragged edge - like a torn piece of cloth - many of the dishes are served as a stir fry or with a soup option. There are a few vegetarian options, but mostly it's a lot of lamb with some beef and pork thrown in for good measure. Cumin is featured prominently and the flavors of the two dishes I tried reminded me more of Indian food than Chinese. Also the use of Lamb is not something I associate with Chinese food. In one of the reviews I read it said this was a Muslim influence, who ever gets the credit they really understand flavor.

This mini chain started out in Flushing and now has 4 stores. I'm so glad to have discovered them. My Savory Cumin Lamb with Hand Pulled Noodles was a revelation. It's all about the noodles, the crunchy, chewy, cumin infused lamb intermingles with bean sprouts, chopped scallion and a generous splatter of chili oil all in service of the amazing noodles. I inhaled it like it was my last meal all the time planning in my head when I could return.

When I got home I realized that Xi'an's first Manhattan outlet is actually down the street from me around in a Chinese Mall underneath the Manhattan Bridge. Actually it's just north of East Broadway on Forsyth street a mere slip of a place with enough room for take away orders and three people to eat quickly at the little stainless steel bar in the front window. But that's all the space you need when you are ordering a lamb bun for $2.50 to walk with. Probably the most delicious and cheapest lunch special in all of New York.
Savory Cumin Lamb with Hand Pulled Noodles.

The picture menu.
This is the new place on St Marks, it's the one I would suggest going to first, it has several place to sit and is a nice, clean all white space with a light wood bar and a few small tables.

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