I would apologize for the quality of the photo, but since Josh and I could barely pause to speak while inhaling this food, I consider the fact that I managed to get one photo a massive victory.
I had been hearing about Xi’an Famous Foods for a while and wanted to try it out. We were both off Friday, and we decided to hit up the Upper West Side location on our way to see the Whitney Biennial.
The restaurant is small with limited seating, so I quickly grabbed two stools after agonizing with Josh over which menu items we should try this round. He ordered at the counter, and we only had a brief wait before our order number was called. Then, conversation virtually ceased.
We tried the spicy cumin lamb burger, the spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles, the spicy cucumber salad, and the spicy and sour lamb dumplings. Notice a few trends? We do love lamb and heat, but you should know that there are a variety of different meat and vegetable options, as well as items that are more mild.
The burger was very savory, sandwiched between two pieces of flatbread and full of a well spiced ground lamb mixture. Anthony Bourdain, my hero, is a known fan of the burger, and for good reason. Very simple and would make a great snack if you were in the area.
The spicy lamb noodles were so good. The noodles are made fresh in-house, and you can immediately tell the difference. There is such a fantastic chewy texture to them that you can never find a in a pre-made noodle. The lamb chunks were tender and spicy, and the juice coated the noodles.
We have a deep and abiding love for dumplings, and these didn’t disappoint. They were a little bigger than you typically find, definitely a 2-3 bite dumpling, filled with ground lamb and covered in a delicate spicy and sour sauce. The sauce bears no resemblance to the cheap and gloopy sauce that covers food court chicken, but instead was really a perfect balance of hot and sour, with a very pleasant heat in the background. I found myself dipping the dumplings back into the sauce after every bite.
The spicy cucumber salad was cool, crunchy, and delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever craved another bite of cucumber the way I did when eating that salad. It provided a nice contrast to all of the other textures happening in our meal, and was a great, light accompaniment to an otherwise relatively heavy meal.
All in all, this might be one of our new favorite restaurants. The combination of perfect seasonings and the joy of finding noodles of that quality have earned our deep loyalty. We’ve already started planning our next trip, and wondering which of the more unusual menu items to try next ( lamb face salad? lamb offal soup? The ox tail will definitely find its way onto our plates).
Note: while the prices are very low, especially for the extremely high quality of the food, it is cash only, so come prepared!