One of the restaurants I researched for our New York trip, after reading raves for years, was Xi’an Famous Foods (https://www.xianfoods.com/), a family-owned Chinese restaurant specializing in spicy noodle dishes, with eleven Manhattan locations, three in Queens, and one in Brooklyn. From its humble beginning in a tiny mall basement food stall in Flushing, Queens, in 2005, Xi’an has grown into a familiar New York City institution.
According to the website, the city of Xi’an in northwestern China created a unique cuisine incorporating Middle Eastern influences and lots of spices, including mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorns. I have reviewed some of Orlando’s own Szechuan-influenced restaurants, Taste of Chengdu and Chuan Lu Garden, and I’m always a noodle fan, so I had to try Xi’an Famous Foods while I could. Luckily, while we were touring our favorite museum, the always illuminating Museum of Modern Art, I looked out a second-floor window and saw a Xi’an location directly across the street! It was meant to be.
Unfortunately, this location wasn’t the most accessible for my walker-wielding wife, who courageously climbed down a few steps to enter. We took note of all of our “adventures in accessibility” in New York and realized how lucky we are that most buildings and businesses in Orlando are accessible for people with disabilities, compared to larger, older cities. New York is still rad, but that was an ongoing issue throughout our trips, past and present. But I digress.
Anyway, Xi’an Famous Foods posted its full menu on the wall inside, with photos — something we really appreciated, that I wish more restaurants would do.
My wife was a little intimidated by the promised spiciness, and the place was hopping with the lunch rush, so we compromised with me ordering my meal to go, to enjoy back in our room. Chili oil leaked in the bag on the way back to our hotel and made a huge mess, which made photography difficult, but I did my best.
This was the dish I fantasized about in advance: hand-ripped wide biangbiang noodles with stewed oxtails. Everyone warned me to order the noodles with the cumin lamb, and I do love cumin lamb, but oxtails win out.
That’s a dish I crave almost constantly, especially from Jamaican restaurants, despite indulging only once or twice a year. I’ve made slow-braised oxtails at home too, but since she doesn’t care for them, it almost seems like more trouble than it’s worth. Needless to say, these oxtails were much spicier than the Jamaican recipes I am used to, and I even ordered it mild (better safe than sorry, I figured). They were tender and unctious, though, just as they should be from the slow stewing or braising process. The noodles were delicious, with a great chewiness.
But since I’m also a cumin lamb fanboy, I had to try it too. Luckily, Xi’an offers a spicy cumin lamb burger, a sandwich on a crispy flatbread bun that was like a cross between a pita and an English muffin, in terms of texture. The bun didn’t do much for me, but the lamb was tender, flavorful, and very, very spicy. I wimped out with the noodles, but felt I owed it to myself and to the cook to try something at maximum strength.
Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gaaaaal!Final thought on the famous cumin lamb: NOT BAAAAAAAD.
I wish I had more to say, but I just wish I could have tried more things. I don’t think you can go wrong with anything atop these biangbiang noodles: not just oxtails or cumin lamb, but also spicy ground pork (like the dan dan noodles I love so much), stewed pork, spicy and sour pork belly, bone-in dark meat chicken, vegetables, and even plain noodles tossed in chili oil. You can get most of the noodle dishes in soup as well, plus dumplings stuffed with spicy and sour lamb or spinach and vermicelli noodles, with or without soup. Everything was very affordable, and as we could tell from the midday crowd, Xi’an Famous Foods must be a hot lunch spot for New Yorkers around the city (no pun intended). I’m glad I finally got to feel the heat for myself.