[LAST UPDATED MAY 2013]
Lately we've been revisiting the most excellent Xi'an Cuisine around the corner from Dixon House, opposite the Entertainment Centre. We've really got a taste for that north-western, noodley cuisine. So we're super happy to see another Xi'an joint open in Dixon House Food Court.
Noodles are the order of the day at Xi'an Kitchen: you can get them steamed, fried, ripped, handmade or swimming in soup. You can get them made of rice, wheat, egg, potato or even pancake.
In our bloated opinion the standout dish is the regional speciality, Xi'an Pi Cold Noodles. These are amazing, and only five freakin dollars eighty. Our other favourites are the stir fried chopped pancake, spinach dumplings and a top notch pork and shallot pancake.
Xi'an Kitchen joint is run by a friendly bunch of folks, the younger folks speak more English than the older ones. If in doubt, just point at the picture menu and smile.
On our first visit we ask the boss man what the best dish is. He wisely suggests Xian Pi - cold rice noodle with spicy oil - $5.80 - "very famous in China". This is amazing. Handmade noodles served cool with a slightly warm, very garlic-y, oily dressing. The dressing has little specs of chili in it, but somehow the flavour reminds us of pesto, mysteriously freaking delicious. Highly recommended. For more info on this dish see this article on xianese.com.
Steam buns are on special for $1 at the front counter. A stodgy bread roll, plain on it's own, but wonderful when dunked into sauce from the Xian Pi above.
Stir fried shredded pancake - $7.50. Google tells us this is another regional speciality. There's a nice wok smokiness and a perfect chew to the sliced pancake noodle thingies that got us all excited. Delicious and carbolicious.
Spinach dumplings - $8.50 for 14 pieces. These are handmade and quite different to your regular dumpling.
Inside the green spinach case is a mildly spicy mixture of meat (pork most likely) and veggies: fancy pants Chinese rissoles.
Another killer morsel at Xi'an Kitchen is the pork and shallot pancake $3. If you see they guy cooking these at the counter make sure you grab one, these are amazing when fresh off the hotplate, the best we've had since we had one on the street in Shanghai, only this one has pork in it.
Spicy hot oil seared hand ripped noodles - $6.50. Lovely big flat noodles that are like pappardelle pasta, with chili and a good drizzle of oil. This looks super spicy but the chili has a real warmth and flavour and it doesn't burn.
Handmade noodle with tomato and egg - $6.50. Plain, simple and homely yet very well cooked.
Xi'an charcoal skewers - 4 for $5, the boss threw in an extra one for us. These are ok but Anna's Kitchen is still the best place for skewers at Dixon House.
Pork rib noodle soup $7.50 - from the handwritten specials sign. A plain peppery broth with rice noodles, livened up a little with optional chili. Comes with a few big hunks of pork on the bone. Not the most exciting soup but it's excellent value, there's lots of noodle and plenty of pork.
Marinated pork ribs - $10. These are mostl likely the same big hunks of slow cooked pork as used in the soup above, they must have a big pot of it brewing out the back. It's quite plain but there's a lot of flesh for your dollar. A dish best shared, unless you're after a big protein hit.
The same flesh as above is used in these pork stuffed buns ($3). Depending on your lingo, these are called rou jia mo, or pulled pork sandwiches. Or Chinese hamburgers if you're a dag like us. The porky filling is good but the bread was hard, very hard, maybe we got this on a bad day. For a consistently 'wow' rou ja mo head to nearby Xi'an Cuisine, the egg ones are even yummier than the pork ones.
Minced meat noodles $7.50. If you asked a Chinese Auntie to make spaghetti bolognaise we reckon she'd make something like this: simply pork mince on boiled noodles. There's little spice or pizzazz to this dish but Mr Shawn found himself scoffing a bowl of the stuff and drinking the juices at the bottom.
Xi'an steamed noodle - $7.50. Lighter and healthier than fried noodles, sort of reminds us of Singapore Noodles, except drier and with thicker noodles. Has some slithers of pork amongst a handful of veggies. This has a subtle, unique flavour that we liked a lot.
[BACK AGAIN APRIL 2013]
Steamed Pork - $10. This mystery bowl is number 1 on the menu has been on our 'gimme eat' list for a while. As you can see, the top layer is 10 or so thin slices of lovely, moist, lardy pork belly. But what is underneath?
Underneath the fatty pork slices is a gorgeous, porky/salty/soy flavoured broth. This is cut perfectly with fresh Chinese greens and tofu skin. This is one of the happiest feedtimes in a while.
[BACK AGAIN MAY 2013]
Back again to try another classic - lamb soup with bun - $10. A thin, simple broth tasting of lamb and a little white pepper, reminds Mr Shawn of the simple English style meat'n'veggie soups his mum makes, except with a kick from the optional chili. There's three or four nice slices of lamb, and some veggies, mushrooms, tofu skin and flavour-soaking clear noodles. It served with two inch thick discs of white Chinese bread.
The bread is dunked in the soup, or better still, broken and soaked in the broth. This is one of those homely style Chinese dishes we have grown to love.
Xi'an Kitchen is in Dixon House Food Court, corner of Dixon and Little Hay Street's Chinatown.