With a city like New York that’s home to over 40,000 eateries, restaurants can come and go faster than anyone realizes it was ever there. So is not the case with the family owned Xi’an (she-ahn) Famous Foods who opened its doors back in 2005. What started out as a location inside a modest basement food stall in the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing, it’s quickly turning into a small empire with now 11 locations throughout the city. The New York City-based restaurants serves mouthwatering cuisine from Shaanxi province of China.
I visited the original inside the basement of the shopping center right off Flushing’s Main Street. Dark, dingy stairs lead down into a bustling food court of Asian exotics with very little English on the menus to hold your hand. To many people’s surprise though, Xi’an’s menu is translated into English unlike the other food stalls. The menu is simple yet offers many inviting selections of assorted meals. What you notice immediately after that is a small dining bench, best left to eating alone or with one friend. The kitchen is open for all eyes to see, and the technic used on their famous stretchy noodles are amazing to witness.
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My order is taken swiftly and arrives 5 minutes later as I take a bench seat next to a friend. I have orders of the spicy lamb burger, cold skin noodles, and the spicy beef noodle soup. The smells of the sharply aromatic spices from the kitchen are intoxicating as I bite into my cumin laced lamb burger.
The name might surprise some as it’s not a traditional burger, but one that is served on a flatbread that is reminiscent of steam buns. The tender lamb is mounted with onions and scallions that brighten up the cumin flavors. This popular item is a steal at only $4, as is many items on Xi’an’s menu with everything under $10. Next, I tried the , spicy beef soup topped with cilantro. The red chili-oil broth coats the inside of my mouth as I continue down this spicy Asian field trip.
All the seasonings meld well together with mouthwatering heat as the beef practically melts in my mouth. My guest concurs with my assessment as the orders continue to fly out to the right of us in this no frills food court. Just walking a few feet down this establishment, you might start to wonder if you have teleported to a different part of the world. And then there’s the noodles that everyone comes for. Broad and thick, they have a stretchy, stringy texture to them.
All handmade right there in front of you, the chili and meat sauce is quite savory with a mild sweetness contrasting the heat at the forefront. It’s has an addictive heat quality that keeps you going back for more until your plate is done. Bits of cool, crunchy cucumbers, celery, and chives garnish my plate with every bite as the generous portion of pasta is served on simple paper plates. Casual dining never tasted this good. The cavernous like kitchen surprises with every bite while you’re surrounded by raw cemented walls in this old shopping center basement. It’s quite amazing that such a popular establishment started in this humbling 200 square foot area that use to be a shopping store. With affordable, fast casual dining like this you really can’t go wrong.
Every Chinese food chain in New York should take notice of this expanding establishment.