Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
Went to this fine restaurant tonight with a fellow chowhound. Exceeded all expectations! The food was very different from standard Chinese fare, probably as a result of the Turkish influence. Interesting that Muslims represent 2% of China's population. Also, the Chinese ethnic minorities, such as the Muslims, have a disproportionate political significance because many of them live in strategic border areas. The Muslim Uygurs in Xinjiang, in the far western region, border on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.
We ordered 1) Mandarin Lamb, which came with an exotic cumin coriander seasoning. Note, lots of lamb in Mandarin cuisine 2) stired flour ball with 3 flavor. The flour balls are like small wheat dumplings (since this food comes from the north, you will see more wheat than rice as a carbohydrate). The balls were just the right chewy, soft texture. So essentially this dish was sauted meat, vegetables, and dumplings. 3) Peking beef pie, which was like a whole wheat onion pancake, with ground beef rather than onions 4) eggplant with spicy garlic sauce. All dishes were stellar. The waiter was friendly, made excellent recommendations, and checked with us several times as to how we were enjoying the dishes. Prices were reasonable and parking was shockingly easy (right in front!). The only less than perfect aspect of this restaurant is that diners get blasts of cold air when the door opens or when the staff decides to open the windows. All in all, it was exciting to try so many delectable new dishes.
Just ate there Friday - unfortunately, one of the best dishes on the menu is only written in Chinese. It's lamb hot pot (shuan3 yang2 rou4) - not to be mistaken with the section called warm pots on the menu.
It's table cooking and is centered around a nice broth that's flavored by dried shrimp. You can order a variety of raw items to cook yourself; offerings include lamb, beef, tripe, fish, other organ meats, tofu, napa cabbage and a very good sweet garlic. The lamb was very very marbled (often with huge veins of fat), and sliced very thinly, (essentially like shabu shabu). After dipping the lamb in the pot for a few seconds, you dip it into a sesame (and I think peanut) based sauce. I loved it!.
The sweet garlic is also delicious - it's whole garlic cloves, unpeeled and somehow cooked or pickled in sugared water or something that renders it garlic pungent and lightly sweet at the same time. It's a bit hard to get to since you have to do the peeling yourself, but the effort is totally worth it. Just don't plan to have any intimate conversations after dinner.
Lamb stir-fried with fen3 pi2 (literally flour or powder skin) is also excellent. I don't what fen3 pi2 is made of (what kind of flour? - rice or some kind of mung or soy bean-based? - someone jump in) - but it comes in broad flat al dente sheets, the dimensions of a fettucine strand that needs a diet. The texture contrast between the resilient and even slightly crunchy fen3 pi2 and the tender lamb made the already tasty dish even more delicious.
Another good bet was an amazing beef tongue - greqat beefy flavor and very tender.
Bonjour Elise - My dear, it was a big surprise to learn last night the identity of our enthusiastic new poster on this board!!!
Some good stuff here. I'll mention that dinner including tax and tip was $34, and we each had a good size serving of leftovers to make a substantial lunch today. On reheating, I became much more aware of how much oil is used in Northern cooking. Still very tasty though.
The three flavors in the stirred flour balls turned out to be beef, chicken and shrimp, also mixed with diced carrot, zucchini, canned mushrooms, and bean sprouts. The eggplant has a sweet spicy sauce, well-balanced though.
We noticed that all the other tables had hot pots (called warm pots on the menu) and the Peking beef pie. No leftovers of beef pie to take home! I can't decide if that was my favorite or the lamb.
The other distraction to point out is the TV with the Mandarin-language programs going non-stop. But it just reminded me of eating in the kitchen of certain childhood friends' homes.
I'm so glad you're enjoying the Chowhound lifestyle!