Xi'an Famous Foods Opening More Upscale Sit Down Branch on Main St. Flushing
Ate at Biang last week one night after attending the US Open and had a disappointing meal.
Service was poor. We got there around 9pm, had about a 20 minute wait, and felt rushed throughout our meal. We also overheard a lot of issues at nearby tables (plates being delivered to the wrong tables, mistakes on checks).
As for the food, I was surprised to find I didn’t enjoy it. We got lamb skewers (not as good as Flushing street carts), chicken wings (same exact seasoning as on the lamb), quail (again same seasoning), mantous with sausage and egg (similar flavors, texture of sausage was odd), and the liang pi noodles (fine, tasted the same as in Xi’an locations). The problem is there wasn’t much variety in the flavors. The meal got boring very quickly and the low quality of the meat (which I think usually goes unnoticed because of the bold seasonings) became apparent. We ended up leaving half of the food behind.
I think the food may just be better suited for a quick meal or snack and not a full-fledged meal. So I’ll continue to go to the Xi’an locations in the city but Biang and its bad service are not worth a visit. I’m kind of surprised that the New York Times felt that Biang warranted a full review.
Anyone have a clue about their recipe for their cumin lamb noodles, I believe the number is D5. I love these and am trying to replicate them at home. The noodles and lamb are the easy part. What I'm wondering is what they're coated in besides chilli sesame oil and cumin. I love these things, but hate making the trip when they seem to be made from pretty simple ingredients.I'm close but no cigar...
The cumin lamb noodles are pretty simple to make. I do it a few times a month. I marinate the sliced raw lamb in toasted cumin and sichuan peppercorns, garlic and soy sauce overnight. Stir fry with onions and toasted chilies and whatever else you like in a stir fry (I used chopped Chinese broccoli usually). I throw them on top of whatever noodles I'm in the mood for. My trick is I make a rich lamb broth with the bones from the lamb I use. Instead of $13 a pound leg of lamb I buy $4 a pound lamb chops and some lamb stew bones and simmer them a few hours with aromatics.
I went today and for lunch everything was delish. They were out of the buckwheat noodles which was very disappointing.
My issue is the service. The front of the house was seriously understaffed and the kitchen was sooo slow. I had to ask multiple times for water (which is kinda a big issue with spicy food). I did love everything, especially the quail egg and chinese sausage dish. I just hope they work the service kinks out.
Stopped by the other day. I had the tofu and the Mt. Qi spicy and sour pork noodles, which are both available at the other shops. These were as always, very nice. The two Biang! items I tried were the lamb dumplings and the ān chŭn dàn ròu cháng kăo mó piàn (鹌鹑蛋肉肠烤馍片).
The dumplings were fine. They were thick-skinned and juicy, though I would have preferred more meat and veggie filling to give them more heartiness since they are served in sauce. The little toasted mantou sandwiches though were awesome. They are like goopy little open faced, cumin spiced sausage egg mcmuffins. I could've slammed a dozen of those puppies.
It's a nice little place and certainly more comfortable than the other locations. I'd like to try the skewers next time. The beer license is pending....Mmmm, skewers and beer. Will definitely be back.
We tried to order the lamb dumplings but were told they were out - so we got the lamb soup dumplings instead. they were not served in a sauce, and while the wrappers could have been a bit thinner, we though the filling was great. I like, but dont love, soup dumplings (heresy, i know.) Ive had some really fantastic ones, but too often the filling is off, the wrappers get gummy, but these were really good. a tad large, maybe, for conenient one-bite slurping, but they (like everything else we ordered) had a fantastically lamb-ey ness to them that we really loved.
The sweet bun at the bottom of the ān chŭn dàn ròu cháng kăo mó piàn was a bit surprising but most interesting.
Regular favorits lamb-face, mt qi noodles were on point as expected.
we kept remarking at home they could double the prices in another location - we stuffed ourselves silly for about 15 dollars each. It was great taking out-of-town friends there (they love the XFF locations but had only heard about, but not seen, flushing)
Went for late lunch yesterday (2 PM). Place was only 1/5 occupied. Had the following:
liáng pí 凉皮 $5 Wheat-based cold and chewy ribbon-like noodles, with seitan (wheat gluten) slices, blanched mung-bean sprouts, cucumber and cilantro; dressed with chili oil, soy sauce, and vinegar
ān chŭn dàn ròu cháng kăo mó piàn
Toasted slices of mantou (steamed bun), home-made spicy pork sausage, fried quail egg on top; three per order
The noodles were great but I wished they didn't serve it first. By the time they served the buns, my mouth was on fire and couldn't appreciate the subtle flavors of the quail egg. Even by itself, I think the spicy sausage would have overwhelmed the taste of the quail egg.
Ate here yesterday afternoon. The decor was nice, minimalistic with lots of dark woods and stools. Service was for the most part ok, although we had to ask for plates a couple times. The staff spoke decent English, and of course, Mandarin Chinese.
Anyways, onto the food:
beef stomach skewers (ma la shuan niu du)- nice and soft, with a little bit of bite, not rubbery at all. These were served in a spicy sesame sauce. 3 to an order, I could've eaten the whole thing myself.
pork blood cubes (la zi suan zhu xue) - these small cubes were full of flavor, served in their ubiquitous sauce of chili oil, cilantro, garlic, black vinegar, and sichuan peppercorns. These blood cubes were diced quite fine, texture was a little firmer than, say, a dim sum version, but that was to be expected since this dish was served cold.
lamb burger (zī rán yáng ròu jiā bái jī mó) - great flavor, served on a shao bing (roasted bread). Slightly spicy, sort of like a pulled pork sandwich but kicked up 10 notches. The shao bing is the size of an English muffin. Of course, they taste completely different. My favorite dish of the meal.
pork burger (là zhī ròu jiā bái jī mó) - same as above but with pork instead of lamb. I didn't try this since I pick lamb over pork about 12 times out of 10. But I'm sure it was quite tasty.
oxtail (la zhi niu wei) - ok, here is where we went a little wrong. We ordered the oxtail appetizer and my friend ordered an oxtail noodle. We were thinking of a nicely soft textured meat. These were definitely not the case. The meat was very firm, braised in a soy sauce and IMO very salty. Very hard to use chopsticks to eat these oxtails. Basically we had to hold the bone between our fingers and gnaw away. I'm fine with that but just not what I was expecting at all.
yang rou pao mo - lamb soup with thin noodles and shao bing. The broth was full of cilantro and nicely flavored with lamb. The shao bing was broken up into little pieces and put into the bowl to soften up. Every version I had in China had the shao bing on the side and you would break it up and put it into the soup. I actually prefer the way they do it here because the shao bing absorbs liquid better than paper towels. Anyways, good flavor, and the shao bing was nice and soft, but not to the point of mushiness. I ate the whole thing with a spoon instead of chopsticks.
oxtail noodle (là zhī niú wĕi biáng biang miàn) - basically the above oxtail served with some pulled flat noodles. My friend ordered this, and said the noodles were good, but the oxtail just wasn't what he expected texturewise.
Things I want to try next time:
lamb salad (liáng bàn má là yáng tŭi ròu)
stir fried lamb noodles (zī rán yáng ròu biáng biang miàn)
quail (xī yù kăo xiáo niăo)
The biang biang mian all looked very good. The noodles stir fries IMO aren't as talked about as the noodle soups (even in China) and deserve more attention.
The Buckwheat Pudding will become the best icebreaker in New York. The stool mates on my right and left each had a case of jaw drop when mine was served. And who wouldn't, besides a few Japanese in the know. An irregular grey soft ball, which no matter how it was intended to be eaten served as a greatly mild foil for the rest of my food.
The Lamb Face salad was even zippier than I've had in the branches, enough Szechuan peppercorns and garlic to power a fever dream. The quail was great. Next time on to the skewers.
It is called Biang!, and located just south of the Starbucks at Main St and 41st Ave. Beautiful, simple interior, and a menu with English translations. The menu has some dishes from Xian Famous Foods, like the Liang Pi, and the lamb burgers, and some new things. Of particular interest is an apparent gesture to vegetarians, in that they are selling Seitan skewers, and some other vegetarian options. (At least, I think this is new...)
I expect this will become quite the hot spot, once people become aware of it.