Shaanxi Gourmet--long review!
I am glad we came here for dinner. We were very pleased with our meal and it looks like they've made some changes to the menu since they opened.
Pros: Menus are in English and Chinese now. Food came straight out of the wok (seared my tongue on a hot piece of eggplant) but all the dishes came out at the same time, so it was hard to enjoy them one at a time. It looks like the full menu is up and in full swing. We came w/ the locals who ate here within the 1st week of opening and they changed their minds about the food to a positive opinion. Place is clean, well-lit with an open kitchen.
Cons: They didn’t translate the explanations of the pita bread lamb soup or the lamb “sandwich” on the menu, which would have been interesting to read. All the food coming out within minutes of each other.
The usual: English misspellings on the displays on the wall (“steaed” whole wheat noodles)
Beef and ox tongue in chili sauce (appetizer)—was a combo of tongue and tripe. Nice chili heat with a dark, vinegary depth.
Cucumber salad (appetizer)—nice, garlicky and acidic. Cucumbers were crispy and fresh.
Seaweed salad (appetiter)—ended up getting this b/c they ran out of celery w/ dry tofu skin. Fresh, nice toothiness to the seaweed but lacked flavor in comparison to the tongue/tripe and cucumbers.
“Pita” bread in supreme lamb soup—word to the wise—this is a large, filling bowl and either share it with a lot of people or if you’re only 1-2 people, then don’t order too many other dishes b/c the pita soaks up the broth as it sits and won’t hold well as a leftover. Broth was subtly mutton-y in a good, soothing way (think of the Korean rice dumpling soups). There were little bits of tofu, cloud ear mushroom and scrambled egg in the bowl. Definitely add the hot chili paste and cilantro to it b/c they add a brightness and clarity to the dish that balances it out.
Shaanxi style handmade noodles--1.5-2” wide, fresh made rice noodles mixed with a dark, vinegary chili sauce, dotted w/ salted picked vegetables. They provide a pair of scissors to cut up the noodles, which helps serving it from the bowl to your plate. I am a sucker for fresh noodles and really enjoyed this. One of my dining companions got too much of the salted vegetable in one bite and said it was overly salty. However, I didn’t find this to be consistent throughout the entire dish and noticed that some bites were mostly chili sauce and others had the “hit” of salt and vinegar.
Stir fried cumin lamb—wonderfully cumin and onion-y, with slivers of green bell pepper to break up the deeper flavor of lamb and cumin. I recall a remark on Top Chef where they say bell pepper is hard to work with. In this case, it enhanced the dish and brought it a nice, bright bite to the lamb and cumin. I would be happy with this and a bowl of rice or a fresh piece of naan.
Fried potato, green and red bell peppers and eggplant—is not a spicy dish, which was fine, given the heat from the other dishes. Sauce was a brown sauce, caramel-y and savory. Came straight of the wok, piping hot and I proceeded to sear my tongue on a wonderful piece of eggplant. Potatoes were cooked all the way through. Only negative was that it was a tad on the oily side, but I only noticed this when we were putting it in the take out container.
Cilantro fish fillet soup—a very clear, simple broth, which highlighted the citrusy fragrance of the cilantro. Not many pieces of fish, which was fine, given how much food we already had. A couple of slivers of 1000 year old egg were thrown in there. For those who are into the Cantonese style of more complex soups, this would be a disappointment. However, I found it a pleasing palate cleanser and welcomed contrast to the heavier, spicier dishes of the meal.
Beijing yogurt—I’m guessing this is their version of lassi. I was hoping it would be similar to the wonderful, tangy “drinking” yogurt on the Silk Road trip we did in the past. Texture was somewhere between Yoplait and a thick lassi. I would have preferred it to be slightly thinner. Flavor was mildly pleasant but lacked the acidic tang of Middle Eastern yogurt.
Overall, a solid B+. We’ll be definitely coming here again!
re: Dave Feldman
We have not. However, we have commissioned the local troops to check it out. It sounds really good. We had really good nieu ro mein in Lanzhou. The hard part was that they served us a full, traditional dinner first, then the huge bowl of noodles at the end. Made it harder to really enjoy!