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Xi'an Sizzling Woks

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  • lgk Jul 25, 2013 08:19 AM
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Have been twice to this new place in Chinatown (902 Arch) - food from Xi'an region - nothing like it in Philly that I've ever had. Everything we tried was fantastic including Xi'an liang pi (refreshing and addictive cold sour/spicy thick and chewy noodles w cucumber and spongy tofu-like cubes), "Chinese hamburger" (rich and beautifully spiced minced meat - beef? pork? who cares - in pillowy pita-like bun), spicy sour minced pork noodles and "pita bread soaked in lamb and beef soup" (delicious broth with tiny pieces of dumpling-like pita (the size of a "bee's head" according to the menu) with black mushrooms, cellophane noodles and shaved bits of lamb - add the little bowl of chilies, cilantro and whole garlic cloves that they give you). Some of the most exciting new flavors that I've had in some time. And, dinner for 2 last night clocked in at under $20 (see link below).
http://midtownlunch.com/philadelphia/...

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  1. This is nice; how does it compare with the different Xian FF locations in NYC?

    5 Replies
    1. re: mookleknuck

      I would say it is not the equal of Xi'an Famous Foods, mostly because its menu is much more limited--as far as I can tell there are none of the braised meat with hand-pulled noodle dishes, my favorite at Xi'an FF.

      But it is still a terrific addition to Chinatown and definitely worth a visit. In addition to the "burgers," liang pi and pork noodles, I highly recommend the hand-pulled noodles drowned in a garlicky vinegar dressing with tons of dried chili--seems to go under the name "hand-pulled east noodles with ginger scallion sauce" on the hand-written menu.

      1. re: nwinkler

        My guess is that these are Fujian immigrants running this place. They've seen the NYC success and are trying to bring it south. Also, Xian Famous Foods now operates a commissary kitchen - a lot of the prep work is done there and then the product is trucked to their 4-5 outposts.

        1. re: scoopG

          Makes sense. My hope is that increased interest in the Xi'An section of the menu (they also have the roster of Cantonese-American) will lead to a longer list of those dishes.

          Out of curiosity: is your guess about Fujian motivated by some Fujianese dishes on their menu? If so, are there some you would recommend trying?

          1. re: nwinkler

            I too would hope they can expand their Xian based snack food items. The Cantonese-American dishes are there because unfortunately many Chinese restaurants have to be all things to all customers. The inclusion of a few sour dishes is interesting too.

            I am thinking they are not from Xian because the menu is so limited, Fujian immigrants because they represent the largest group of Chinese immigrants now. In a reverse pattern from the early and mostly Cantonese immigrants 170 years ago, this expansion is from NYC westward - not San Francisco eastward.

            I believe Nan Zhou Hand-pulled Noodles on Race Street is also run by Fujianese immigrants.

      2. re: mookleknuck

        Finally made it out here this past weekend and to answer my own question, it doesn't compare at all to the different Xian FF locations across NYC, not even after the latter's slight decline in quality. TL;DR Based on one visit, it's not good enough to warrant a revisit.

        The menu has some of the same options found at Xian FF. They have an extensive menu with many of the current Chinese food trends and Chinese-American standards. Good efficient service and relatively clean.

        We ordered the Xian liangpi, the Chinese hamburger with spicy minced pork, the cumin beef hamburger (comes with green peppers and onions), dumplings in sour soup and General Tso's chicken. The liangpi were the best part of the meal and were fine, but rather one-note, mostly tasting of black vinegar and chili oil. The spongy tofu (from freezing) was the best part of the dish. The "hamburgers" came on pita that may or may not have been made in-store, but were not pillowy nor all that fresh. The cumin beef hamburger filling was not bad, but I would not recommend the spicy minced pork as it was not spicy or tasty. We were bored with the taste after two bites. The dumplings were clearly made in-house with their wrappers of inconsistent thicknesses and a fine filling of pork and leeks or chives, but the broth was made with bouillon cubes, MSG, and a couple of dashes of black vinegar. I've had better General Tso's from Panda Express, but it could have been worse, I guess. We were not served any bowl of chilies, cilantro, and whole garlic cloves.

        Although I clearly had to cater to someone else's dining wishes, I would have to think hard before returning to try the recommended biang biang mian with ginger scallion sauce and pita bread in lamb and beef soup. In general, the seasoning was poor and the ingredients were not prepared with much care. I didn't ask, but I agree with scoopG's conjecture that these are Fujian immigrants trying to capitalize on Xian FF's NYC success.

      3. Yes, I have been there twice as well, and I believe I had everything you mentioned.

        <pita bread soaked in lamb and beef soup>

        This is a classic. Well, the classic actually just lamb/goat. Also their bread is cubic, the more traditional ones are not cubic.

        <whole garlic cloves>

        Pickled whole garlic cloves.

        Why do you call it Sizzling Woks?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Chemicalkinetics, it looks like the restaurant ran into a copyright issue (listed farther down in the comments in the link originally posted). What did you have on your two times there? How do you think it compares to the different Xian FF places in NYC (if you've gone)?

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I would love a translation or description of the dishes as this is a regional variation in Chinese cuisine I have no experience with.

            1. re: mookleknuck

              Modified answers.
              I had
              Liangpi, Hamburger and Pita Bread in Soup Twice..