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Aug 27, 2013 07:44 AM

Shandong House rebrands itself as Xi'an Gourmet [San Francisco]

Shandong House Restaurant at Geary and 2nd recently underwent a makeover and re-emerged as Xi'an Gourmet. Their chef is from Xi'an, so it was an easy enough transition.

I've been a big fan of Xi'an food since first visiting Xi'an Famous Foods in New York five years ago, so I rushed down there as soon as I heard about the metamorphosis. I wasn't disappointed by the lamb roujiamo or the you po mian, the only two items I've tried so far. Next up, yangrou paomo, liang pi and saozi mian.

They've kept the Shandong dishes on the menu as well as the Chinese-American Golden Hits, so it's a big menu, but the Xi'an dishes can be found primarily under "House Special" and (partly) the "Hand Pull Noodle" sections.

I'ts great to have another regional Chinese food option in a convenient SF location, especially one as tasty as Xi'an cuisine.

Xi'an Gourmet
3741 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave.

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  1. Can you tell me a bit more about the dishes you mentioned? What's you po mian? Is that on the noodle section of the menu?

    I see they have Big Plate Chicken there too...was that on the menu before, or is that also new?

    Thanks for the initial report!

    5 Replies
    1. re: Dave MP

      I think just about everything on the "House Special" Menu may be new. I haven't yet figured out how many of them are bona fide Xi'an specialties.

      The "you po mian" is the first item on the noodle section of the menu (just labeled "Shaanxi Hand Made Noodle" in English). I actually gave a whole post to the dish in my other blog.

      1. re: soupçon

        Thanks for scouting this out!

        In terms of dishes that you can get get elsewhere, at least in name, the house specials include:

        Sour napa cabbage with lamb : available at various places including Beijing Restaurant

        Xinjiang big plate chicken : available at Shandong Deluxe

        Spicy boiled beef : "water boiled" beef at any Sichuan restaurant

        There are roujiamo at a few places in the Bay Area, but none has been so appealing that I'd recommend them.

        1. re: soupçon

          So the version of you po mian you tried was meatless?

        2. re: Dave MP

          You po mian is a noodle dish from Shaanxi province.

          油潑面 - yóu pō miàn

          There are many variations:

          1. re: Dave MP

            Here's the noodle section of the menu. Some of it is obviously a legacy from Shandong House days..

          2. Did you try the wide, flat hand-pulled noodles? They were wonderful at Xi'an Famous Foods but I haven't been able to find anything comparable in the Bay Area--only the thicker, rounder variety.

            2 Replies
            1. re: dordogne

              I don't know if they make the wide noodle or not. I do love it, and hope they use it in their lamb noodle soup, which I haven't gotten to yet. The only flat had torn noodles I can recall having locally were made by a woman at Imperial Tea's Berkeley location. Shandong Deluxe on Taraval might also have them; the owner there used to cook in Xinjiang.

              1. re: soupçon

                Shandong Deluxe on Taraval, which I tried first on soupcon's recommendation, had a special lamb noodle soup with wide flat noodles when I was last there a few weeks ago. It was listed on a piece of paper on the wall, perhaps with just the word lamb in English. I had to ask the waitress what it was. The noodles were nice and toothsome -- I believe soupçon taught me the term que que -- although the broth and lamb were nothing special. The special was a dollar or two more than their other noodle dishes -- $8.95, I believe.

            2. Stopped by for dinner tonight not realizing I had already been there when it was San Dong. Reading my review from last year I can now see why (bland). Tried the dan dan noodles again and came pretty much to the same verdict - bland for the dish.

              That said, the sliced beef pancake was awesome, and the spicy cumin lamb sandwich makes my top 10 bite list for 2013. Loved that the toasted and kept the cumin seeds whole. Crispy fried bread full of cumin and spicy lamb goodness.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Civil Bear

                I agree that the "Shaanxi Sandwich with Cumin Lamb" (ziyang jiamo) is almost as good as the one that launched a mini-empire for Xi'an Famous Foods in New York. I think the New York version's superiority lies in its softer bun, which absorbs the juices better, and in its price (only $3.25-$3.50, depending on location, versus Xi'an Gourmet's $5.95). The pork versions are also very similar (I found both to be overly salty and much less interesting than the lamb) at XG and at New York's XFF.

                I compared the Xi'an Gourmet menu with the old San Dong House menu and basically everything in the "House Special" section of the menu and the first two items in the "Hand Pull Noodle" section are new. Everything else is a legacy from the San Dong House days.

                1. re: Civil Bear

                  Went back to Xi'an Gourmet recently due to a hankering for the cumin lamb sammy. They changed the bun so that it completely encompasses the lamb contents. It made the sammy a bit breadier but it had good flavor and texture. Overall it was a bit spicier and greasier than I remembered, but still mighty tasty.

                  The dan dan noodles were completely different than before. Chewy udon sized pulled noodles were great. The dish itself was no longer bland albeit not very traditional (eg there was no sesame oil that I could detect). Even though it is was quite different than most versions I have had I would certainly order it again.

                  1. re: Civil Bear

                    The cumin lamb sandwich is cut into two pockets now. I liked the bread, but the filling I just ate lacked spices and heat. I jettisoned the fatty lamb, and replaced it with the Spicy Beef and Tendon Combo (fu qi fei pian), which was quite a good pairing.

                    Shaanxi hand made noodles are thicker and even better than I remember. Pig ears are also very good.

                    They were out fish dumplings and some other things, and of what I got I wouldn't recommend the spicy shredded potato (bland) or the sour napa with lamb pot (not enough bite in the sauerkraut). Fennel dumpling were too herbaceous for my liking, but they had good wrappers.

                2. Tried it last night with hyperbowler. I like this place!

                  We shared:

                  Shaanxi Hand Made Noodle — Since the noodles are hand-pulled when you order, they can make them as narrow or wide as you want. We requested wider noodles, like the ones that would come with the Big Plate Chicken, and they did not disappoint. They were about 1 inch wide (so, not as wide as the belt noodles I've eaten at Henan Fengwei in Flushing, NY) and the texture was great with some nice chew. The sauce (all vegetarian) was simple but delicious. Mildly spicy, with lots of mung bean sprouts and some bok choi, the noodles came topped w/ chili powder that we mixed in. Highly recommend this.

                  #4 Shaanxi Sandwich w/ Cumin Lamb - This was my least favorite thing we tried, but it was still good. Very fragrant cumin, bits of lamb, and lots of fresh jalapeño on a thin bun. It was too spicy for me with all that jalapeno, but I can see how others would really like this.

                  #5 Steamed Cold Noodle - This may have been my favorite dish. The noodles were a bit confusing, because they had a texture of bean noodles (a bit jelly-like) but also looked more yellow and like they contained wheat flour. Could it have been a combo of the two? The sauce was vinegar/soy/chili and I think I sensed some Sichuan peppercorn, and a few veggies too. There were also some little pieces of fried gluten which we really liked. It appears that I forgot to take a picture of this.

                  Water Spinach w/ Garlic - This was a seasonal vegetable, and it was nice. It came out first as it was the quickest to make.

                  A table next to us ordered the Big Plate Chicken to share, and it looked awesome. They had the same size noodle we had, and the dish had a gravy-like consistency (not very soupy), and contained potatoes and LOTS of chicken. Need to try it soon.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Dave MP

                    I really enjoyed their food!

                    Shaanxi Hand Made Noodles are my ideal noodle--- thick, a bit uneven, and chewy. The server said they were not biang biang noodles, but as Dave mentioned above, said they could make them wide for us. A simple spicy sauce gave the noodles the attention they deserved. Mung bean sprouts were a lot more pleasant than regular bean sprouts. I can't wait to try their other preparations.

                    Shaanxi Sandwich w/ Cumin Lamb were pretty good. The bread wasn't exciting, but it seemed fresh and was better than the two versions I've had elsewhere in SF. Cumin tasted fresh and the level of spiciness of was just right, probably due to all the jalapenos being on DaveMP's half :)

                    Steamed Cold Noodle : Cool texture and great dish overall! The gluten isn't listed anywhere else on the menu, so if someone has it, please report about other dishes.

                    Water Spinach w/ Garlic : simple and nicely prepared. Top portion was bright green, and even the more pallid parts stayed crunchy throughout the meal.

                    The Xian specialities are listed in the pictures posted above by soupçon. The remainder of the menu has a mix of regional and Chinese dishes you can get elsewhere in SF.

                    1. re: hyperbowler

                      I forgot to mention that a different neighboring table got the beef pancake, which Civil Bear also mentions, and it looked really good.

                      Also, I had leftovers of the steamed cold noodles and the water spinach today for lunch, and they were still both really good, especially the noodles.

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        Water spinach is indeed a seasonal summer vegetable around here. AKA kong xin cai.

                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          I had the hand-pulled noodles, with vegetables (although I suspect the broth contained non-veg ingredients). Excellent chewy noodles and tasty condiments.

                          As I noted elsewhere, this has the same owner as my favorite Dong Bei Mama, on Geary btw 11th and 12th. They have both dongbei (far North Eastern food) and a Sichuan menu. Best Sichuan food in SF, in my opinion, which is the chef's original specialty. (Although the newly opened Grand Hot Pot, another Sichaun place on Geary, may be just as good, or better).

                        2. re: Dave MP

                          The "steamed cold noodles" (liang pi) are made from wheat starch by a process described pretty well by this Wikipedia article:


                          1. re: soupçon

                            Cool, thanks for the link! I really like this kind of noodle. Are there other places for liang pi in the Bay Area?

                        3. Jing and I tried it with the kids last night. It was a pleasant surprise that there was a Chowdown happening at the next table! (where's the report??)

                          As for us, we were a little underwhelmed. The lamb kebab was dry and way, way over salted. Jing like her soup noodles. I had mine dry, and these were bland and also over salted. I had also asked for the wide noodles and was given the thin ones. Jing, who is a native Mandarin speaker, ordered, so the hiccup was not a language problem. They apologized, but did not offer to change it.

                          The liang pi (double skin) was nice and spicy and chewy. My 10 year old liked her XLB, but I didn't try it. The green onion pancake was a little too oily for me.

                          I wanted the bananas with sugar strands (I think they called it "sugar coated bananas") for dessert. After ordering it, we waited almost 1/2 hour with 2 tired kids before they came back and told us their bananas were not ripe enough. Ugh.

                          It's great to see more places like this turning up in SF, but I think there are better choices. I'd take Shandong Deluxe over this place (but don't order the lamb kebabs there either).

                          I'm curious what the hounds at the next table thought?

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Martin Strell

                            I was one of those at the next table. It was not an actual chowdown per se - more a dinner where two or three of the seven at the table were chowhounds :) It was good to see Martin and Jing and the family at the next table!!

                            We had a very similar underwhelmed reaction as Martin. We did get the big plate chicken. It had cut up pieces of bone-in chicken, potatoes and onions in a curry like gravy. It was also spicy, the waitperson warned us but it was mostly jalapenos and maybe black pepper? My favorite part of the dish was the noodles lurking below - really long ones that had soaked in the gravy.

                            Other things we had ordered included the beef skewers, a-choy with garlic, braised silver belt fish, cumin lamb, shaanxi noodle soup and green onion pancakes. Also the sugar glazed yams to finish.

                            I liked the beef skewers which I am guessing were possibly less dry than the lamb ones. Also the a-choy was really delicious. The soup noodles were good (and wide like we had requested) however the broth was oddly bland.The rest of the food was similar in that it was okay but the flavors were not that clear or compelling. The fish was too fishy for most of the table - but if you are used to fresh water bony fish, it may appeal to you.

                            The service was actually pretty good - we got fresh plates when we asked and fairly prompt in general. Very reasonably priced at 18 per head for seven of us.

                            Not a destination restaurant, but if I have to be in the area (to say go to the Indian consulate round the corner) this could be an interesting option.

                            1. re: jhinky

                              Speaking of chowdowns, are there large, round tables?

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Yes, there are a few large round tables, each seating about 10 max. Maybe 11 or 12 w/ a big squeeze.

                                1. re: Dave MP

                                  We were at the biggest round table and it sat 7 comfortably - so maybe 10 max. There was one other round table but it was a little smaller.