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Xi'An Cuisine (Deptford, London)

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usualsuspect Mar 20, 2014 02:26 AM

A new Chinese restaurant has opened a week or so ago next to Deptford bridge DLR station: Xi’an Cuisine Restaurant.

What used to be an all you can eat buffet appears to have a change of ownership (or a change of heart at the very least). Currently they are offering all the usual sanitised Chinese takeaway fare but have a small second menu of Xi’an dishes which I had to ask for (I suggested to the boss that they give non-Chinese customers both menus on arrival). I was told they are waiting for a chef to arrive next week and then will make some additions and alterations to the menu, but currently they still have a few interesting options.

Rou jia mo (meat sandwich?) was good. This dish is slowly stewed pork in a toasted unleavened bun and is typical to Xi’An and Shaanxi province. The rou jia mo I have eaten in the past were almost all in Beijing, and are not themselves done the Xi’an way (they are more kebab-like than slowly stewed) so I don’t have a great benchmark, but this was very tasty.

The zi ran yang rou jia mo (cumin lamb meat sandwich) was excellent – generously filled bun (excellent flat bread) with thin strips of braised lamb, mild chilli peppers and a healthy amount of cumin seeds – I can’t wait to go back for this.

An off-menu yu xiang qie zi was excellent (I asked for a qie zi dish and they knocked this up), very different to most aubergine dishes I have had – I’m not convinced how ‘yu xiang-eque’ it was. It was quite spicy but with no obvious chillis, and didn’t seem to have the addition of pork, soy, fermented bean paste, peppers or onions. It had a really smooth ginger flavour and slighty smoky taste, that I haven’t had in a dish outside of China (though my companion was not so sold on this dish and prefers the qiezi in taste inn, chilli cool, silk rd etc…).

The yang rou pao mo (crumbled bread in lamb/mutton stew) was fantastic. We were given the mo to break into small pieces at the table and then return to the kitchen to be cooked in a well flavoured stock, along with fungus and achingly tender and flavoursome pieces of lamb, a small amount of rice vermicelli and a warming chilli oil sitting on top of the broth. This was a really hearty and enjoyable dish.

The rou jia mo and yang rou jia mo were about £3 each, the yangrou pao mo was £7 ish (and £1 per extra bread), the qiezi was £6, so good value.

It’s great to see some more Chinese regional cuisine in London and I’m very interested to see what happens when the new chef turns up next week and to try a few more things on the menu. I will post an update in the near future.

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    t_g RE: usualsuspect Mar 20, 2014 02:40 AM

    sounds great! thx for posting. is the xi'an menu in english?

    1 Reply
    1. re: t_g
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      usualsuspect RE: t_g Mar 20, 2014 03:15 AM

      Yep there is some english, i can't actually remember how accurate or useful the translations and descriptions were but the staff were more than happy to explain and assist. They were not at all busy so had plenty of time to chat.

    2. limster RE: usualsuspect Mar 20, 2014 03:31 PM

      Thank you so much for the very thorough post - this is one of the most interesting finds I've read in a long while. Will have to try soon!

      1. j
        JFores RE: usualsuspect Mar 21, 2014 12:22 AM

        Finally!

        If anyone needs Xian menu translations check the NYC board. Really old posts on Uncle Zhou's or Xian Tasty Snack are likely to have translations or side by side menu pics.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JFores
          scoopG RE: JFores Mar 24, 2014 07:04 AM

          Here is the Uncle Zhou's thread with menu photos:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/786078

        2. j
          JFores RE: usualsuspect Mar 24, 2014 03:53 PM

          Thanks ScoopG!

          Just a heads up that I managed to make it to Xian Restaurant last night and the food was excellent. Currently quite busy so this will be brief.

          Pork and lamb burgers were both some of the best I've ever had. They were considerably better than the versions at Xian Famous Foods in NYC and were arguably better than my renditions I had in China. The pork filling was like exceptional Chinese pulled pork while the lamb was studded with cumin and seemed to have been slowly braised in a wok for quite some time. They also make their bread fresh to order for ever burger (and item, my bread was even fresh to order for the yang rou pao mo.)

          Yang rou pao mo was really standard, but could have used more of the excellent broth. The lamb was a bit salty, but it was really delicious. Nice chew which gave way to a melt in your mouth texture; it was like lamb salt beef and again appeared to have been slowed cooked quite carefully. The soup itself could do with more of the necessary ingredients e.g. tofu skin, the pickled garlic on the side, etc. Still very good and definitely tastier than Chang's Noodles, but lacking in ingredients at present (basically amazing broth, amazing lamb and bread that's actually flavorful and which has edge bits that maintain their crispness in the soup.

          Zha jiang mian was good, but a bit lack on the overall sauce, though the pork topping was pleasantly crunchy and well cooked. Nice homemade broad noodles (not quite biang biang mian, but very similar in appearance.)

          Qaozi Mian (not sure if this is correct) was an interesting noodle soup with a nice flavorful broth and a lot of veg. My first time having this; it was nice, but I definitely favor the yang rou pao mo.

          Liang pi was very good and packed quite a punch spice wise. Another dish which was really good, but which needed certain ingredients that really bring it all together. I was expected the spongey dofu and other accompaniments that one normally finds mixed into liang pi. Still, this is the only liang pi I have seen in London and while it was not as good as Xian Famous Foods (NYC), it was definitely better than many versions I had in Xian.

          All in all this is one of the most exciting places I've been to in a while. They really need some business to encourage them as they seem to only have these dishes for a small Chinese clientele and their local business does not appear to be thriving (people coming in looking for a buffet basically.)

          They seem very nervous about the whole operation so please go here and encourage them to expand the menu. I talked about dishes they could potentially add and they seemed like they want to, but they're getting another chef in first (it's currently a one man show in the kitchen.)

          4 Replies
          1. re: JFores
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            usualsuspect RE: JFores Mar 25, 2014 04:14 AM

            Hi jfores, I'm really pleased you made it here - thanks for your additional reports on some of the other dishes.
            When I went, I too had the impression you mention in your post, that they are not overly confident about the venture and it was clear they are predominantly getting walk-ins expecting a buffet.

            I was hoping that by putting up the original post it may drum up some more support for their Xi'An menu so I'm glad you made it there.

            I'm nearby so will be frequenting the place regularly - I hope some more people can check it out and that word gets around as it would be very sad to see it go due to a lack of interest.

            1. re: usualsuspect
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              skut RE: usualsuspect Mar 26, 2014 01:22 AM

              What are its hours/days of trade? Would be interested to visit

              1. re: skut
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                JFores RE: skut Mar 28, 2014 02:11 AM

                Long time no see.

                From what I can tell they're open 7 days a week, but I suspect they close when they want to. If us and another Chinese table weren't in there by the time that they left then I think they would have shut.

                1. re: JFores
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                  skut RE: JFores Mar 28, 2014 04:50 PM

                  Indeed! Been away a long time, trying to catch up on what's new and interesting. Planning to try and make it down for a quick lunch when I'm back the week after next. Keen to hit up the new Thattukada also. Any new board favourites in the last couple of years?

          2. limster RE: usualsuspect Mar 27, 2014 04:14 PM

            Great stuff. Love the two versions of rou jia mo (spicy cumin lamb and pork) and the lamb stew. Bread is excellent (nothing like the English muffin at the TYS good food stall, now on Charing Cross Road).

            The noodles were great too - nice firm texture with a little dense bite. Favourite might have been the zha jiang mian, as the sauces was savoury even though it was sparingly applied.

            The liang pi had a very interesting and robust range of flavours, sour and spicy. Very enjoyable.

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              Foodie94 RE: usualsuspect Mar 30, 2014 10:02 AM

              Thanks for posting this - sounds great. I'm a big fan of NYC's Xi'an Famous Foods and have been longing for a London place that serves that kind of food. I'd be totally up for a chowdown at this place and it might encourage them to serve those Xi'an dishes more confidently. Maybe the week of April 28 or May 12, or a Sat evening sometime? I had biang biang noodles on Fri as part of a popup meal at the Dead Dolls club in Hoxton by Mama Wangs - http://www.mamawangskitchen.com/ - which currently has a cart at KERB King’s Cross that I haven't visited. It was only ok - the noodles had a nice texture but the beef shin-tofu sauce over it tasted like regular European-style stew and not very Chinese. At their cart they do a Cumin lamb noodle, so not sure why they went with beef for the pop-up. I plan to check out their cart sometime, and if anyone else does, report back - but this Deptford place sounds more promising.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Foodie94
                Paprikaboy RE: Foodie94 Mar 30, 2014 11:29 AM

                I don't think Mamma Wangs has a stall at Kerb anymore -well at least not for the next month according to the website.
                I was thinking the same thing about a chowdown. Regional Chinese is a bit of blind spot for me so would be great to go with some knowledgeable people and do the menu justice.

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                usualsuspect RE: usualsuspect Mar 30, 2014 01:35 PM

                Nice one for getting down there for those of you that have tried it out.
                I revisited tonight and thoroughly enjoyed again - particularly the yang rou jia mo and the liang pi. I think the liang pi was my favourite of the night.
                The yang rou pao mo was again great and full of flavour, but had a lot less broth than before - i preferred it the first time.

                THE BAD NEWS: Currently the chef is single-handedly running the kitchen. They have said they may have to stop serving the Xi'an dishes as he is leaving the country for a few months and they are not sure whether they can find a chef with the skill/knowledge to keep delivering these dishes. It was hard to tell how likely this is and the woman running it still sounds like she lacks faith in the whole operation - but unfortunately the chef is set to leave on Wednesday. I'll swing by in the week and report back as to whether they still seem to be offering any Xi'An dishes.

                4 Replies
                1. re: usualsuspect
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                  FeastFinder RE: usualsuspect Mar 30, 2014 03:03 PM

                  Yikes!! I just found your post a few hours ago & wanted to try the Xi'an dishes you mentioned!! If the current chef leaves in 3 days that leaves them a bit tight on the cooking end of things...

                  1. re: usualsuspect
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                    dustbuddy RE: usualsuspect Mar 31, 2014 02:21 AM

                    This is a real shame. I headed down to check it out on Friday evening. It was harder than expected to get the menu outlining the Xi'an dishes. However, with a bit of persistance, we ended up with a selection similar to that outlined in your opening post. I won't do a full review, other than to say that everything was delicious and I was looking forward to returning sometime soon. Hopefully they can find someone to replace their chef as I was looking forward to experiencing more Xi'an cuisine over the coming weeks.

                    1. re: dustbuddy
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                      usualsuspect RE: dustbuddy Mar 31, 2014 02:57 AM

                      Yes, the menu thing is a bit strange - despite having been last week, asking for the Xi'an menu then and chatting to them quite a bit in English and [bad] Mandarin(and suggesting they offer both menus as default), when I went yesterday I still had to ask for the xian menu!
                      I would have liked to think that having people coming in and asking for it may have given them the clue that people are interested in this. Oh well. As you say, fingers crossed they can get a chef in to take over their Shaanxi offerings.

                      1. re: usualsuspect
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                        FeastFinder RE: usualsuspect Mar 31, 2014 04:24 PM

                        Probably since they knew their Xi'an specialty chef is leaving, they might have been reluctant to continue to offer the menu/dishes to avoid future disappointment. I can understand this especially if they have language difficulties; because explaining the situation would be difficult to those with expectations. I like to think that they DO appreciate the interest but may have felt pressured because they knew they couldn't provide what their customers wanted.. Language barriers add even more complication to an already difficult situation. I only hope they can find someone to continue to offer these dishes.

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                    usualsuspect RE: usualsuspect Apr 1, 2014 01:22 AM

                    Sadly they were closed when I went last night, and they buffet station which had been put out the back had resumed a central position in the front window indicating a return to its former incarnation. I would suggest anyone planning to eat here saves themselves a disappointing trip until it can be confirmed whether they are still offering a xian menu. I am local to here so will try to find out what the deal is in the next few days.

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                      Foodie94 RE: usualsuspect Apr 4, 2014 01:58 AM

                      Disappointed to hear this - I was thinking of going this weekend. Thanks, usualsuspect, for keeping us posted. I hope either their chef comes back or they find someone else. I will try to find out what's up with Mama Wang's, because their website claims they're at KERB on Weds.

                      The alternative is to make it ourselves - Mama Wang's is having classes on May 15 & 22. Or to lobby NYC's Xi'an Famous Foods to open up in London.
                      http://www.mamawangskitchen.com/noodl...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Foodie94
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                        usualsuspect RE: Foodie94 Apr 4, 2014 03:01 AM

                        Cheers.
                        Mama Wang's noodle pulling class looks good- but 50 quid?? That seems ridiculous to me!

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                        usualsuspect RE: usualsuspect May 16, 2014 05:07 AM

                        Good news regarding this place: I popped in when I was passing during the week and whilst they have restored the all you can eat buffet, they are apparently still doing the (fairly limited) xi'an menu. I didn't think to check whether the original chef/owner had returned or whether there is a different chef in the kitchen doing these dishes, and as I didn't order anything I wouldn't like to comment on whether the quality will be as good as it was a few weeks back. Either way, the xian menu is not in the window- you will have to ask for it, but I'm glad they are at least still providing this and hopefully they can think about expanding their Shaanxi offerings if they get enough interest in these dishes. They are closed on Mondays. Check it out.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: usualsuspect
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                          Foodie94 RE: usualsuspect May 18, 2014 03:30 AM

                          Anyone interested in an exploratory chowdown there? If we can't get xian food, we can always go to one of the great Vietnamese places nearby (I like Le Gia). I tried to get Mama Wang's Xian noodles at Kerb's Kings Cross Saturday Market yesterday, but they weren't there, and the other offerings - besides tasty softshell crab burgers from Crabbieshack - were disappointing.

                          1. re: Foodie94
                            curioussheridan RE: Foodie94 Jun 1, 2014 01:54 PM

                            This does sound exciting-- I have good memories of Xian food, specially the cumin-lamb-spice combination. I'll be in London around the 27th of June, and could probably rustle up a few people for a chowdown if you haven't already done it.

                            1. re: Foodie94
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                              FooDiY RE: Foodie94 Jun 3, 2014 05:47 AM

                              I'd be up for it!! May be able to bring my Chinese teacher if we go on a Saturday afternoon...

                              1. re: Foodie94
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                                FeastFinder RE: Foodie94 Jun 3, 2014 07:06 AM

                                I'd like to go, would be fun. It's a bit timing dependent for me because I do historical reenactments and will be away occasional weekends.

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