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Xi'an Famous Foods


liuzhou
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I've recently become aware of the existence of this chain of Xi'an restaurants in NewYork. Are there more elsewhere?

 

They were recenty referenced in a BBC article about biang biang noodles.

 

Edited by liuzhou
That'a long story. (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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I find it rather curious that the author interviewed Jason Wang from NYC - he's the son of the founder of Xi'an Famous Foods.  His father started with a stall in a  mall foodcourt in Flushing, NY (which has a large Chinese population) and his son has expanded it all over the city with even broader distribution goals.

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1 minute ago, KennethT said:

I find it rather curious that the author interviewed Jason Wang from NYC - he's the son of the founder of Xi'an Famous Foods.  His father started with a stall in a  mall foodcourt in Flushing, NY (which has a large Chinese population) and his son has expanded it all over the city with even broader distribution goals.

 

Yes, the article also mentions the father.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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11 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Yes, the article also mentions the father.

Right - but sorry, I wasn't clear.  I thought it weird that the author, when talking about the history of this dish coming from Xi'an, interviews a guy from NYC to talk about the writing character rather than talking to a food authority or historian in Xi'an, the place in question.

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1 hour ago, KennethT said:

Right - but sorry, I wasn't clear.  I thought it weird that the author, when talking about the history of this dish coming from Xi'an, interviews a guy from NYC to talk about the writing character rather than talking to a food authority or historian in Xi'an, the place in question.

 

Yes.  I thought the same. I guess the author is in New York. The US BBC office is in NY, I believe.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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3 hours ago, KennethT said:

.......and his son has expanded it all over the city with even broader distribution goals.

 

They were smart to franchise.  The Bourdain visit gave them a nice little boost.  I guess I was spoiled having experienced the original Golden mall location several times because the offshoots sucked. 

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5 minutes ago, Eatmywords said:

 

They were smart to franchise.  The Bourdain visit gave them a nice little boost.  I guess I was spoiled having experienced the original Golden mall location several times because the offshoots sucked. 

I didn't realize that they franchised - I thought they expanded on their own.  I used to go to the 34th St one once a month or so - it was usually consistent and good, although I never had the original before... but I did see Jason in there from time to time especially in the first year or so after it opened.

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On 4/14/2021 at 3:01 PM, KennethT said:

I didn't realize that they franchised - I thought they expanded on their own.  I used to go to the 34th St one once a month or so - it was usually consistent and good, although I never had the original before... but I did see Jason in there from time to time especially in the first year or so after it opened.

Your probably right, Ken, expanded privately.  But the result is the same.   It got dumbed down to simplify and standardize execution for volume   I went several times to the midtown locations and other than the name was nothing like the original.    

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I remember going downstairs at Golden Mall to the 1st place, listening to his father try to communicate how proud he was of Bourdain’s visit, yelling “Bourdain, Bourdain” to any non-Asian passing by & pointing to Bourdain’s review, hanging on the stall wall. The notoriety allowed them to afford another stall at a now defunct mall 10 or so blocks away, staffed by his wife.  Then his son joined the business with marketing skills & away they went.

 

As an aside, the original “Dumpling Lady” stall was right around the corner at another stall in Golden Mall, offering a large variety of fillings.  She also got famous, and a large restaurant & well reviewed cookbook resulted (Helen You: Dumpling Galaxy).  That mall was great.  Dirty but great.

Edited by Steve R. (log)
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Wasn't the first Xi'an (in Manhattan) in a little spot under-ish at the Manhattan Bridge? Or across the street from the bridge? I remember going there a long time ago, and having my face almost explode. I think it was before Bourdain?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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11 hours ago, Steve R. said:

Yes.  That was the 1st place the son opened outside the 2 Flushing mall spots.  I went to the opening.  Well after Bourdain though.

 

Ahhh, makes senses. Bourdain must've been to the OG a long time ago.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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So, I checked their website and Jason says that they opened the Golden Mall stall a little over 15 years ago.  I know that Bourdain followed shortly thereafter and that I went (with Dave Cook, pre-"Eating in Translation" blog) a month or two after Jason’s father hung up Bourdain's picture (I think that I mis-posted above that it was a review - my memory now tells me that it was AB's picture).  That makes it a long time ago.  

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I thought it was an interesting business choice that during the pandemic, they decided to close all of their stores - because you'd think a place like that would be very conducive to take out/delivery.  They cited that the quality would degrade too much during the transit - which makes sense because I remember them, years ago, with signs on the wall saying that they didn't recommend getting their food for takeout - and especially if you've never had it before in the restaurant minutes after it was made, they didn't want you to take it out. Even now, when practically everyone does takeout/delivery, the only thing they have is meal kits so you pull the dough yourself, boil and dress...

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  • 7 months later...

I happened upon their location on Willoughby St. in Downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday. The left the door open, so eating at the counter was not in a way eating fully inside (though I'm also triple-vaxxed now). Anyway, I'm pretty strictly low-carb these days (except on, like Thanksgiving), so I didn't indulge in any noodles but got and order of their seitan salad, which also came with some bean sprouts and shredded cucumber. A little one-note, but pretty good. I'll come back at times for that.

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Michael aka "Pan"

 

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6 hours ago, Pan said:

I happened upon their location on Willoughby St. in Downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday. The left the door open, so eating at the counter was not in a way eating fully inside (though I'm also triple-vaxxed now). Anyway, I'm pretty strictly low-carb these days (except on, like Thanksgiving), so I didn't indulge in any noodles but got and order of their seitan salad, which also came with some bean sprouts and shredded cucumber. A little one-note, but pretty good. I'll come back at times for that.

That is definitely not a low-carb friendly place!  Unfortunately, I haven't been to one in a long time - probably pre-pandemic....

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11 hours ago, KennethT said:

That is definitely not a low-carb friendly place!

 

Indeed, but Xi'an isn't low-carb. It's bitterly cold there in winter and the locals like to fill up on bread and wheat noodles. I had a look at Famous Food's menu online. It's quite limited.

 

For comparison, here is the menu from my local restaurant from 1996, when I lived in Xi'an. That place really became my dining room! Ignore the prices. They are 25 years old. Thought it might be of some interest. My translation. Any errors entirely mine.

 

Xi'an.doc

 

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@liuzhouYeah, I don't know if you can tell from their website but XFF is more like a take out joint with some seats rather than a full-on restaurant.  The one in my neighborhood probably has maybe 8 seats at a counter along the perimeter, and a sea of people hovering like vultures waiting for someone to get up (pre-pandemic). The menu you posted reminds me of a place we went to in Beijing that had a huge variety of chuan'r and hand pulled noodles of many different shapes and styles, as well as other dishes, bao, etc.  XFF only does one type of hand pulled noodle - the biang biang style.  I think one of the reasons why it became so popular here is that for a long time, there was really nothing else like it.  For a long time, the only Chinese you could find in NYC was either Cantonese or Americanized Chinese or some hybrid of both.  XFF was one of the harbingers of the regional Chinese food movement here, and for that I give them a lot of credit.  Nowadays, it's a different scene - we have tons of regional Chinese places, everything from fancy sit down white tablecloth to barely more than takeout (aka take away).

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By the time Xi'an Famous Foods opened their first Manhattan location at St Marks Place, Sichuan food was well-entrenched, and I remember Foo Joy serving Fujianese cuisine in the 1970s on Division St. in Chinatown, so it's really not correct to give the impression by juxtaposing two true things  - that there was nothing like XFF and that for a long time, only Cantonese/Toisanese or Americanized versions thereof could be found - that they were contemporaneous, because the gap between those statements being true is several decades long. Suffice it to say that while it had been decades since the second fact was no longer true in New York, Xi'an noodles were indeed novel.

 

As for the spicy tofu, I suppose it's relatively low-carb but I remember it being a small portion. Also, luizhou, the menu you posted included tiger salad; the XFF location at St Marks used to serve that, and I got it often, but I didn't see it on the menu at the Willoughby St. location.

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