If you can manage to navigate the prehistoric ordering system, which involves punching item numbers into an oversized handheld calculator, you’re in for a real treat here.
Xi’an Food Bar is really, really good. The food is authentic and delicious; the kind of food you want to ‘gram the hell out of, showing off your underground knowledge of grungy local eateries. But alas, your photos end up bathed in an un-filterable yellow hue because of the crappy overhead lighting, and the plastic-covered tables don’t make for a great backdrop either. So yeah, that then leads me to the ambience, of which there is none. The same goes for the service, but I find you get what you give with this prime Chinese haunt, a smile or a xie xie – “thank you,” can go a long way. Or not.
Imagery courtesy of David Straight, Eat Here Now
Xi’an (pronounced shee-an) is the capital city of China’s Shaanxi province, an area with a strong Muslim influence. Xi’an is known for its Terracotta Warriors, but more importantly, imo, for its rou jia mo – literally “meat sandwich.” The Chinese know how to keep it OG: Freshly baked bread resembling a sort-of pita pocket, stuffed with juicy, tender, perfectly spiced meat. My eating companion and I ordered one of these each, referred to on the menu as the Chinese Burger with Cumin Lamb ($4.50). There are few other flavours, but the lamb is easily the best. Uh, yes, I have tried them all. We also went for the Hand-Pulled Noodles with Xi’an Style Braised Pork ($9.50), and the oh-so descriptive Cucumber Salad with Sauce ($6.50). FYI - this was way too much food for the two of us, my future self would probably order less, but then again, my future self doesn’t have a great track record of learning from her previous consumption mistakes.
Photo Cred: David Straight (Eat Here Now)
The cucumber with soy, chili, and garlic is a Chinese favourite of mine, and added a nice freshness to an otherwise pretty meaty meal (she says, pretending she follows a balanced diet). The noodles, though, were easily the highlight; hand-pulled in the open kitchen by the resident ayi, they were firm, saucy, and frustratingly long, but the same lady who pulled them will also cut them up for you, if you ask nicely. These babies are up there with my top three bowls of noodles of all time, the other two being from the PRC itself.
The price, like the service, was pretty forgettable at a cool $20.50 for two people, including tea – they don’t have an alcohol or BYO license, but the noodles totally make up for it. There are other branches of Xi’an Food Bar, though the Anzac Ave branch is the best I have tried, and definitely worth braving the suits of the CBD for.
Xi’ain’t bad really.
Xi’an Food Bar
11 Anzac Avenue, Auckland CBD