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Anchored by cavernous dim sum hall 88 Palace, 88 East Broadway — a collection of small shops and a mall at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge — has been a destination for the city’s adventurous eaters for more than a decade. Now there’s another reason to head down to the bustling nabe better known in some circles as the Fung Wah bus stop.
Yesterday, Xi’an Famous Foods–a wildly popular operation that started out in Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall, spawned a satellite in the Flushing mall, and counts Anthony Bourdain among its fans–opened its first Manhattan location at stall #106, next door to what was once Saigon Banh Mi, and across the street from the toxic Kung Fu Bing.
The restaurant’s Facebook page says its grand opening takes place this Saturday and prompts fans to RSVP for some free grub, but thanks to a hot tip, Fork in the Road was among its first customers last night. And that’s a good thing: So far 78 people have registered for the Facebook event. Click through a look at some of Xi’an Famous Foods’ 31 menu items.
“I’m pretty sure no one else in Chinatown is serving anything like this,” Wang Mengdi “Jason” Liang said of the fare at his father’s third location. Given the neighborhood’s concentration of Fujianese and Cantonese, we have no reason to doubt him.
The cuisine of Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi, is distinguished by a plethora of cumin-scented lamb dishes and all manner of wheat noodles. Cold skin noodles ($4), or liang pi, is one of Xi’an Famous Foods’ most popular items. It’s a tangle of chewy wheat starch noodles and spongy blobs of gluten awash in a mixture of chili oil and sesame sauce and shot through with cilantro and sprouts that leaves your mouth humming with a pleasant heat.
The zi ran chao yang rou jia mo, or lamb burger, is a handheld powerhouse of flavor. Cumin-scented stir-fried lamb is crammed into a flatbread that’s then toasted, and finally showered with hot green peppers.
Jason’s dad originally intended to serve just lamb burgers and liang pi, but ultimately decided to offer the full menu. The most interesting dish is ma la yang lian, or spicy and tingly lamb face salad. The fiery heap of ovine offal, including creamy bits of tongue and crunchy pieces of soft palate shot through with hot green chilies and cilantro, is also the most expensive at $8.75. That’s roughly half the price of a ticket to Boston on the Fung Wah bus. Why not splurge and grab one before boarding: You’ll either endear yourself to your seatmate or completely freak them out.