Pictures of the offerings in the window make ordering easy at Xi’an Famous Foods.
The advent of northern Chinese fare in Manhattan’s Chinatown has been a long-awaited event. First there was a cart at the corner of Forsyth and Division streets dispensing lamb kebabs dusted with a cumin-laced spice powder. Now, the third branch of Xi’an Famous Foods, originally a stall in the hallowed basement of Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing, has moved into the old Saigon Banh Mi space in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge.
Selection D1, “savory cumin lamb noodles” ($5), was a fave of mine in Flushing, and the quality remains very high on Forsyth Street.
Though the official address is 88 East Broadway, the place is actually on Forsyth Street, which took a strange jog a couple blocks earlier rather than run into the bridge, turning toward East Broadway and actually crossing Eldridge Street. As you remember from its Vietnamese sandwich days, the space is shallow and none too wide, either, and the counter looking out on the street can accommodate only two diners, and that’s if they’re good friends. You could always carry out and then sit in the basement food court of 88 East Broadway, which has some common seating areas.
The lamb burger ($2.50) was every bit as good as the original, with plenty of fatty lamb and a nice kick of Asian cumin. The cumin lamb noodles were made from dough as soon as I ordered them; they’re some of the best and most unusual wheat noodles being made currently in Chinatown. The cook rolls out several long tongues of dough, slaps them around a little to make them thinner, then breaks each up into six broad and irregular noodles by pinching them in the middle and twirling. You’ve got to see it to understand the mechanics, but it results in luscious broad noodles thick in places and thin in other places, with each noodle a unique art product.
The fabled lamb burger, a fine pungent pile of meat caked with spices, with chile oil sprinkled over all. Amen.
So what demi-god sent these noodles to Manhattan unbidden? Well, actually, it was Anthony Bourdain. He ate the noodles in Flushing, found them fabulous, publicized them on his TV show, so that the owner was able to find backers. In fact, small pictures of Bourdain grace the walls of Xi’an Famous Food like images of a medieval saint. I’m praying the pictures don’t put you off your feed!
Read Joe DiStefano’s full report on the opening of Xi’an Famous Foods.