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Xi’an Famous Foods – NYC

3 Oct

After a month of ‘settling’ in to New York City and it’s ever vibrant -not worth missing-i’ll sleep when I die- cultural offerings, it took a bad douse of Bronchitis to finally slow me down!  Nothing like a bad case of disease to make you really home sick…

And so, for the past week, I have taken to curing my physical and mental illness by loitering around Chinatown every chance I get.  Something about the smells.  The crowds of people.  The rather loud often unnecessary hollering.  Did I mention the smells…?  I found comfort in hearing my mother tongue even if it were from the mouth of a stranger!!

Although i’d been more than successful in visiting a large amount of Asian Bakeries and grocery stores -yes I already have my firm favourites: Grand Bakery!  HK style milk tea and their egg sponge paper cake – I was still yet to dine at any of the many Asian restaurants…which, given my fear of eating out alone kind of makes it rather difficult.  So having spent much of the week obsessively ‘researching’ online for good recommended Asian eateries, I found the most commonly written about happened to be a little place called Xi’an Famous Foods.

Xi'an East Village

So on a night where it was cold, rainy and the thought of consuming another dumpling was enough to make me want to self harm (my freezer is FULL of dumplings!! That’s what happens when you put a lazy Asian girl alone… in New York City… who has been hitting EVERY Asian grocer in town!!)  I decided to give Xi’an a go!  It ticked all the boxes: within 0.5 miles (umm… i guess thats less than a kilometer…?)  from my house, did takeaway and was fast and cheap!

Xi’an offers a range of noodles, soups and starter dishes, and is most famous for it’s hand ripped noodles, a dish called the Lamb Face Salad (which I thought about ordering…. maybe next time!) and most highly touted The Cumin Lamb Burger.

Having done all my research online before going, I decided I wasn’t hungry enough to tackle the Lamb Face thing, and didn’t feel like dealing with the wrath of noodle soup done Take Out, so I went with the famous Lamb Burger.  Walking into the tiny shop that is Xi’an, I couldn’t help but feel relieved to find the shop full of Asians!! Not to be controversial… but choosing to adorn your Asian Eatery’s hoarding with the words “Western Chinese Cuisine” hardly instills confidence – and I do not have enough energy to start ranting about why no one (not even white people) orders Lemon Chicken anymore… !  (Upon more research, it seems the Xi’an restaurant chain ‘boasts a unique cuisine that may be best described as a fusion of Middle Eastern and Chinese foods.’)

Cumin Lamb Burger $3

So it took approximately 97 seconds between me ordering and paying, and walking out the door with my dinner!! It also took that 97 seconds of waiting whilst seeing everyone eating their hand ripped noodle goodness to give me SEVERE food envy and make me suddenly starving!!

Lamb Burger

I pull that neat little ‘burger’ out of its bag, to reveal a nicely toasted bun with the filling sitting neatly inside.  I was pretty delighted to find no sauce spills or mess when taken out of the wrapping.

Inside. Cumin spiced lamb

Although, after taking a few initial bites, it didn’t take long for me to wish it had been a sauce laden mess!  The bun tended to be a little… no… actually a lot on the dry side.  Given the Cumin Lamb is not meant to be saucy, it is kind of understandable!  But I wish I was given some hot sauce or something to relieve those bland chunks of bun!!

Having said that though, the lamb was very well cooked.  Not tough at all, and well marinated in the cumin giving off a nice subtle heat (it could have been hotter!! But then again, all the places i’ve eaten and ordered the item with the chillies next to it are lacking heat).

Maybe it was the slightly dense, dry texture of the bun… Or more likely the fact that I feel like i haven’t eaten meat in a long time … I found myself to be struggling at the half way mark.  This little ‘burger’ is surprisingly filling, amazingly cheap and as far as (VERY VERY) fast food goes, I think i’ll be revisiting this over McDonalds.  Now all I have to do is get over my fear of eating out alone and it’ll be Lamb Face Salad time…

Xi’An Famous Foods –

East Village  81 St. Mark’s Place, New York, NY 10003

China Town (counter only| no seating) 88 East Broadway #106, New York, NY 10002

China Town  67 Bayard Street, New York, NY 10013

Flushing 41-28 Main Street Bsmt #36, Flushing, NY 11354

Smith & Mills

4 Sep

Coffee

Given my current ‘every day is kind of a holiday’ situation whilst in the culinary city that is New York, I’ve been overwhelmed with choice, but have been eating brunch out pretty much everyday.  (Yep!! Have been neglecting my peanut butter obsession for almost 3 weeks now…)  So today, G and I decided to head to Tribeca (and it may or may not have been in hope of the off chance of running into Jay-Z and Beyonce… G has an innate talent for searching out celebrity hang outs and postal codes!)

Tucked away on N Moore Street, we entered to find this little gem, void of hustle and bustle – and or people – and furnished to industrial perfection.  A line of quilted seats line the borders of the cafe and it is decked out with raw iron furnishings.  We like it here.  Apparently so does James Franco… I could go on about Mr Franco and his ability to have his fingers dipped in seemingly EVERY pot of artistic cool!  But I might just spare us all and talk about the food.

The night before we’d made a trip out to Astoria – the Greek equivalent of Lygon Street in Melbourne… but kind of a lot further out on the subway- and I’d made the mistake of letting G order … or OVER ORDER!  So still feeling the food coma of last nights escapade, I decided to go for something lighter.

Greek yogurt, granola, seasonal fresh fruit, raisin walnut toast $9

Normally I would be the one scoffing at the person who would order this out!  And yes!! I am paying 14 times what I probably should be for some cut fruit and yogurt!! But after last night’s mass feed, the mere thought of ANYTHING meat or in oil made me want to hurl!  So my over priced bowl of yogurt and fruit and bread was JUST what I needed!  And for $9 it was actually a VERY generous serving.  (or maybe my values are all askew from being in the states). Although don’t ask me what that bread situation was… because although the menu said raisin walnut, I’m PRETTY sure it was just brioche.  NO MATTER!! I enjoyed every non salty-meaty-greasy bite!

French Toast, seasonal fresh fruit, butter, local maple syrup $14

George also went for something sweet, his French Toast lookin’ all cute stacked up like a Jenga tower… Oh and DROWNED in maple syrup!  By all accounts, it tasted delish.  We did some sharesies and the corner I got was nice and crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside!  Possibly the only gripe I had with both of ours was the finely sliced apple situation.  Bit of a cop out?!

Quilted interiors

Like most cafes here, Smith & Mills also offers a dinner menu and cocktails all day (New Yorkers know how to drink… and it’s anytime of day!!  My kind of people!).  The menu is simple offering raw sections, some starters with a Hungarian twist  and 4 Mains – with one of them being the obligatory burger.

The entire time, besides 2 ladies sitting at the bar enjoying a bit of a cocktail and some flirting with the barman, the place was nice and quiet!  I felt like sitting there all day.  Perhaps if G wasn’t with me, I’d be the one flirting with the Bar Man! Perhaps next Saturday…

Smith & Mills

71 N. Moore Street

New York, NY, 10013

+212 226 2515

The Spotted Pig

2 Sep

The entrance of the Spotted Pig

It’s almost my third week in New York City.  The City that never sleeps… and most certainly NEVER stops eating!!  I’m slowly ticking off my ‘eats list’ around NYC (which is endlessly growing)!

I’d had a fun day at work, and got out kind of early so decided to walk home.  I do that a lot here.  Walking!  Even if I get back from a day of it and SWEAR to not walk 30 blocks again, I always find myself getting home exhausted and feeling like my feet have been raped by pounding the pavement. The upside of walking though means I have A LOT of thinking time.  And it means I work up an excruciating appetite.

George and I decide it’s finally Burger Time!  The Spotted Pig is a small corner pub in the West Village, known for Mario Batali’s heart attack inducing Roquefort Beef Burger.  Despite it’s many accolades and constant crowds you can tell it hasn’t fallen victim to the hype.  It’s cosy.  Still looks like a pub, and the place isn’t jam packed full of hipsters or corporates or wannabes wanting to be seen.  In fact, the only thing it is packed with is pig paraphernalia…

After our 45 minute wait at the bar, by the time we are seated G and I are both beyond starving!  We are presented menus but in my Burger Blinker state, don’t even skim over it and get right to business.  (sitting at the bar for 45 minutes meant I had to watch approximately 3 burgers a minute be ferried from kitchen to customer… it made me ravenous for one!!)

Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese & Shoestrings $ 17

Roquefort cheese oozes over the medium rare patty

The burger arrives cooked to order (we both asked for medium rare) covered with a mountain of shoe string fries.  It’s a decent thick patty, and upon cutting it open, is indeed cooked to how I ordered.  Nice!  Although a simple burger, with nothing but meat and cheese (livin’ the dream in my books… one doesn’t need bother wasting time with greens), there isn’t a moment throughout the experience of flavour boredom.  And yes!  That cheese is intense!!  But it’s by no means over the top!

Given the size of this Meat/Cheese flavour bomb, by the time I finish it I can’t even get through half the fries… and dessert is most certainly not happening!  Instead we leave with a belly full of goodness (it’s nice to leave a restaurant without feeling ripped off, pissed off and hungry!)  Next time though I must be sure to actually read the menu…

I heart NY. I heart Spotted Pig!

The Spotted Pig

314 W. 11th St (@Greenwich St.) West Village

(212) 620-0393

Lunch at Freeman’s NYC

22 Aug

Entrance to Freemans

It’s day 4 of my New York adventure with G.  And I’d say we’ve taken to being New Yorkers with great success; ask for a ‘kawfeee’ instead of a latte (save yourself the pain and frustration), look left first when crossing the street, no-one understands  the meaning of ‘down the road’ as all streets are streets, pharmacies are a girl’s best friend… they sell EVERYTHING… from Neurofen to nicotine!! But although we’ve taken to these minor little colloquialisms with some what ease, we can’t help but seek out some things that remind us of home!!

Just when we thought we’d seen enough of that “hidden lane way” establishment, we seeked out Freemans for lunch tucked away at the end of an alley way off Rivington St.

The interior is a mix of old taxidermy mixed with trophy room.  Filled with old wooden tables and distressed walls, walking into Freeman’s you’d expect to see men dressed in smoking robes, menus like leather bound books and maybe some cigar smoking.

We are seated and immediately told the specials of the day ( i  think it was some sort of braised shank thing with some sort of salad that undoubtedly involved arugula and kale – they are OBSESSED with that here).  Sounded AMAZING!  But even my “on VAY-KAYYYYY” mentality held me back from ordering a slow cooked hunk of meat at breakfast time.

More Interiors

The Brunch menu is divided into 4 main sections of Starters, Sweet, Savory and Dessert, as well as a column of sides.  You find starters like Hot Artichoke Dip with crisp bread and Mixed Greens, apples, radishes & lemon olive oil dressing.  Savory offers a quite a heavier meal, with the obligatory Burger (everywhere has a burger on the menu!  I wouldn’t be surprised if I were to find one amongst a Dumplings menu in china town… these people are OBSESSED!), Beef Brisket Hash and of course a few Egg options as well.

After much deliberation (ordering here takes me twice as long!! a) because the menu seems to go for days and b) because when i’d normally just go for the meatiest option… each menu offers me at least 5 meat options!!)  I decide on the Smoked Trout, and pass on the Bloody Mary.

Smoked Trout, Hard Boiled Egg, Horse Radish Cream and sourdough toast $11

My meal came out served on a round wooden platter, and you can’t really tell from this picture, but the serving was very American… super generous!  Reminder to self:  It’s named the Land of the Fat for a reason!  The trout had a wonderfully fragrant smokiness, and with the squeeze of lemon, a mouthful of pickle and horse radish cream jammed all together (…which is officially my new favourite condiment) in one oversized American mouthful… Flavour Nation!

George decided to go with the Grilled Egg Whites which came out PIPING HOT and smelled absolutely delicious.

Grilled egg whites with goats cheese, heirloom tomatoes and basil $12

Must be something about having to walk everywhere, but every time our food arrives on the table, we seem to inhale everything before the plate even begins to cool.  I got to have a little taster of his and (although it was vegetarian…) it was a well balanced mix of textures and flavours.

We continue to be astounded by how cheap brunch is here in comparison to Melbourne, even with the addition of tips and tax… we are loving eating our way around this new city (quite literally… walking.  eating.  Walking to our next eating place…) But it’s so nice to find little gems that remind us of home.

Freemans Restaraunt

8 Rivington St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 420-0012