Xi’an conjures up images of the famed Terracotta Army, but in terms of culinary experiences, it is still a niche player on the food scene in Auckland. I had heard that Xi’an cuisine had Muslim influences through the use of cumin and lamb, and is known for spiciness. I wasn’t sure if this was up my alley as I’m a sissy when it comes to spicy food, but Barbs, Dumpling Club co-funder, raves about this place. And with very good reason.
From their first store on Anzac Ave in 2003, Xi’an Food Bar now spans 5 branches around Auckland (Anzac Ave, Panmure, Northcote, Mt Roskill and this one, in Mt Albert).
The Mt Albert branch is small, with about 10 tables. Service from the singular wait staff was friendly, prompt and very helpful. I struggled with my basic command of Chinese; luckily she was patient and reverted to English when things got too much for me. With three chefs in the surprisingly spacious kitchen, the the orders are filled quickly.
We started off with an order of cumin lamb burger and braised pork burger ($4.50 each). The ‘burger’ is spicy stewed meat sandwiched between a toasted flat bun.
My favourite dish (which the waitress had also recommended) was the hand-pulled noodles with spicy chilli oil and vegetables ($9) and came ominously sprinkled with chilli powder. Surprisingly, this was just spicy enough to deliciously flavour the noodles and did not have the pungency, which I have a low tolerance of. The very tasty noodles were fresh, chewy and are pulled really, really long (note: does not make for elegant eating).
The fried shredded pancake with pork and vegetables ($9.50) is a dish making an appearance on many authentic Chinese restaurants, and have similarities to the Sri Lankan kottu roti. I enjoyed this; the savoury pancake with the sweet vegetables was delicious, even if a touch too oily.
Fried noodles with cumin lamb and vegetables ($9.50) takes the famed cumin and lamb combination to a noodle dish.
We also ordered a plate of boiled pork and chinese cabbage dumplings ($9 for 20) which were excellent.
The food at Xi’an Food Bar is like a smorgasbord of some of best Chinese street food. The food is simple yet utterly delicious and cheap. With the complimentary tea, this came to $46 for 6 very sated and happy Dumpling Club members.
Xi’an Food Bar
11 Anzac Ave, Auckland City
Ph: 09-368 7600
83 Queens Road, Panmure
Ph: 09-570 6008
35 Pearn Place, Northcote
Ph: 09-480 7856
Shop 11/945 New North Road, Mt Albert
Ph: 09-849 2299
7b/163 Stoddard Road, Mt Roskill
Ph: 09-620 9001