Article By A. Scott Buch
What a fantastic place to stage a first rendezvous! Fortunately for myself and my French-American acquaintance, Christina, the place of our first date was Mai Restaurant,a lovely place inside of the Westin Xi’an, only a stroll away from the Big Goose Pagoda – a simple elegance that indeed communicates sophistication. Westin Xi’an is going into its third year of operation, and just one of the jewels inside of this establishment is Mai Restaurant, the major feature of which is its Japanese and Korean culinary elements, a mixture of truly excellent dishes that are labeled as “Asian cuisine.”
Christina and I were escorted to our table and took our places under minimalist lighting – the dining area complete with shapely crimson vases smooth and of various size, in subtle arrangement, and granted a view through a long glass window overlooking what charming path to an unforetold museum. Feeling the cool sharpness of jet-black kuaizi, and folding an exquisitenapkin of mauve color across my lap, suddenly, it was then a delight to meet the heart and soul of Mai, indeed, the reason to visit the restaurant, if not only for the purpose of sampling the over 100 dishes available on the all-you-can-eat buffet.
You just must meet Nicole Kim, a native of Seoul, South Korea. She is the graceful hostess of Mai. Nicole is cordial, has a pleasant, casual smile, and a kind demeanor. New to Xi’an, she was quite exuberant and chatted with me charmingly in fantastic English, about the daily necessity of using Chinese to communicate with the majority of her Westin Xi’an clientele. Her warmth and congeniality are what in my opinion make Mai a stand out place among other restaurants in Xi’an,such places that are also featuring Asian cuisine.
Nicole kept us comfortable with a generous spread of what Mai has to offer: there’s Kimchi, Deep-fried breaded prawn, and a light tuna salad in the starter; but then Nicole was bringing out a beautifully composed platter of sashimi; and sushi rolls naturally; not to mention the cod fish fillet robatayaki garnished with dragon fruit; or certainly not to forget variations of tempenyaki, whichone can enjoy, according to their own desire, by witnessing the culinary art performed live by a personal chef, and possibly in the stylish intimacy of Mai’s private rooms.
Christina was eating happily though with a cool disengagement. She was wearing light rouge and dressed in purple, the low light of Mai falling softly on the orange-red streaks of her bangs swept neatly to the side. Finally Nicole brought us our final dishes of Miso soup, bibimbap Kimchi rice and Japanese Udon noodles. Christina was chatting about the “lonesome cowboys of Xi’an,” captivating me with her stories of becoming inspired for the Xianease.
But most intriguing to us maybe was the mystery of the museum – The Art Museum of Xi’an Qu Jiang, claiming to currently feature something Picasso, but that also contains over 1000 art pieces, – a private collection owned by the proprietor of Westin Xi’an. If Christina or I were ever invited back to Westin Xi’an, perhaps this time, I can be another imposter: an art critic.