Article By Mike Leaner
South gate of Jiuxing Dao, Tuanjie South Rd. (100 meters North of Angel Hospital)
(029) 8411 9841
11:30am – 2:30pm
5:00pm – 10:00pm
Average Price per Person /人均消费: 100RMB
PROS: Holy crap the food is very unique and very good
CONS: It’s away from the main road so keep an eye out for the signs or you’ll get lost; the menu will push the limits of your Foodie Chinese so you might be flying blind a little bit
Molecular Food is an interesting name for a restaurant, one that might conjure up images of very tiny food. That’s not what’s meant by molecular though—it’s a reference to “molecular gastronomy,” a kind of cuisine that does all kinds of peculiar and science-y things to food to try and push the boundaries of flavor. The people down at Mo Food describe their food as “Chinese flavor made with western methods,” and that seems to be very accurate, if only half the story. You might not expect to find such an experimental place in Xi’an, but we’ve got one hidden in the more residential parts of Gaoxin, on Tuanjie Road, and I’m going to spoil the ending for you: you absolutely need to eat here.
Two of us went down there on a Monday night, and initially we struggled with the menu. My food Chinese is pretty good, but, presumably to go with the quirky preparations and presentations of the food, the names are a little bit weird. They eventually took pity on us after seeing our confused, sullen laowai faces and ordered for us. But then the magic happened. Over the course of about an hour, a cavalcade of dishes came out, one-by-one, each more delicious than the last.
First came a smoking ice bowl of mushrooms stewing in something that, if it wasn’t made with wasabi, tasted a lot like it. Then came cedar-smoked fish, and even though I’m the opposite of a pescatarian, it was astoundingly flavorful, with a perfectly sweet and smoky flavor. It’s a definite contender for the best cut of fish I’ve ever had. It would get tedious to list everything we ate (though I am anxious to tell you about all of it), so I’ll keep it to the highlights: a low-temperature baked pork belly, served with just enough spice and mustard to complement it without overpowering it, some “snowy” pork ribs that were just a bit sweet and fall-off-the-bone tender and a plate of mashi (麻食, Shaanxi’s own proto-gnocchi) baked with cheese, something I think would be perfect for less adventurous tastes that come here but my friend swears would be a good palate cleanser, which is a testament to just how rich and flavorful everything else was.
If it seems like I’m struggling to find the words to describe this place to you, I am, but I will say this: Molecular Food is undoubtedly the most unique culinary experience I’ve had in my many years in Xi’an. It’s not too spicy or bizarre or anything like that, it’s simply wonderful and I think just about anyone would find something to enjoy here. It’s no fun to go on a flavor odyssey alone, so be sure to grab a couple of friends (including a Chinese one if you want to make your life a bit easier), order a bunch of dishes and prepare yourself for the explosion of tastiness.
I am glad to say that this reboot of a bar has hit the mark with its food and drinks. If nothing else has swayed you, I’d say you need to at least go grab a Tiki Time and enjoy some freshness as Xi’an gets hotter.