Article By Fanwu
5F, Lecity, Li Feng Cheng,Zhang Ba East Road.
(029) 8610 9292
11:00am – 2:30pm
5:00pm – 9:00am
Average Price per Person /人均消费: 100RMB
Fan was born in Xi’an and grew up in Canada; he specializes in translation and simultaneous interpretation.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
L ocated on the 5th floor of the mall, LECITY, this restaurant isn’t at all difficult to locate, though access to public transport might be an issue for those who do not reside in the area. However, there will soon be a subway station opening nearby.
The mall houses a number of restaurants, some of which are well-known chains, but even so the Halal dim sum restaurant stays quite competitive. I arrived at the restaurant at 5:25 PM on a Saturday, which is just before the regular dinnertime of local residents, and the restaurant already had quite a number of customers. However, as the restaurant has a capacity of almost 300, there was still plenty of space to sit.
After the wait staff informed the manager of my arrival, the manager, Yang, came out to greet me. A lean man with fair skin and hazel eyes made me suspect that he’s Hui Muslim. He first introduced himself and the restaurant. He is indeed Hui, born and raised in Urumqi, and came to Xi’an to operate this restaurant not long ago.
As for the restaurant, first and foremost, it is the first and only Halal restaurant of its kind in Xi’an. The restaurant is in fact a two-for-one deal; Xiao Mei Ge is the name for the Cantonese half of the restaurant, specializing in dim sum, while Xiao Ding Jiu Bao is the name for the Hunan half, specializing in spicy foods. The restaurant’s furnishing and decorations are also separated into two halves, each with its distinct regional flavor.
The seats and stalls are comfortable, arranged to have some distance between one another; in Yang’s words, “this restaurant serves to provide people a chance to slow down and smell the flowers; enjoy good food from two cuisines, a cup of our finest white tea, and read one of the many books we have on our shelves.”
Indeed, the tea and table ware have all been ordered from outside Xi’an; the kitchen staff are also mostly from their respective origins for the cuisine; head chef of the Cantonese half is from Hong Kong, and head chef of the Hunan half is from Hunan. There was a lot of waitstaff, and they were of all ages and genders. Overall, the waitstaff had a good level of training and professionalism.
Food came to me at the expected time. After all, with an open kitchen, the customers could easily see if their food is being prepared if they so choose. Mr. Yang provided me with some of the signature dishes, including grilled pigeon (siu laap style I believe), shrimp dumplings (har gao), Urumqi sweet pepper fried with beef, beef rice noodles (ho fan), chicken fungus soup, and a couple of other dishes that I was unable to name.
I first took a bite of the pigeon, as it was something I have never tried before. The skin was fried to a crisp, but the meat was juicy and tender, with just the right amount of seasoning. It had a surprisingly ample amount of meat for such a small bird, and despite having a lot of white meat, there was not a single dry or flavorless bite.
I then picked up what seemed like shrimp wrapped in a sausage; I have had it many times before but never remembered the name of this dish. Either way, it came with two dips; one sesame sauce, one soy sauce with other ingredients mixed in. I dipped one end in the sesame sauce and it tasted exactly as one would expect: sesame sauce taste. The soy sauce was surprisingly refreshing, as the liquid seeped into the “sausage” and gave the food an extra flavor.
Shrimp dumplings typically require quite a bit of pork in normal Cantonese cuisine; this being a Halal restaurant used no pork, but somehow, the chef was able to imitate the flavor perfectly. I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this dumpling and one with pork if both were given to me. “It took us countless trials to perfect the recipe”, as Yang stated.
What surprised me the most was the pepper from Urumqi. Due to the amount of sunlight the area receives, the peppers have a strong sweet taste to them, and were not spicy at all. With what I believe is a bit of pickling, the peppers had a slight sour taste along with sweetness, which complimented the beef exceptionally well. Of course, the beef was tender and thinly sliced to give maximum taste as well.
The icing on the cake was the soup. It looked different even at first glance, having a large variety of fungi, most of which I couldn’t name. Nonetheless, they were chewy and some tasted herb-like. The soup felt like a normal chicken mushroom soup with a massive boost to the number of tastes, maximizing the umami richness.
By the time I was done, Yang and several wait staff said goodbye and guided me to the exit of the mall. Xi’an, despite having almost 100 thousand local Muslims, no one has thought to open an authentic Halal restaurant with cuisines from other parts of China. This restaurant from Urumqi is to me, a beacon of innovation, creativity, and hard work.
I also asked Mr. Yang about their English menus and services. The menu had machine translation, which had a number of hilarious mistakes, but each dish came with a picture so that was not a huge problem. Some of the waitstaff also could speak English, as Yang claimed, and should be able to handle basic communication in a restaurant setting.
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