Interview with Steve & Dalia of Mina’s Western Restaurant

XIANEASE Steve & Dalia

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new restaurant in town that is serving up some of the best western food that Xi’an has seen in some time. Called Mina’s this restaurant has gained in popularity over the past month, with customers returning multiple times per week due to the authentic taste of home that is near impossible to find elsewhere. So, to find out more, we sat down with Steve and Dalia, the couple making Mina’s possible, to find out more about how this came about.

So, what made you want to open a restaurant?

We started making food for our friends during the first lockdown in 2020, as some people that we knew didn’t know how to cook and the feedback was very good. We started doing a once weekly offering of different dishes to give people the taste of home. Many people we asking when we were going to open a restaurant, so we started looking into the possibility, checking out the market. We discovered that there wasn’t really much on offer, and after doing a few test nights at the Craic, we began to see that there was good feedback beyond just our own group of friends. Both of us love food and really have a passion for it, so we gave it a shot.

Why did you choose the name Mina’s?

Mina was my (Dalia) mother’s name. Sadly, she passed about seven months ago, so we thought it would be nice to name the restaurant after her, as she was always the life of the party and she loved food very much. She’s the reason I love food now. I think she would be happy to see a restaurant with her name on it be a meeting place for people and a place where people can celebrate special occasions. So, really, it’s in honor of her.

The menu is pretty diverse. What made you choose the different things on your menu?

Most of what is on the menu are things that we had done before that people really liked, items that were often requested again and again. We know that the menu will continue to evolve and change over time. We really try to listen to customer feedback and respond the best we can to customer requests. If there is a significant enough demand for something, we will try to include it. For example, several people were asking for a halal option for our beef burgers, so now regularly have it on the menu. Another thing that we discovered is that there are not a lot of vegetarian option in Xi’an, so we wanted to make sure that there were some vegetarian items on the menu.

Before we introduce a new item, we will do several rounds of taste testing with customers, which is what we did before we opened as well. We try to get a group of people from different ages and ethnicities to see what works best. Above all, we try to make sure things are made fresh and by hand whenever possible, as that allows us to control the quality and limit the number of added ingredients to keep the food as authentic and healthy as possible.

Steve, how did you get started cooking? How do you work and develop new recipes?

I started cooking at home around the age of 14-15. We didn’t have much variety at home so I really wanted to try out new things. Ever since then I’ve enjoyed trying out new dishes. Whenever we go traveling, we mostly look for new things to try on any of our holidays.

I spend a lot of time on Youtube and other places looking at how other people cook different things, looking for ideas and inspiration. I won’t necessarily follow a recipe directly, but will try different things to see what works. Also, as we said, having people try things and see what adjustments need to be made. This is the first restaurant I’ve worked in, so it takes a lot of work, but I’m learning a lot every day.

What’s the plan for the future?

Right now, we’re just trying to stabilize and fix all the minor issues that have popped up. We’re also looking to hire people, both in the front of house and the kitchen, so any one that wants to learn how to cook well or is interested in restaurants can apply.

In the future, we’d like to open a new location and possible upgrade this location. We also enjoy showing of others in town that have a talent for cooking. For example, we recently had an Italian night and we were able to feature some of our Italian friend Paola’s tiramisu, so that was exciting. So if there is anyone that would like to work with us, please let us know. We’re both foodies and would love to learn more about different foods and cultures.

What would you like to say to the audience of XIANEASE?

Come and Eat! Just kidding, but most of all we just want to thank everyone for coming so far. We’ve been blown away by the response, and surprised by how many people have come already. Also, if you stop by, please give us your feedback. There are still some glitches in the system, so really any honest feedback is welcome.

Special thanks to our friends at the Craic, not only for letting us test things out there early on but also for helping use out our opening night and for all the support they’ve given us. We really couldn’t have done it without them.