Standing Café

Hidden deep within the folds of Gaoxin lies a little oasis, a small garden of Eden that offers relief and refreshment from the hustle and bustle of busy Xi’an city life. South on Line 6, a 5-minute walk from Mu Ta Si metro station, you’ll find a small park lush with trees, flowers and park benches. But the real hidden treasure lies on the periphery.

Bell Ginkgo 银杏餐吧 (钟楼店)

If you asked many foreigners what food they missed most from home while living in China, the answer would often be cheese. While this food is very popular throughout much of the world, it is decidedly less popular here in China, with only a few examples of processed milk solids that barely passes for the real deal. Outside of the occasional foreign enclave in tier 1 cities, cheese can be difficult to come by except through shady Taobao dealers. Sometimes you just want to be able to walk into a shop and pick out a cheese or two, preferable with some cured meats and pickles. Luckily, Bell Ginkgo Restaurant and Bar offers exactly that, at reasonable prices as well.

Puxian 璞鲜·台州菜·经典粤菜

For many foreigners, especially those who have limited abilities in Chinese language, high-end Chinese restaurants can be a little intimidating. There are often long lists of dishes with unfamiliar names, and unusual ingredients that make it hard to know exactly what you are getting. This leads many people to stay in a narrow path of eating the exact same dishes at the exact same restaurants for nearly their entire stay. This is a shame, as Chinese cuisine has a great variety of dishes and sub-cuisines within it, and there are numerous things to try. Once place to try a different kind of cuisine is to try the restaurant Puxian.

Jackpot777 Bar

I t’s rare to find a bar in Xi’an that takes so much care to explain their menu items to you. So when you do happen upon a bar that does so, it is a treasure. The bartenders took time to carefully craft each item, introduce it when serving, and to address any questions. And it wasn’t just for us, but also for other customers, too.

BEAVER’S 海狸

This year, it seems like new brunch places have opened up faster than international travel. However, Beaver’s has certainly distinguished itself from the rest. First of all, and most obvious, it filled with Canadian goodness. Whether it is the Canadian food they serve, the Canadian decorations they display, the Canadian goods they sell, or the good ole-fashioned Canadian friendliness, Beaver’s is a whole lot of Canada right here in Xi’an.

Si at the Renaissance 丝·特色餐厅

There are many delicious cuisines across China, but one of the most unique and flavorful amongst them is also the one most people are least familiar with – Xinjiang Cuisine. The flavors of this province’s robust cuisine is closely related to its historical position along the Silk Road, and the style is unlike anything you will find elsewhere. However, it can be difficult to find a reasonable approximation of Xinjiang cuisine in Xi’an. Much like the scant number of edible Western dining options, the number of good Xinjiang restaurant in Xi’an are few, despite the popularity of the cuisine. So if you are looking for a reliable source of delicious Xinjiang food, you can try Si at the Renaissance Hotel.
Located near the TV Tower, the Renaissance hotel is a recognized five-star hotel brand by Marriott. Tapping into the history of Xi’an as the terminus of the Silk Road, the restaurant pulls its name from the Chinese word for Silk, Si. True to its name, the hotel provides a wide range of beef, lamb, and chicken dishes, including (if you book ahead of time) a whole roasted lamb. But even if you don’t want to go for the extravagance of eating an entire animal, there are still plenty of options for you.
On the day we arrived at the restaurant, just right of the main lobby of the Renaissance, the cold weather had just begun to set in outside. The dining room is relatively small compared to some hotel restaurants, but there is a large open kitchen where you can see the chefs preparing some of the dishes, including a large pit for the turning of the whole roasted lamb.
The first dish that we tried was a classic cold dish of 椒麻鸡, a spicy mixture of cooked chicken, peppers, onions, and scallions in a picante sauce. The heat was just enough to open up the taste buds for the meal to come. Alongside this was a vegetable dish called 戈壁滩炝拌沙葱, which was a green, string-like vegetable in a vinegary sauce. It too was very refreshing, and left us hungry for more.
Following this was one of my all-time favorite Xinjiang dishes, 烤包子 or oven-roasted baozi. Typically these are little pockets of cumin-scented lamb and onion that are packed into flaky dough that is then roasted in a traditional style oven. Si takes it a step further by also including a variation that used de-shelled crayfish as a filler instead of lamb. Both versions were delicious and disappeared quickly from the table.
This was followed by a unique dish that I had never heard of before, 喀什肚包肉 or Kashgar Meat stuffed-stomach. Not just a description of how you’ll feel after eating, this is almost like a meat dumpling, but instead of dough on the outside, you have a layer of beef tripe. This is served in a thin broth with cilantro and chili sauce on the side. We were also served some of their homemade yogurt, which came with a little fruit and a sprig of mint on top. It was smooth, creamy and thick, just the way yogurt should be.
After this, a series of classic dishes arrived at the table, including Xinjiang’s most famous dish – 大盘鸡. This dish, translated as “Big Plate of Chicken” is a staple of Xinjiang Cuisine and absolutely packed with flavor. It consists of large pieces of chopped chicken, potatoes, onions, and peppers in a thick, spicy sauce. This hearty dish is served with some plain hand-pulled noodles which were mixed into the sauce once room was made. (It was a BIG plate of chicken.) We were also served a dish of stewed beef, onions, and pepper with a cone of the Xinjiang flat bread, nang. Similar in many ways to the 大盘鸡 this dish, called 馕包肉, is tender and flavorful, and the crisp nang bread soaks up the sauce very well. We were also treated to some traditional Xinjiang-style barbeque, which was heavily-spiced chunks of meat skewered on a special type of wood that added an excellent cinnamon-lie fragrance to the meat.
The final dish to arrive was a special dish created by the chef that was meant to utilize the current season. This dish, a Western-inspired dish, was a whole crab that had been carefully baked in tinfoil on a bed of well-cooked vegetables. The dish was laced with butter and herbs, and was extremely fragrant when unwrapped. The meat of the crab was sweet and light, a perfect end after such a heavy meal.
If you have a craving for Xinjiang food or if you are looking to try it for the first time, you can’t go wrong with Si at the Renaissance. They are also one of the few restaurants to maintain a five-star rating on 大众点评 and would love for you to come by and find out why. And if you feel they deserve it, drop them a review on the app.

Laurier Bistro by Little Somms 月桂叶 (南门店)

Many of you will be familiar with the restaurant Steak Universe, as it is often credited as one of the better steak restaurants in the city. But what you might not be aware of is that this chain of premium steak houses has a sister restaurant that operates with it at its South Gate location named Laurier Bistro. This casual lunch place offers a short menu of well-crafted and delicious dishes that will easily satisfy your lunchtime cravings.

RHINO COFFEE

If you are someone who likes their morning coffee, you may have discovered a slight problem when you first arrived in China. Most people drink coffee in the afternoon. As such, it can be difficult to find a coffee shop that is actually open before 10AM that is not an international chain slinging less than great coffee. Even though numerous coffee shops have opened up over the past several years, none of them have really caught on to the ‘be open in the morning’ thing. Enter Rhino Coffee.