The year of the ox has arrived! Xi’an has changed so much post-pandemic. New restaurants, hotels, and other establishments have emerged on every block, while the tired businesses of yesteryear have closed their doors and bid farewell. Also, now that the roads are all repaved, traffic has started moving too! We are of course talking about Beilin District – not Gaoxin, where there seems to be a perpetual jam and endless T-junctions.
This restaurant is called “Third Floor Mala Hot Pot” in Chinese for a reason – it is on the third floor, and their hot pot is spicy!
We weren’t surprised by this. However, we were pleasantly surprised at the wide international beer selection and how spacious the rooftop was. Deck chairs, flower planters, expansive shade umbrellas, and outdoor lighting made the space welcoming and comfortable, especially now that summer is here. Add in the beer, and you have a bona fide beer garden on a rooftop.
We visited Vigor Sky Garden Restaurant on a wet Sunday night to try their Cantonese cuisine. Zhongda Guoji (中大国际) is a tower of steel and glass. We made our way through the atrium, between the Teslas on display to the elevators. Located on the 5th floor, the restaurant is just a short ride up. Unlike other mall restaurants, which are usually hidden in a labyrinth of shops, its location is very convenient. The restaurant is accessible by subway, taxi, shared bike, and there is parking available at the mall.
Towards the middle of April, Francis (F) and Jin (J) sat down for brunch with Marcella (M) and Gao Xia (G) on a fine Sunday with freshly baked biscuits, smoked salmon, and wine, to do a tandem interview about their work as professors in Xi’an.
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When we arrived late at the YGTD Shopping Mall on a Monday evening, almost every table was full at Ban’s Bistro. Waiters and waitresses were rushing everywhere to deliver food. Each table features fiery tableside grills, which staff were furiously flipping meat, sending flames and crackles of sizzling fat flying through the air.
Only one problem: we were HANGRY. We thought it would take forever to get food. However, instead of waiting forever, we only waited for about two minutes before we were seated. One thing to note: when you visit this location, you will definitely want to order meat – after all, this restaurant calls itself the rouku, literally translated as something like “meat depot.”
Only a short (<10min) walk from Yanpingmen Station (Line 3) and with car access from Tuanjie South Road (团结南路), Hualuxe Hotel is very accessible. Upon arrival, we learned from the welcoming staff that the hotel had just opened last year. Everything from the decorations to the appliances to the meticulously manicured bamboo-lined entryway demonstrates a modern Chinese style. Notable is that throughout the lobby of the hotel were cages of various kinds – a distinctive feature hinting at an appeal to affluent clientele. After all, in ancient China, only the wealthy had the time and resources to care for and admire pet birds. According to Dazhong Dianping, the restaurant is currently the #5-ranked buffet in Xi’an for environmental quality.
We arrived at The Somerset Xindicheng Xi’an late on Christmas Eve. Located on the south Second Ring Road, the building itself is an unassuming highrise, but easy to find. To enter the lobby, you actually need to take an elevator up from a first floor foyer. We were promptly and professionally checked in, and made our way to the room. The first things we noticed in the lobby were an espresso machine and an “Aria” – you can get Aria (a robot) to deliver conveniences to your room.
Our apartment was an enormous Two-Bedroom Premier (两房豪华行政套房) on the 12th floor. The first thing we felt (after we swiped our card to press the floor number) was that the large elevators were fast. After the elevators whisked us away, the second thing we felt was the apartment was warm because of the floor heating – we were comfortable walking around in t-shirts. The apartment was huge (about 160 square meters in total). We not only had two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a study, a wall with several meters of clothing rack space (even Kim Kardashian could possibly have been pleased) and additional storage cabinets, a full kitchen with dining room and living room, and high-speed internet, but also had views of Gaoxin’s ever-developing skyline.
It was a wet, brutally cold evening when we arrived – snowing lightly, the streets and sidewalks covered with puddles, mud, and leaves. Located a short walk from Nanshaomen Station, the neighborhood is familiar, but has undergone some recent changes. The addition of Takiyoshiya is decidedly a most welcome one.
As soon as we stepped inside, we were instantly transported to Japan: a wave of hot air washed over us, a slightly claustrophobic dining area had colorful posters advertising Suntory highballs, the glow of hidden light strips illuminated the walls, and peeking over the bar counter we could see steaming pots in the kitchen. The icing on the cake, though, was a Japanese cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” playing over the sound system.
The groans and hisses of radiators, the prevalence of puffy jackets, and falling of the last few stubborn orange and yellow leaves herald the gradual but certain arrival of winter. We even had our first snowfall of the season on November 22! However, fanatics here often face a difficult question: “How do I do (insert winter sport name) in Xi’an???”
Situated towards the south end of De Fu Xiang, also known as “Bar Street” in Xi’an, this upscale boutique hotel brings new life, attitude, class, and, most importantly, revitalization to an area of Xi’an still suffering post-pandemic shutdown. The hotel itself just had its soft opening in October and occupies the street front of and several floors above a former bar. Jiu Jian Shang She is across from the now-closed 3 as 4 Bar, familiar to long-time Xi’an expats as a venue for pub trivia and other events and activities.