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.
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.
D o you ever feel like bars in Xi’an can be a bit… serious? Many a cocktail bar here in the city tends to aim at the higher-end, more refined audience, with bartenders in vests and ties carefully mixing classic combination. And while there will always be a time and place for that kind of thing, there are also times where you just want to relax in a fun and creative atmosphere.
That is exactly the goal of On Trip, a bar named after a famous Japanese movie. In this bar you won’t find any overstuffed leather chairs or perfectly dressed waiters. Instead, what greets you in this small side alley bar is a brightly colored and cartoon filled mishmash of different styles that still manage to come together in a wild, but harmonious way. Everything from the decorations to the menu screams of a creative spirit.
The creativity also extends to the cocktails on the menu, which features a wide variety of innovative cocktails of a variety of strengths and flavors. The menu is almost entirely in Chinese, but there are enough hand-drawn picture and clues to show you an idea of what you will get, though it might just be fun to go at random and see what you end up with.
The first drink of the night was chosen for the coconut palm and peanut symbols in the description. The drink that came out was far different than any cocktail that I had tried before. It looked more like a Thai dessert that a cocktail, with an assortment of tiny mason jars full of ingredients to add and a spoon. This would be a first, drinking a cocktail with a spoon, but the rum accented coconut milk mixed well with the peanut flakes, red bean, coconut jelly and watermelon. Honestly, you almost don’t recognize the rum inside, but the overall effect is quite pleasant, and it is fun to eat.
We also had another drink that tasted of watermelon, passion fruit, and peach, mixed with a bit of vodka. It was exceptionally light and fruity, and once again not very strong. It was then that we noticed that each of the drinks is labelled according to their strength, with many having a low (less than 10%) alcohol content.
Looking for something stronger, we ordered the two strongest drinks on the Creative Cocktails menu. The first promised whiskey, cinnamon and smoke and delivered nicely on all three. The drink came under a glass dome that was clouded by the smoke within. Unveiling the drink was a show within itself, and the drink that was revealed was a mix of whiskey, clove, and cinnamon, with a nice hint of the smoke that the glass had been coated in. It was a nice sipping cocktail, with a large clear ice cube that melted slowly with the drink, so you could take your time without it being watered down.
The other drink to arrive was labeled as having white wine and osmanthus flavors to it, and came neat in a simple martini glass. This one tasted heavily of vermouth and would have been refreshing on a hot day.
The bar also serves different kinds of food, with a variety of delicious snack to keep you at the bar and drinking. We decided to try a few different varieties of snacks, including delicious fried chicken pieces, which were boneless and juicy. The chicken had been wrapped in shiso leaves before being battered and deep-fried, with added a pleasant grassy note to the chicken. We also tried their version of a Scotch egg, which was very lightly-seasoned, with a runny yolk and accompanying side-salad. Finally, there was a dish called ‘Octopus Meatballs’ which consisted of small sausages cut to resemble octopi, octopus balls, and plenty of shaved bonito flakes. All of the food was good and went well with the drinks.
To add to the creative vibe, the bar plays host to minor ‘exhibitions’ of non-serious art. The work currently on display is a series by an artist called ‘Dirty Monkey’ titled ‘Small Fart Little Dog’. The paintings cover some of the mirrors and other parts of the bar, and there are also little postcards and other memorabilia available if you want to take something home.
Overall, this is a nice little place, and if you are looking for something less serious, want to try some lower octane creative cocktails, or if you just want to check out something a little different, this might be a good place for you. The creative cocktails start at around 68RMB and go up from there, while the classic cocktails average 58RMB. The food is not that expensive either, with most items coming in at less than 30RMB. So if you’re in the area, and want something different, this place is for you.
Coffee has been around for so long that it seems that there is little to no room for innovation. For the coffee purist, there would seem little to be no need to do so, but for shops looking to bring in more customers, the next big thing is a priority. FOOM Coffee, also known as BakeWorks, has settled on an interesting trend – charcoal lattes.
I’ve often felt that the term ‘hidden gem’ is a bit overused. Often times it is used to describe places that is both convenient to get to and in plain sight, not the hard to find places that are actually good. However, occasionally you do find a legitimate hidden gem – place that you would not have actually found unless you were guided there. This is the case with Matsukawa Japanese Restaurant.
C anada’s favorite coffee shop hit Chinese shores in early 2019, with their first store opening in Shanghai. Since then they have expanded to other large cities in China, with their most recent opening right here in Xi’an on July 29th. The shop, located at MIXC not far from exit C of the HuiZhanZhongXin Metro stop is a bit of an odd choice, being far from the downtown area, but is likely just the beginning of their expansion in Xi’an.
Summer is a season that often reminds me of meat. Whether barbequed over open flame or served up on a big platter, summer always feels like the right season for skipping the carbs and going straight for the good stuff. There are many cuisines in China’s north and northwest regions that are famous for their high quality and quantity of meats, not the least of which is the food of Gansu. However, if most people were asked to name some dishes from that province, most would not be able to think any further than beef noodles.
L ocated just a short walk from Dayanta, the Hualuxe hotel is a large, expansive hotel, part of the hotel chain of the same name. Located on the second-floor of the hotel from the lobby, the dining area for this restaurant has many segmented areas for sitting, including several private dining rooms located just adjacent to the main floor. The whole restaurant is decorated in a modern look, with accents that reflect traditional Chinese culture.
It seems like everywhere you go these days, new bars are popping up. With most of the main commercial areas already filled to the gills with chain restaurants and other similar establishments, the smaller boutique places have turned to side alleys and back streets to open up, creating tiny enclaves of unique and interesting shops. One such place is Ti Yu Guan Lu, located on a small street behind the SKP at South Gate. Here a wide variety of restaurants and tap rooms have opened up, including its most recent addition, Snug Room.
Located directly on the southwest corner of the intersection, Snug Room has a tight, almost bunker-like appearance from the outside, with a few tables sitting outside in the evening. Stepping inside, you are immediately greeted by a prominent bar, with plenty of seat around it, as well as several high-top and low-top tables for you to sit at. The windows are in a high small row that looks out onto the street, which gives the whole place a hidden feeling, as you can see out but others would have a hard time seeing in.
I once had a friend who used to complain about the lack of standalone restaurants. He loathed the fact that every half decent restaurant happened to be in a mall or jammed into the first floor of a building, not allowing for much in the way of outdoor seating or enjoyment. And it’s true, real estate is a premium and the fact of the matter is that it is more economical to save on expenses by going the mall route. It’s also almost guaranteed foot traffic to help your business along. So when you find a restaurant that breaks out of this mold; that is something to pay attention to.