Name of restaurant: Xi'an Kitchen. Xi'an refers to the capital of Shaanxi, a region in the northwestern tip of China known for handmade noodles and Terracotta warriors. It's also one of the oldest cities in the country and has been a political and cultural force for 3,100 years.
Who's behind the restaurant: The chef and owner are both from Xi'an. The recipes are derived from the staples of their hometown. On the walls are posters in Chinese that explain the lineage of popular dishes.
Concept: A fast-casual Northwestern Chinese noodle spot, where all the pasta is made by hand. Shaanxi is known for its noodles and an affinity for cumin. But not all noodles are created the same: The biang biang noodles are as thick as a belt. The cold noodles have more of a chewy texture; and the hand-pulled noodles are more elastic and slippery.
Which dishes represent the restaurant and why: Any of the cold noodles and the hand-pulled noodles with mutton. The cold noodles, or liang pi in Mandarin, are a great gateway appetizer into the world of handmade Chinese pasta. There's a natural nuttiness to them, they're chewy, and retain their structure well even when drenched in chili oil or sesame sauce. Start with the cold noodles and end with the hand-pulled mutton noodles. The latter dish is laced with cumin and tossed with bean sprouts, julienned cabbage and meat, and is perfect cold-weather food.
Who's at the next table? Locals on lunch break who want a quick meal. Also, immigrants from Western China craving a taste of home.
Appropriate for … : Lunch. Preferably on a colder day and when you really want something filling.
Uh-oh: You will most likely overdose on carbs. All the noodle dishes are relatively minimalistic in toppings. Even the Chinese hamburgers (which are allegedly the oldest hamburgers in history) are more dough than meat. Order from the stir-fry section — just to balance things out a bit.
Service: Flippant. The waitresses do the minimal work to get the orders in and out; they don't linger or care too much for chitchat.
What are you drinking: Water and tea.