I’m no stranger to Xi’an Famous Foods, the mini-empire of restaurants that helped usher in the idea of provincial Chinese cooking to NYC. I’ve visited their outposts in Queens, in Midtown, in the East Village… but until recently I had never been to the one here in Brooklyn. Part of the reason is that it’s way out in the middle of nowhere, on an industrial block of what real estate agents call “East Williamsburg.” I went for lunch a few weeks ago, and was surprised to find it was relatively crowded. There are only two or three tables inside the tiny space, which is apparently attached to the central kitchen that supplies all of their restaurants. They also had a few tables out on the sidewalk in front, which were all occupied. I ordered my two favorite dishes on their menu: liang pi cold skin noodles, and the tiger vegetable salad. The noodles were good, but on this visit it was the salad that really captured my attention. If yo don’t know what tiger vegetable salad is, it sounds awfully simple. It’s a salad composed mostly of cilantro leaves and stems, along with celery and scallions (and maybe a chili pepper or two). It’s the dressing that puts it over the top, though. It’s all about the bracingly sharp rice vinegar, rounded out by a little sesame oil. Somehow the combination of these simple ingredients becomes more than the sum of its parts.
Xi’an Famous Foods — 86 Beadel St