Austin Restaurant of the Month: Xian Sushi and Noodle

One of the biggest trends according to Technomic 2014 is “convince me it’s real” which is to say that authentic ingredients and authentic techniques matter.  If I come to your establishment for genuine Chinese food, I expect the real deal. I expect fresh, flavorful food.

I was excited to hear about the very recent opening of Xian Sushi and Noodle in the new Mueller complex in Austin. Reviews on Eater Austin were quickly touting the noodles at Xian Sushi and Noodle as the best thing on the menu.

While several restaurants in Austin serve hand-cut noodles, namely Chen’s Noodle House and Shabu, no one is making hand-pulled noodles except for a small downtown trailer called Julie’s Handmade Noodles.  Excited to try the noodles at Xian, I stopped over on my lunch hour to give them a try.

The menu is laid out with soup and salad, appetizers, hand-pulled noodles, snacks, cold appetizers, sushi entrees, signature rolls and lunch specials. Since the focus of my trip here was to try the noodles, I decided to stay away the sushi side of the menu and focus on the more traditional Chinese items.

For my starter, I selected gyoza dumplings.  I have a confession: I am a gyoza snob. I lived in Japan for 3 years and we ate them constantly. We went to a place that we called “The Boar” (because it had a stuffed boar in the window) and we couldn’t read Kanji. But we loved that place, especially the green gyoza that we ordered every time we went there. So imagine my delight, when the dumplings came out. I was instantly transported back to that little gyoza shop in Fussa-City!  And I hace to say, I wasn’t disappointed. This simple dish had tender pork and edamame wrapped in the dumpling skins and simply pan fried and steamed (just the way I like them).  They were served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce.

Next up on the menu: spicy shredded potatoes (Suan la tu dou si). Our server described the dish as slightly crunchy potatoes in a chile oil and garlic dressing. This is a traditional Chinese potato dish.

I am in love! No, seriously, I am an Irish girl through and through and potatoes just happen to be my favorite vegetable of all time. The texture of this potato dish is unlike any other potato dish I have ever had. They are crunchy, but not starchy.  The flavors of garlic, chile oil and vinegar, are the perfect foil to this potato, red pepper, and cilantro dish. It is served cool, but not cold, and I could not stop eating it.  It’s a true revelation to taste a vegetable you are so fond of, in a totally new way.

For my next taste, it was the pork buns. Served on freshly steamed lotus buns with scallion, cucumber, and hoisin sauce, the chashu pork belly was super tender and flavorful, cooked perfectly. This was my dining mate’s favorite dish so far, but he happens to be more than a little partial to anything served in a Chinese steamed bun!

But the best was yet to come: red-braised pork with hand-pulled noodles. You can choose from 6 different varieties of noodles: vermicelli, spaghetti, thick spaghetti, fettucine, pappardelle, and triangle. According to the server, Cecelia, the pappardelle is the best pairing with the braised beef.

In a rather untraditional twist, the noodles come with scissors so you can trim exactly how many noodles you want in your bowl. The broth was rich and savory and the meat fall apart tender. Braised baby bok choy and potatoes, pickled turnips and cilantro round out this bowl full of comfort.

I left Xian Sushi and Noodle a very happy and satisfied customer, but not before I took this interesting video of Ting, the resident noodle maker at Xian, who was gracious enough to let me film him making noodles:

He was very gracious, and very proud of the store. He told me that he had always wanted to learn how to hand-pull noodles, so it looks like his dream came true! I learned more from Cecilia: namely that the store is family owned/staffed and the family owns a second store: Momiji, a Sushi-Hibachi Grill in North Austin). You can tell from how she talks about the restaurant and the family, that she really enjoys her work there.

I have to say I am pretty excited about this restaurant. It could very well become a date night destination for the hubby and me. It’s affordable, and the food is really good, so what’s not to love? An update on the website shows several new additions to the website including a Shoyu Ramen dish with pork belly and soy sauce eggs. You just wait Xian Sushi and Noodle! We are coming for you!

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