Sunday, 26 July 2015

Xi'an Impression, Holloway


I've long lamented that New York gets Xian Famous Foods and we don't. I crave those cold skin (liang pi) noodles, jelly-like in texture and served cool and refreshing, with a light kick from the sauce. The chang-an tofu is the stuff of dreams; slippery fresh tofu with a sweet, sour and spicy sauce on top. 


But, no need to lament now because Xi'an Impression has arrived and it is almost as good. I say almost because they don't have chang-an tofu. I was tipped off by this write-up on Fuchsia Dunlop's site, and I made arrangements immediately. Located directly opposite the Emirates stadium, I visited on a match day and the tiny restaurant seating 20 at most was full. They've obviously had the sense to capitalise on the volume of people passing by, and they also had heated dishes at the front of the room offering sweet and sour chicken with fried rice. There were plenty of people there having it, and I wondered if they weren't even a little bit curious as to what all these vibrant dishes were that everyone else was eating. 



Our waiter explained to us that all the noodles are hand-pulled, and they had a selection both dressed or in soup. These are biang biang noodles, so called because of the noise made when they are being made, by slapping the dough on the table. They were pretty fantastic - a great elasticky chew, and dressed with a fragrant, spicy oil rich with coriander seeds and anise, complete with a small mound of raw garlic to flavour but not overwhelm. They're mixed table-side, carefully turned over and over until the noodles are well dressed. A head of bak choi adds required vegetal crunch, but I wondered if a little more wouldn't go astray. Cabbage, perhaps, or a little coriander. 


"I call it a Chinese burger but it's really more of a kebab..." Our waiter insisted that we try both the spiced beef and the pork 'burgers'. Rou Jia Mo is the Chinese name for it, and they come simply as meat inside bread, no further embellishment. It's not just about the meat, the quality of the bread is important here and it was toasted until crisp, sturdy enough to withstand the rich juices from the beef. A great little snack for £3.80. 


The pork version was entirely different, being a little drier and resembling pulled pork. It was still packed full of flavour, though less heavy on the cumin and spice of the beef version. 


There they are. Liang pi noodles, so called 'cold skin'. God, I love them so. These are served cold and sliced thickly, alongside some spongy wheat gluten and julienned cucumber. Beansprouts nestled within the folds of the noodles. This was one of my favourite dishes there; the spice level was subtle, but it built up the further down the bowl we went. 


The fried dumplings, these with pork and seaweed, are typically left open ended, as is traditional for Xian-style dumplings. We had black vinegar, soy sauce and chilli oil to make up our own dipping sauce. I can't get enough of dumplings, so naturally, I loved these. 

I loved Xian Impression, and I could eat those cold skin noodles every day forever and not get bored of them. The menu is extensive, and includes many more noodle dishes, so plans are afoot to go back and try more already. The service is sweet - our man told us excitedly that someone from The Guardian had called to arrange a photo of their food, which can only mean one thing... He looked a bit scared when I told him to prepare for the rush. 

At £35 for two with service (no booze), it was really great value, meaning I can go as often as I like! Holloway, though. Holloway. 

Xian Impression
117 Benwell Street, N7 7BW
Tel: 0203 441 0191

13 comments:

Charlene Flash said...

Lovely roundup and delicious Chinese burgers x

Anonymous said...

There's been a restaurant in Deptford like this that's been on my radar for a while. The only real write up I can see is here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/969494 but I'm not too sure if the chef who was offering Xi-an dishes is still there

Lizzie Mabbott said...

Anon - the only time i've tried to visit there it was a Tuesday, and they only close on Tuesdays... You've been warned! Looks great though, I'm planning a return.

Donald Edwards said...

that looks awesome, I'll have to pop in if I ever get round to going to an Arsenal game...

Arthur said...

Great write up! Ventured up there from Peckham yesterday and left feeling very satisfied. Amazing flavours.. I really hope we're gonna see more places like this opening up which celebrate the food of central / western China. Also a fan of Silk Road in Camberwell

Lizzie Mabbott said...

I am a HUGE fan of Silk Road! And yes to more please.

Nick Beaumont said...

I went here last week. Amazing food that tastes as good as it did when I was in Xi'an! I really hope to see more Chinese restaurants pop up with stronger regional themes - there is so much depth and variety in China's culinary landscape, but everywhere I go seems awash with sweet and sour blandness.

Lizzie Mabbott said...

I think it is getting better now, Nick. Have you been to Murger Han in Euston? I haven't but they also do the beef / pork sandwiches. There's a time and a place for sweet n sour (drunkenly in Chinatown at midnight seems to be the common hour...) but I agree, the regional diversity is much more exciting.

Nick Beaumont said...

I've never been Lizzie but I will certainly add it to the list - me and my girlfriend are sort of new to London after moving from Shanghai, and we are just discovering the Chinese food here. Any more burgeoning recommendations are more than welcome :)

Lizzie Mabbott said...

Ahh, great! I also love Silk Road in Camberwell, for Xinjiang style food. There's a skewer stall next door to Baozi Inn on Newport Street that does skewers cooked in a dunking hot broth. Delicious stuff.

Nick Beaumont said...

Sweet, can't wait to check them out!

Nick Beaumont said...

Hey! I went to Murger Han the other week as you suggested and it was great! Not quite as good as Xi'an Impressions but still top notch. Thanks for the recommendations - I've left a few words here if you're interested: http://www.feedingfen.com/2015/11/29/murger-han-review-xian-restaurant-in-euston/

I read about Silk Road in an article by Fuchsia Dunlop, so definitely have that on my list :)

Nick

Arthur Lewis-Nunes said...

I stumbled across Murger Han last night.. didn't have time to stop to eat but will definitely pay a visit soon!