Amanda Saxton hooked on Auckland’s Xi’an Meals Bar’s conventional hand-pulled fare

Chef Ryan at Xi’an Meals Bar Dominion Rd. Picture / Brett Phibbs

Unprepossessing Xi’an Meals Bar has daring ambitions. “We wish it to go for 100 years!” says its co-owner, Ryan Tian.

“We wish in the future to have a department as far south as Queenstown.”

The aspiring empire is nineteen years into this mission. Certainly one of its eight branches is as far south as Hamilton, with others sprinkled between Auckland’s Rosedale and Howick.

My common is downtown, on Anzac Ave. Every has a menu similar to its siblings’, and most meals prepping is completed on the Xi’an Meals Bar “central kitchen” in Mt Roskill.

That is the place the hand-pulled noodles — a signature dish of the restaurant’s namesake metropolis, in China’s central northwest — are hand-pulled. Oh how I really like these noodles. Silken, chewy, extremely un-uniform.

Their chunky, broad beginnings taper into slim, twisted tails of various lengths. Hand-pulled noodles in Xi’an are identified domestically as biangbiang, as a result of that is the noise they make when slapped towards a kitchen bench. At Xi’an Meals bar, you’ll be able to select from a dozen totally different accoutrements and eat them in soup or “dry”.

Thirty-seven-year-old Tian recommends the noodles with fried egg and pork mince. I like them finest in a cloudy broth of lamb and coriander ($13.50), with the slight kick-tingle of Xi’an Meals Bar’s personal chilli oil. It is Tian’s delight and pleasure and after years of experimentation, he is assured he is perfected the recipe.

Tian says the hand-pulled noodles, like all his dishes, are “very conventional”. Xi’an is his ancestral homeland, the easternmost origin of the Silk Highway, and certainly one of China’s 4 Nice Historical Capitals.

Xi'an Food Bar Dominion Road - Lamb hand pulled noodles an Xi'an style bread with a 'dark plum soup' can of fizzy drink. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Xi’an Meals Bar Dominion Highway – Lamb hand pulled noodles an Xi’an type bread with a ‘darkish plum soup’ can of fizzy drink. Picture / Brett Phibbs

One other very conventional dish is “Xi’an-style pita bread soaked in lamb soup” ($16.50), in any other case generally known as paomo. This stunning broth is spiced with star-anise, fennel, and cinnamon; its accompanying leavened flatbread is torn into tiny bits earlier than immersion.

The “Chinese language burger braised pork” ($7.50) — roujiamo — is one other Xi’an specialty. It is the identical bread, full of candy, tender pork that is been slow-cooked with myriad spices.

Xi’an Meals Bars’ meals is indisputably scrumptious. And incredible worth. And undoubtedly fairly. Some could declare the eateries lack atmosphere, nonetheless. It is true in a approach: they’re unprepossessing.

On the Anzac department, you’re greeted by an A4 sheet of paper taped to the door, with opening hours scrawled in inexperienced felt tip. Inside, an A-Grade meals security certificates is the one adornment on partitions the color of an anaemic dolphin.

Chef Ryan at Xi'an Food Bar Dominion Rd. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Chef Ryan at Xi’an Meals Bar Dominion Rd. Picture / Brett Phibbs

Lightbulbs that dangle from the excessive ceiling problem an odd combo of heat and funky mild (as if, when a bulb blows, a coin is tossed over the hue of its alternative). The half dozen tables and their chairs are utilitarian.

But it surely’s clear and environment friendly and feels authentically “Chinese language stop-eat-go”, which Tian factors out is strictly what it’s. Employees can appear surly, most likely attributable to language boundaries and New Zealand’s extreme workers scarcity.

Pre-pandemic, with migrant employees aplenty, Tian employed 40 folks throughout eight eateries. He is now working on three-quarters of that workforce.

“At any time when we might promote a job beforehand, we might get so many calls,” he says. “Now, not a single name.”

Xi’an Meals Bar was based by Tian’s uncle, Philip Tian. Tian the youthful began working there in 2008, when he migrated to New Zealand, and took over the enterprise with household good friend Nicole Jhang a decade later.

Philip nonetheless works within the central kitchen, specializing in meals high quality and consistency throughout branches. Tian describes Jhang as “the mind” of the enterprise; she’s additionally the CFO of a big development firm.

Formally the meals bars’ supervisor, Tian is now the enterprise muscle: he rushes between eating places to cook dinner, wash dishes, and/or serve clients wherever an additional physique is most wanted. When photographed for this column, he was within the Dominion Rd department.

Plans for the Xi’an Meals Bar empire are nonetheless in place, however the lack of employees has Tian extra targeted on sustaining a holding sample.

“We’re simply lastly beginning to breathe once more,” he says.

“It has been robust however we’re decided — and once we see our clients completely satisfied I do know it’s worthwhile.”

*bull; Discover this restaurant at 11 Anzac Ave, CBD (additionally in Rosedale, Panmure, Northcote, Balmoral, Mt Albert, Howick, and Hamilton).

Opening hours: 11.30am-9.30pm, Monday — Sunday (Anzac Ave closed Tuesdays)

Discover their web site right here, takeaways out there.