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Xi'an Famous Foods 西安名吃 in NYC New York

Xi'an Famous Foods 西安名吃 started in 2005 as another humble stall in the Golden Mall's basement food court in the Asian enclave of Flushing in Queens, New York.


Everything changed when Anthony Bourdain took a fancy for their "Spicy Lamb Burger". Suddenly, Xi'an Famous Foods with it's Middle Eastern influenced West China food was thrust into the American mainstream.


Branches in Manhattan's Chinatown and fancy Saint Marks Place soon followed. Now Xi'an Famous Foods have 8 locations in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn with more planned.


I visited Xi'an Famous Foods' Chinatown branch along Bayard Street, near the foot of Confucius Plaza tower (a NYC public housing project).


New to West China food?

No worries.

Ordering is easy as ABC and 123 at Xi'an Famous Foods. The menu is on the wall, with photo, name and ordering code of the dishes. 

Give the cashier your chosen ordering codes, pay and s/he will give you a slip with your order number. 

Proceed to the dining area behind the counter and take your seat.


Inside the short, narrow dining hall, decor is bare bones and furnished with just the essential basics. Service is self help - customers are given a numbered slip after payment and will pick up their orders from the counter when their number is called.

Xi'an-Famous-Foods-西安名吃 -NYC-New-York

I ordered the Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles (code N1).


It's a generous heap of hand torn wheat noodles with stir fried lamb slices tossed in a fiery sauce of oil, chili, cumin and other spices.

The broad ribbons were floppy and softer than al dente. The thick noodles were chewy but soft.


The hand torn noodles were served with lots of oil with chili and spices which smothered the noodles. I didn't like the limp ribbons and grease but enjoyed the stinging kick from the chili and spices. The good spicy sting lingered on and my tongue still tingled even when I reached home more than an hour later.

Left over spicy sauce after I polished off the noodles and lamb slices 

Coming from Southeast Asia, I am familiar and appreciate this intensity in flavours :-D

There were many thin slices of tender, cumin infused, spicy lamb with that lovely mutton gaminess which I liked.

The intensely spicy noodles and lamb I just had was familiar to the point of being unremarkable, except that this was in New York City. Lots of people flock here for a taste of comfort - to be "home" for a familiar meal.

Xi'an Famous Foods also appeals to other Americans and tourists out for a culinary adventure. 

Are you game for something hot?


Restaurant name: Xi'an Famous Foods 西安名吃
Address67 Bayard Street, NYC New York, USA
Hours: Sun to Thurs: 11:30 am - 9:00 pm | Fri & Sat: 11:30 am - 9:30 pm
Non Halal

Date visited: 29 Nov 2014

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Crif Dogs in NYC New York

Crif Dogs has almost a cult following and so I set out to check it out at it's original shop in Saint Marks Place. It was Black Friday in New York City, so I had to fight the crush of human traffic as I headed north to the Lower East Side via Broadway Avenue.


The original Crif Dogs opened here in Saint Marks Place in 2001, an old quaint Lower East Side neighbourhood near East Village where there are many interesting eateries.


Walk down the steps to get into Crif Dogs. I like that going "underground" feel. Got that "wow! this must be something" kind of feeling.


Inside, Crif Dogs is narrow and the lighting charmingly moody. The crowd is young (mostly NYU students and youthful tourists :-p ). It's like an "open secret" hideout. I can feel the hip in the place straight away.


That famous mural in Crif Dogs.


There are small regular tables and chairs, but that ledge and bar stools are the coolest.


The menu at Crif Dogs. Many types of hot dogs with as many toppings - the more fanciful toppings like pineapple, egg, bacon and Swiss cheese are at additional cost.

I ordered Crif Dogs' signature Crif Dog (what else :-p  ).


My warm Crif Dog.

I asked for all the free toppings (mustard, sauerkraut, relish, raw onions) minus the ketchup :-p


Frankly, that fried wiener and soft bun tasted ordinary. The whole hot dog was also smothered by thick layers of sourness (my fault), though the varied types of crunch was interesting.

Come again?

Definitely (have to).

The Crif Dog I had today didn't taste or feel too different from hot dogs I can get elsewhere. But, I like the unique charm of Lower East Side and the ambiance inside old Crif Dogs.

If I want a hot dog and not too far from St. Marks Place, I will have to try another signature hot dog at Crif Dogs.

Perhaps, one of the other hot dogs like b.l.t. with that famous bacon wrapped wiener might excite me.

(Note: From inside Crif Dogs, you can enter into a bar by saying the secret password "Please Don't Tell" into a fake phone booth but that story, next time.)


Restaurant name: Crif Dogs
Address: 113 St Marks Place, NYC, New York, USA
Hours: 12:00 pm – 4:00 am
Tel(212) 614-2728

Date visited: 28 Nov 2014

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Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry - Best Free Things to Do in NYC New York


View of the Statue of Liberty on a cold, misty wet morning. (Photo was taken with a 55mm lens. A longer lens will get you a closer shot of the statue.)

Views of the majestic Statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline are "Must Do" things for every visitor to New York City.

Noodle Village in NYC Chinatown New York City 粥麵軒

In the wet and cold New York City Fall, it wasn't long before I needed a comfort food fix. The taste, aroma and feel of steamy egg noodles are what I turn to for comfort food.


There are many noodle shops in New York City's Chinatown in Manhattan. I randomly decided on Noodle Village 粥麵軒 along Mott Street. Perhaps it was the rustic looking signboard that attracted me as I was hungry and hurrying along Chinatown's crowded, narrow, grey streets looking for a quick escape to warmth and comfort.


Inside Noodle House 粥麵軒, the decor in the small narrow restaurant was straightforward with the appropriate Chinese touches. It felt welcoming.


Noodle Village has an extensive menu of noodles, rice and congee, but for today I shall try just the noodles, which came in the dry and soup versions.

Service though not warm was efficient. Hot Chinese black tea was served in a clay cup, the moment I sat down.

The restaurant was busy and I waited about 30 minutes before my order of dry wanton noodles 幹麵 was served.


The wanton noodles arrived nicely plated.


The large mound of blond angel hair egg noodles were garlanded with blanched choy sum greens, topped with large shrimp dumplings, garnished with a sprinkle of chopped spring onions and drizzled with a dribble of brown sauce.


The slender angel hair egg noodles were eggy with a slight "lye water" alkaline taste 鹼水. Many people dislike the taste of "lye water" but I actually enjoy a light touch of alkaline in my wanton noodles. It's the way I remember wanton noodles were in my childhood. (When I was a child, my next door neighbour was a wanton noodle seller who made egg noodles in his tiny flat.) 

The texture of Noodle Village's noodles was springy and crunchy which are the marks of good egg noodles.

I liked these noodles.

But, the savoury sweet brown sauce was quite sparse. Despite vigorously tossing and folding, I couldn't fully coat the generous amount of egg noodles on the plate with the brown sauce.

Fortunately, the chili sauce came to my rescue.


The gritty chili sauce was savoury balanced with mild spiciness  and slight sweetness. The sauce was held together by mildly spicy chili oil.

I enjoyed this chili sauce and heaped several teaspoonfuls onto my noodles. This helped to make up for the sparse brown sauce to coat the noodles with flavour.


The noodles came with five of these good size shrimp wantons.


The shrimp wanton was average. The eggy wanton wrap was thick, the shrimps were slightly mushy and didn't have that coveted bouncy crunch of fresh shrimps.


The accompanying soup was a watery and mildly savoury sweet broth. The soup was likable (and did not have MSG in it).

I am happy with my visit to Noodle Village 粥麵軒.

For my next visit, I shall try Noodle Village's soup version of wanton noodles 湯麵. I think it would be perfect for me. Slurpy noodles in watery, savoury soup would not have the problem of wiry dry noodles.


Restaurant name: Noodle Village 粥麵軒
Address: 13 Mott Street, NYC, New York, USA
Hours: 10:30 am – 11:00 pm
Tel: (212) 233-0788
Non Halal

Date visited: 20 Nov 2014

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Brooklyn Bridge - Best Free Things to Do in New York City

Photo credit: Martin St-Amant - Wikipedia - CC-BY-SA-3.0 

A walk on the historic Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best free things to do in New York City.

The view from the bridge is stunning and the bridge itself is a work of art.

Artichoke Pizza in NYC New York

After tasting coal baked New York pizzas, I thought that it would be hard for me to enjoy pizzas baked any other way. Artichoke Pizza proved me wrong.

Yes, a pizza with artichoke flesh topping.

Artichoke Basille's Pizza was founded in 2008 at this humble 14th Street shop (East Village, NYC). Artichoke Pizza now has several branches around USA including on 17th Street (Chelsea, NYC), Greenwich Village (NYC) and Berkerley, California.


Artichoke Basille's Pizza is basically a take away with only a narrow wooden ledge for customers who wish to dine in.


USD4.75 got me this huge slice of pizza topped with thick cheese and their signature artichoke flesh topping. 


The crust had a crisp and was slightly thick.

The slight char at the crispy bottom of the crust.

The cheese and artichoke topping was thick, soft, creamy and moist juicy, almost like a drippy, wet egg custard.

The pizza was savoury and cheesy, slightly heavy on saltiness with sweetness from the artichoke flesh.

The topping was also slightly greasy but not so much that it would soak through the crust.

The crust was a little thick and was chewy like bread with a crisp from the browned underside but didn't have the biscuit crackle of coal baked thin crusts.

This was my first artichoke pizza and I liked it's taste and flavour. 

If you are a pizza fan and when you are in NYC, Artichoke Pizza is a Must Try.

Artichoke pizza is different from standard/ regular pizzas, and you can only find the original in New York City.

Restaurant name: Artichoke Basille's Pizza 
Address: 328 E 14th St, NYC, New York (original shop)
Hours: 11:00am to 4:00am
Tel: 212-228-2004

Date visited: 25 Nov 2014

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Eataly NYC New York

Today, I walked from the Financial District heading north along Broadway Avenue towards Empire State Building. It was a two hour leisurely walk, stopping now and then to snap pictures of the beautiful shops and heritage buildings along Broadway Avenue.

By the time, I reached Empire State Building, I was hungry and thirsty, and badly needed to cool my tired heels.


Fortunately, Eataly Cafe NYC was nearby along Fifth Avenue.


Eataly NYC is near the famous Empire State Building at the junction of 5th Avenue and 33rd Street. NYC is working on making itself a bicycling city.


Eataly NYC is right across the road from the beautiful Flatiron Building, another New York City icon.


Eataly is like a foodies playground or wonderland with an Italian theme. Eataly is a sprawling food court, bar, cafe, gelato parlour, candy shop, cake shop, fine dining restaurant, supermarket, department store (for kitchen equipment), fruit market, fish market, butchery, wine shop, book shop and more - Eataly is many things all in one with everything dedicated to Italian food.

When I first entered and made my first quick survey around the hugh eatery Eataly, it was jaw dropping, eye popping amazing.

It's an Italian cuisine theme park.

As it was lunchtime, Eataly was full house.

As I was feeling famish and tired, I quickly settled on a focaccia from the Focacciera section. It's a casual pick up and go counter, so the queue cleared quickly at this lunch hour. Exactly what I needed at this time.


The olive and herb flavoured focaccia bread wrapped thin slices of savoury parma ham, juicy fresh tomato slices, and generous rocket greens.

The hefty focaccia surely filled me quickly in a very agreeable way.


For dessert, I went to the gelato bar. There were a dozen flavours and I opted for a medium cone with a scoop each of my favourities, hazelnut and pistachio gelato. The gelato was soft, creamy and sweet.

I got myself a large cuppa from LavAzza cafe to chill before setting out to explore Eataly.

The foamy cappuccino was medium bodied and mildly savoury sweet with a mild aftertaste. Personally, I like my cappuccino with more body and deeper flavours.

I finished my meal rather quickly as I was excited to start exploring Eately's many fascinating sections :-D

Making pasta at the pasta station.


The cheese section.


The freshly made pizzas were baked in wood fired ovens.


A freshly baked pizza.


You can even get truffles at Eataly.

The fresh fish section.


The espresso machine at LavAzza cafe.


The premium coffee section for your espresso fix.

I enjoyed myself at Eataly and shall be back to try their spaghetti and risotto, my favourite Italian dishes.

Eataly is an experience not to be missed by visiting foodies. It's a friendly, comfortable, causal place to enjoy and learn about Italian cuisine.

This place makes every visitor leave Eataly an Italian food fan.


Restaurant name: Eataly NYC
Address: 200 5th Ave, NYC, New York
Hours: 8:00am to 11:00pm
Tel: (212) 229-2560

Date visited: 24 Nov 2014

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