The 10 Best Restaurants In Xi’an, Shaanxi Province
The ancient city of Xi’an, former imperial capital of China and home of the Terracotta Army, is famous for its distinctive cuisine. Located on the starting point of the Silk Road, Xi’an has been influenced by Chinese and Islamic traders, as well as the local Shaanxi Province. Food lovers are spoiled for choice in Xi’an, with its dizzying array of local restaurants and street food. Here are ten of the best places to try the local food in Xi’an.
De Fa Chang, opened in 1936, is one of Xi’an’s most famous restaurants and is located at the foot of the historic bell tower. People come from near and far to taste from the restaurant’s dumpling banquet, which has a huge selection of Cantonese bite-sized treats such as har kao, pan-fried guotie and shao lung bao. The restaurant serves over 300 varieties of dumpling, many of which are imaginatively formed into weird and wonderful shapes and filled with all manner of meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables. The banquet set menu is served upstairs, whilst downstairs, dishes are à la carte, and wheeled around on a trolley from table to table. This makes for a bustling atmosphere, and an authentic Chinese dining experience.
Established in 1988, The Tang Dynasty is one of Xia’an cultural treasures, popular with locals and visiting dignitaries alike. It was the first institution to present dance and music performances in the ancient Tang Dynasty style, and the only venue of its kind in the country. The restaurant offers a nightly dinner theater, which serves food alongside the performances, providing a taste of imperial palace luxury. There is a separate Cantonese restaurant within The Tang Dynasty complex, acclaimed by locals for the freshness of its seafood. It is recommended that you have your meal in the restaurant to experience a finer taste of Tang imperial cuisine, before attending the show, which starts at 8.30 p.m. every night.
Xi’an is well-known for its distinctive mix of street food, and some of the best places to find some local cheap eats are in the Muslim Quarter, close to the Drum Tower in the center of the old town. This is a vibrant area inhabited by over 20,000 Muslims, with about ten mosques, which represents the unique amalgamation of Chinese and Muslim influences. This combination is also found in the food, such as hand-cut wheat noodles, Shaanxi-style flatbread hamburger (rou jia mo) and spicy roast beef and lamb kebabs. The yangrou paomo is also a must-try, consisting of crumbled bread in mutton or beef soup. These street-treats are best enjoyed after a visit to the wonderful oasis of calm that is the Great Mosque of Xi’an.
Shang Palace is the elegant main restaurant at the Shangri-la Golden Flower Hotel, offering a delicious range of authentic Cantonese, Sichuan and Shaanxi cuisine. The authentic flavors of the food are conjured up by local, award-winning sous-chef Zhang Nan, who has worked in kitchens since the age of 15. He combines his knowledge of traditional cuisine and respect for the natural flavors of the ingredients with passion and a contemporary flair. Classic dishes are given an innovative twist, such as the roasted duck with Shaanxi spices, served with honey melon, sour cherry sauce, kiwi, wasabi and sweet flour sauces. The beef ribs with red wine and pine nuts also look, smell and taste tantalizing. This is a welcoming place to sample modern Chinese fine dining at its best. The restaurant also offers four private dining rooms for special occasions.
La Seine is Xi’an’s premier French bistro, and one of the most exclusive restaurants in the city. Under the guidance of celebrated French chef Alan Pierre Roux, La Seine specializes in modern French gastronomy, with classics such as pumpkin soup with Gruyere cheese and escargot in garlic. In a city that has few Western restaurants, La Seine has been commended for bringing a sense of elegance and cultural exchange to the scene. It also offers a beautiful view of the Bell Tower through its floor-to-ceiling windows, and live piano and violin music, which add to the peaceful and romantic atmosphere of the establishment.
A legendary and historical gem, Xi’an Restaurant has been serving authentic Shaanxi cuisine since 1929. Based in the Xi’an Hotel, just east of the Bell Tower, the restaurant is a popular spot, as well as having hosted celebrities and state leaders in its long history, including Zhou Enlai and Kim Il-Sung. It has also garnered many awards for the international quality of its food. The restaurant offers a wide-range of Muslim-influenced Shaanxi cuisine, as well as their unique versions of Shaanxi snacks and street food, with an all-you-can-eat buffet on the first floor and more elegant dishes served upstairs.
This is a highly recommended Muslim restaurant, renowned for its delicious yangrou paomo, where diners shred their bread into a bowl, which is then filled with shredded meat, noodles and broth. Coriander and chili can be added to suit individual tastes, with marinated cloves of garlic used to cleanse the palate. The stewed oxtail and lamb dumplings are also popular. The restaurant opened over a century ago, in 1898, and now has a couple of branches in Xi’an. The main one on East Main Street, nearest to the Bell Tower, is the most comfortable, with minimalist décor and an upmarket clientele.
Sofitel Xian houses several upmarket restaurants serving Chinese, Mediterranean, Moroccan and Brazilian cuisines. Koi is the hotel’s Japanese restaurant, conveniently placed at the front of the hotel, offering teppanyaki tables and a sushi bar, as well as private tatami rooms. The sleek Japanese décor and relaxed atmosphere perfectly match the food, which is prepared by Japanese-trained chefs. Expect good quality seafood, grilled squid and succulent Australian beef, as well as rice bentos and hot pot. In a city of rich Chinese cuisine, Koi offers a light, but delicious alternative.
St. Louis Portuguese Restaurant offers an authentic taste of Portugal and Macau, the former Portuguese colony next to Hong Kong. It also has a particularly romantic, candle-lit ambiance that contrasts with the local restaurant scene and offers a fresh flavor against the plethora of local Chinese cuisine on offer in Xi’an. There is a great wine list, which includes wines from Portugal, to match the rich, Portuguese staples of goose liver, sirloin steak, seafood and Portuguese egg tarts. With its welcoming and attentive service, St. Louis has developed a reputation as one of most reliable fine dining establishments in Xi’an.
The First Noodle Under the Sun is a chain of restaurants, with an oddly transliterated English name, but a great reputation for tasty noodle-based cuisine. Though the restaurants are basic, the chain is popular with locals and foreigners alike, and offers a huge selection of local specialties, including cumin chicken skewers and spicy kungbao chicken. Of course, the restaurant also serves a wide range of vegetable, meat and seafood-based noodle dishes, with 18 different types of noodles to choose from. The house specialty is the biang biang mian, a 4 meter strip of noodle that is folded into a bowl, served with vegetable toppings and two soup dishes on the side.