One of the delights of eating out in London is discovering new cuisines. A Chinese Chef friend of mine insisted that we try this new place in Holloway, Xi’an Impression. He doesn’t usually steer me wrong so we trotted off there one evening.
It’s a tiny restaurant with about 30 seats, directly facing the front steps of the Emirates Stadium, home of the Arsenal Football club. It was busy and we didn’t book, so we asked nicely in Mandarin and got seated on one of the tables for their takeaway customers.
I have to admit that I don’t know much about Northern Chinese cuisine and most of the dishes are not that familiar to me. I am much more familiar with Cantonese, Fujian and Hakka food. From past experience, the Northern Chinese meals I have had have been quite “homely”, using inferior ingredients and extremely greasy.
On the recommendation of the waiter, we ended up ordering some of their most popular dishes. This was a big mistake as we ended up with a lot of carbs and dishes which had the same flavours.
This is one of the famous Chinese burgers (ru jia mo) from the Xi’an street food menu. The bread was dry and slightly undercooked with some sloppy and bland pork filling.
This one was much better, with some Silk Road inspired spicing.
A cold starter – shredded chicken in special sauce which seems to be a combination of their chilli oil, dark vinegar and a hint of sesame oil. It is a dish with some shredded chicken, bean sprouts, julienne of cucumber for some texture. Tasty enough but it was rather greasy. See the amount of oil left in the bowl in the next picture. It worked well eaten with the noodles.
These are the hand pulled biang biang noodles in special sauce that got a lot of people very excited on the interweb. It had a nice texture, came drenched in the same chilli oil and a hint of vinegar again. Served hot and quite a big bowl to justify the £7.80 price. The flavour was not unlike the cold noodles and shredded chicken. Besides the spring onions and the sauce, there is nothing else in that bowl. Which made for a very unbalanced meal. I could have done with about half the size and a separate order of something with a completely different flavour.
Again, very greasy.
Our bill came to about £30 for the meal with a couple of cups of tea. It’s not expensive but then again, it was totally unsatisfactory. If you do try this place, don’t expect to see the same old menu as your local takeaway as those menus are most probably Cantonese. Marina visited recently too and she liked it, read her review on the Guardian site. If I went back, I would probably ignore the waiter’s suggestion and add a few dishes with a different flavour profile and more balance.
117 Benwell Road
London N7 7BW
Tel: 0203 441 0191