Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Xinjiang Style Restaurant

Xinjiang Style Restaurant is a very good Xinjiang Restaurant in the Hongkou area. On the Chinese food site, it's currently rated the #2 Xinjiang Restaurant, based on taste. This isn't my first update about a Xinjiang Restaurant, I've also mentioned the unfortunately-named Xinjiang Rather Go On Expedition A Restaurant, near Jing'an Temple. And much of what I could write for that restaurant applies to this one as well: Xinjiang Food is from the Muslim, Eastern-Turkish minorities of Northwestern China. It's Central Asian in character, with a Chinese influence, and makes an excellent break from eating standard Chinese fair. Xinjiang Restaurants are most known for their lamb kebabs, which are popular both with a meal, or a snack for people just passing by. And to my mind, the kebabs aren't as good at Xinjiang Style Restaurant. They're being cooked out front in the small picture up top, here's a closer look at them:

I wouldn't call them bad, they're actually pretty good and I order a few whenever I go. Rather, it's that there's solid chunks of seasoned lamb fat on those kebabs! It's probably something of a treat for those stuck in the freezing Xinjiang winters, but to me it's kind of gross. Anyway, past that, I prefer Xinjiang Style Restaurant's food to Xinjiang Rather Go On Expedition A Restaurant's. The two restaurants are comparable in quality, both of them occupy the range of being better than good but worse than amazing.

The environment can't be called upscale, but service is friendly and there's a unique atmosphere. Particularly in the early afternoon, Xinjiang Style Restaurant is almost entirely occupied by Uighur/Eastern Turkish people, many of whom seem to know each other well. Maybe they're of the same extended family, or maybe it's just a close-knit community, I haven't asked. Even if they have nothing else on their table, they'll generally have a large stack of Xinjiang-style bread, it's very dense but vaguely reminds me of naan. I can't say I'm a huge fan, but it's not expensive, neither.

I am a big mushroom fan, and these needle mushrooms are marinated in a really delicious vinegar-dominated sauce that reminds me of the mushrooms you'd find in an Italian deli:

The soups are fun, and while I couldn’t give a culinary history, they seem to be thoroughly Xinjiang-ized takes on Chinese soups. For instance, this Hot and Sour soup was swimming with peppers, lamb, and onions:

Looking underneath, it's all heated with a dry flame, that keeps the soup at a low boil while it's at the table. It's not at all uncommon to see in Shanghai, but I still like it very much.

I've never seen any foreigners at this restaurant, and there's no English spoken, but the menu has pictures included for the most part, and there should be no real difficulties. It also has English translations that make almost no sense. My favorite thing to get, if I'm going by myself, is a plate of Ding Ding Mian – chopped-up noodles with diced lamb and peppers. It may look like Chef Boyardee, but it's so delicious!

This restaurant is located on 98 Dongjiangwan Lu, it's about a 5 minute walk south from Subway Line #8's Hongkou Stadium Station, Exit #1, and in the shadow of the elevated subway line. A meal should cost somewhere between twenty and fifty kuai per person.


Micah Sittig said...

There's a great Hunanese restaurant in that area as well, called Guoyuan (果园). Very small, maybe 10 tables, but a very refined atmosphere and presentation; reminds me more of the kinds of restaurants you'd find in Hangzhou than the ones in Shanghai. Dianping's rating for it isn't that great, but you trust me on this one ;) Expect a wait so get there a bit early, especially on chilly days.

Jeff Rutsch said...

Yep, I love that restaurant! My girlfriend basically lives next door, although she's from near Suzhou and will literally break into a sweat from foods I don't consciously recognize as being spicy. So I don't go as often as I'd like.

I'm glad you're still reading this rag, Micah, sometime I'll have to invite you for a meal or a beer or something.