If you’ve been to NYC and eaten at Xi’an Famous Foods, you’ll know that not only can this style of cuisine be extremely delicious without burning your mouth, but also, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. My son recently found Qin West Noodle, a little eatery tucked away in a block of condominiums, serving some pretty legit fare.
First off, the Liang Pi 陝西涼皮 ($7.95) made famous by Xi’an in NYC is served here. Though not as perfect as Xi’an’s, these handmade noodles are close enough to the real thing that we’ve come back several times to order them. Served with bean sprouts, peanuts, and cucumbers, in a light sauce, they are slippery enough to create that wildly slurpy sensation when eating. The best part? You can choose your spice level to suit your taste! We love it at the “extra” level.
We have ordered Cold Dish 涼菜三拌: 黃瓜+豬耳+牛筋 ($11.75) on every visit. This delicious plate of beef tendon, pork ear, and cucumbers is savory and possesses the perfect textural contrast in every bite. Don’t let the ingredients stop you from experiencing some of the most tasty bites here. The pork ear is nice and crunchy, while the tendon is soft, yet springy. Cleanse your palate between bites with the refreshing cucumber.
Just like Xi’an, Qin West also serves a ‘burger’, named Chinese Mo 肉夹馍 ($4.50). Unfortunately, there is no lamb option — braised pork or spicy beef — the latter is the closest you’ll get to the lamb.
If you want a plate of Spicy Cumin Beef 青椒孜然牛肉 ($12.95) on its own with a bowl of rice, you can absolutely do so. This dish definitely packs a punch, both in flavor, and in heat.
If you’re going the route of dishes paired with rice, then order Stir Fried Shredded Potato 青椒土豆絲 ($8.50) as well. This is a classic home style dish eaten in most northern Chinese households. Everyone makes a variation of it, and the one here is solid. There is a handful of chiles tossed in, so if you can’t handle spice, ask them to make it mild or medium. We love it just the way it is.
Saozi Noodle 私房臊子麵 ($9.95) can be had either dry or with soup. I prefer the dry version as the noodles stay viable throughout. Sitting in hot broth will jeopardize the texture of the noodles. Toppings include bits of diced pork, dried radish, potato, and tofu. The toppings can sometimes be a tad on the salty side, so try not to take too much of it with each bite. This is one of my favorites here!
Spicy Wonton Soup 紅油抄手 ($8.95) is misleading because I find the soup somewhat unpalatable, as the wontons are in a broth topped with a layer of chile oil. I’m not a fan of this dish simply because the oil is too much for me. If you can get over the half an inch of oil, the broth underneath is quite flavorful. A word of caution though, eat the wontons quickly because the oil retains heat and continues to “cook” the wontons resulting in a soft mushy mess the longer they sit enveloped in the broth.
The only item I didn’t care for was Steamed Chicken 口水雞 ($6.25/$16.25). It is the ubiquitous “saliva chicken” that is a fundamental dish in Sichuan cuisine, but unfortunately, doesn’t resemble that dish in any way. Maybe it’s Xi’an style? The sauce is weak, and the chicken, served with bones intact, will not appeal to most. Definitely skip this.
I suggest trying Qin West during off peak hours purely because parking can be a bit tricky. We’ve found parking right outside on the occasions we’ve visited, and there is available parking in the structure, but in the evenings, even that can get pretty full.
The clientele is mostly Chinese students, dotted with young professionals, but we’ve seen the occasional non-Chinese venture in. Don’t be intimidated. The guy at the cashier speaks fluent English, and is extremely helpful! What I love most is how consistent the food is — we’ve been here at least eight times now. If my son had his way, we’d be there right now.
Qin West Noodle
Irvine, CA 92612