Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shaanxi Style Restaurant, Box Hill by Big Fil

One of the best things about doing a food blog has been trying to find great places that no one else has yet come across.  Based on the crowds Shaanxi-Style Restaurant isn't somewhere waiting to be discovered by locals, but it does seem to be underappreciated by the wider community.

First question though is probably where the hell is Shaanxi?  Through the power of Google and Wiki I can reveal that it is a province in Central China, an old and comparatively poor part of the country but with an important history.  Xian, which is the capital of the province, was for a very long time the imperial capital and is considered the eastern end of the silk road.  Funnily enough, Foghorn Leghorn spent a period of time here during the 1980's when learning Chinese, and soon to be Sister-in-law Red grew up very close to the border of Shaanxi and Henan.  Small world.

Inside is fairly generic, white walls, a few decorations around the wall, cats that wave at you while you eat.  English is obviously not the first language of most of the staff, with communication much more effective in Mandarin (which fortunately FL is fluent in).

Food wise this was some of the most interesting Chinese food I've had.  It's very different to your usual Cantonese, its heavier, the flavours were more rich than vibrant, meats were braised rather than fried and noodles and bread replaced rice as the main carbohydrate.

There were two dishes which particularly stood out to me.  The Garlic and chilli oil tripe, with its gentle use of chilli and sesame flavours, was outstanding.  Soft and delicate in flavour and texture, just some of the best tripe I've had.

Equally as good were the Special Shaanxi Noodles.  Served with bok choy, spring onion and a little bit of chilli on top, the noodles are comparatively wide and flat.  What made them so good was the very nice flavour of the noodles combined with the great slightly chewy texture, like perfect al dente pasta.

That's not to say the other dishes weren't good.  The special evergreen vegetables provided a healthy contrast to the other more 'stick to the ribs' type dishes and the pork in lotus shaped pancake with pork and preserved vegetables was absolutely melt in the mouth stuff.

The only two dishes I wouldn't order again were the fairly generic boiled pork dumplings and the crumbed bread soaked in mutton stew.  We were expecting to crumble the bread into the stew ourselves but it arrived already pre crumbled.  The major issue was that each piece was an exact uniform square - I think having rough, hand torn bread would have greatly enhanced the texture of the dish.  Also, I thought it was just a little mean with the amount of the meat.

China is a big and diverse country, but you wouldn't always know it based on the Chinese restaurants around town.  First it was Cantonese food that made its way here, but recent migration trends hopefully means that we will get to see more and more of the variation in cuisine and culture.  And for what it was, one of the cheapest meals of this quality around ($46 for 4 people).

Food - 8
Ambience - 6.5
Service - 6.5
Price - 8.5

945 Whitehorse Road
Box Hill VIC 3128
Tel: (03) 9890 0830

Shaanxi-Style Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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