Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
The sign outside reads, “one hundred years of history,” but besides that, this Xiaojiahe halal restaurant does not look like anything special. It's famous though, and always busy. Waiting customers often perch on stools outside, holding menus from which they scan and choose items with obvious anticipation.
We visited recently to find out what the fuss was about, and from the list of specialites ordered floating fragrance beef (飘香牛肉). The fragrance seemed to be that of scorched red peppers. The beef was tender and tasted great, though we didn't expect it to come in such a deep pool of oil. Other specialties are double-flavored fried beef slices (双味牛排) and cashew beef (腰果牛柳). More things we tried and liked: soft meat and bean threads (烂肉粉丝); shiitake mushroom and cabbage (香菇白菜); pumpkin and stewed date (大枣炖南瓜); and water spinach (空心菜).
The steamed beef in rice meal (小笼蒸牛肉), which everyone was ordering, had the usual toppings of spicy oil, raw garlic water, and green onion. It was also more chewy than tender, but their seasoning is really unique. I probably shouldn't say this about a halal place, but it makes the beef taste like pork, and is a must order. On another visit I ordered the gui hua rou (桂花肉) expecting some exotically seasoned dish, and got a prosaic, but delicious, mix of beef, wood ear mushroom, and scrambled egg. They also have a takeout window where you can buy cold dishes by weight. The fuqi fei pian is fantastic.
The servers don`t interact with guests much further than taking your checked-off menu and plunking down your dishes, and sometimes new customers are directed to your table as you are finishing but before you`ve gotten up to leave. It’s awkward. As a dining experience, the place is a little rough around the edges, but the food is great and very reasonalby priced. We always end up paying between 10 and 20 RMB per person, though a meat-heavy order will be quite a bit more.