My girlfriend was cold. Our relationship was cold. The icy stare she gave me as I marched her towards the bright frontage of Xi'an Famous Foods was cold, and about as well received as Delirium Tremens at Brit Milah.
Dressed for Monsieur Michelin, Mrs T was not amused. Terracotta hold of her and she stood silently in the doorway like a stony statue, ready to attack. Blocking the doorway, it took an army of helpers to prise her fingers from the frame and force her into the warm, welcoming womb of XFF.
The bijou room is as hot as the food, with a feeling of barging into someone's living room in midwinter. The beguiling aroma of spices permeates your skull like the steering column of an airbag-less car in a high speed collision.
The next thing you notice are the rules. Indeed, this restaurant has more rules than rugby, only these rules are more complicated and you haven't got some old Etonion called Edward shoving his thrush-coated tongue between your legs in a scrum. Yet it still feels strangely welcoming. Like wetting yourself on a train carriage after one too many beers.
Don't sit down before ordering. Wash your hands before going to the toilet. No diving or bombing. Wash your hands after going to the toilet. Don't touch yourself or you'll go blind. Don't p*ss into a headwind. Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
Despite these rules and regulations, we found the service to be efficient and friendly.
Also, the decor did have a certain homemade charm, as if the owners' children had been let loose with marker pens, felt tips and Chinese decorations.
Areas of wall that weren't plastered in crudely written instructions were reserved for A2-sized posters advising customers about what to do in the event of a fellow diner choking.
I counted five posters. One for each wall plus an additional copy clinging to the ceiling for anyone unfortunate enough to be gasping for breath on their back on the floor of the restaurant.
Thankfully, the only thing my girlfriend choked on were tears as a stray slither of chilli tickled her throat like Tuberculosis.
Each tasty morsel of food was an unctuous pocket of danger. Like putting your underwear on before your socks. It feels wrong. It feels naughty. And at the back of your mind you just know there is a slight chance of developing a fungal infection in your genitals.
We ordered the Spicy Cumin Lamb 'Burger' ($3), the Stewed Pork 'Burger' ($2.50) and the 'Spicy and Tingly Hand-Ripped Noodles' ($6), before perching on the sort of plastic chair for which pert bottoms need only apply.
The burgers are basically stewed meat in a pitta-like bun, rather than a typical American style burger.
The lamb burger was heaving with dark, dreamy, moist meat that winked back at you with an intense spicy devilry. The cumin was strong but not overpowering and the meat was as tender as post zip-trapped foreskin.
Whilst we both preferred the lamb to to the pork burger, they were both packed with flavour and spice.
The thickly cut noodles were texturally beautiful and the fiery broth tingled the lips and warmed the cockles.
This place can get very busy, and as other reviewers have noted, it might be easier, and often the only option, to eat your food outside.
Most of the dishes are very spicy, just as they should be. Indeed, after returning home to feed the pony several hours later, the lingering spiciness caused quite a stir in the stables. Unfortunately, the horse had already bolted and I spent most of the night locked in the bathroom until the screams had subsided.
NB. We visited the East Village branch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.