I’m a big fan of Xi’an Famous Foods, so I was excited when they opened a full, sit-down restaurant in Flushing: Biang! The name is supposedly derived from the sound that the noodle dough makes as it is slammed against the counter while being worked, and make no mistake: the noodles are good. But I like to think that the exclamation point at the end of the name refers to the bold, bright flavors that characterize the best dishes at Biang! In fact the few dishes we didn’t enjoy were the ones lacking that bright, exclamatory punch. For an example of what Biang! does right, take the bao’ji mung bean jelly pictured above. Served cold, the mung bean jelly is cut into noodley strips and sits soaking in a bath of soy and vinegar. It’s a wake-up call to the palate, impossible to ignore (and nearly as impossible to stop eating).
The biang-biang noodles themselves are also great. Hand cut so that they are all different lengths and widths, the noodles are perfectly chewy and coated in an oily, spicy sauce. The Mt. Qi vegetables served with the noodles didn’t make much of an impression, but they too were elevated by the sauce. The more I ate, the more I wanted to eat, and the slow burn of the chilis in the sauce grew stronger and stronger. It demanded something to offset it.
And that would be my favorite dish of the night: the cucumber salad. Smashed open to reveal a cracked interior, the cucumbers are then force fed a diet of garlic and vinegar until they’re so full of flavor they practically burst in your mouth. The cooling effect of the cucumbers themselves, combined with the sharp acidity of the vinegar, make them the perfect foil for the noodles.
Sure, there were a few dishes that fell flat. The tofu “skin” skewers were dry and missing the promised “tingly” sensation. Fiddlehead fern salad, which sounded exotic and exciting, was too simple and one-note to compete with the other dishes (and in fact I saw half-eaten bowls of this sitting on most of the other tables). And the popularity of the restaurant is a double-edged sword — we were told there would be a 20 minute wait, but it turned into an hour. Still, I’d go back to Biang! in a heartbeat; there’s plenty more on the menu for me to try. Though there’s no question about it; I’d order those cucumbers again too.
Biang! — 41-10 Main Street, Flushing