Restaurant Review: Terra Cotta Warrior (老家陕西)

I’ve been obsessed with Shaanxi food and Terra Cotta Warrior lately. As mentioned in an earlier post, my husband and I discovered the restaurant a few weeks ago and we’ve been raving about the food ever since. It’s no surprise that we visited the place again when one of our friends was craving Chinese and wanted to check-out our favorite joints in San Francisco.

Shaanxi cuisine hasn’t really entered the mainstream food culture yet, but it is quickly gaining ground in the metro areas. Xi’an Famous Foods (Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi and home to the famous terracotta warriors), one of the first Shaanxi-style restaurants in the US, has long lines of patrons waiting outside its 11 restaurants in New York City everyday. Shaanxi-style food isn’t fancy. You won’t find its dishes in large elaborate banquets, but its bowls of warming lamb soups and balance of spices make it the ultimate comfort food. This northwestern region of China produces high amounts of wheat, millet, soybeans and mung beans. As a result, you’ll find more noodles than rice dishes coming out of the region.

When you first step into Terra Cotta Warrior, you’ll notice the place is filled with Mandarin Chinese speakers and very few English speakers. Personally, I love this because the place screams of authenticity.

For this outing, we ordered the following dishes:

Lamb paomo soup

Lamb paomo – One of the most popular Shaanxi dishes, paomo is a bowl of lamb soup filled with bite-sized dough (the “mo”) and accompanied with coriander, pickled vegetables, wood ear mushrooms and vermicelli noodles. I found the broth to be very soothing, and the meat was juicy and tender. Although I usually find lamb gamy, there’s something about the Chinese preparation of lamb that reduces its strong taste.

Lamb Roujiamo

Roujiamo – Otherwise known as the Chinese hamburger or the Chinese sloppy joe, roujiamo is an arepa-like sandwich that uses crispy unleavened bread stuffed with braised meat such as pork or lamb. This burger was so yummy. In fact, I’m drooling right now as I’m staring at the photo.

Pork slices with garlic

Pork slices with mashed garlic – A popular cold appetizer in China, this dish was delicate, light, but pungent at the same time. We were eating an oxymoron. I loved it, although I’m sure you can never go wrong with anything that involves pork and garlic 🙂

cumin lamb with biang biang noodles

Cumin lamb with biang biang noodles – Touted by the Chinese as one of the “ten strange wonders of Shaanxi,” biang biang noodles is a traditional dish that originated from Xianyang, Shaanxi’s ancient capital. The name refers to the sound the noodles make when pounded against the table. Like papperdelle (my favorite Italian noodle), the wideness of the noodles catches the sauce and meat under each fold. Terra Cotta Warrior’s version was perhaps a bit too oily, but it was still delicious and chock full of flavors.

This was a perfect meal for a cold and rainy day in SF. We cleaned up our plates, lamented over the US elections (it was bound to come up) and washed the food down with tea and a couple bottles of Tsingtao beer. Full and happy tummies were achieved. Until the next noodle night!

Terra Cotta Warrior is located on 2555 Judah Street (between 30th Ave. & 31st Ave.), San Francisco, CA 941222. No reservations allowed. Just bring your lovely selves and an empty stomach!


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