Adventurous eaters, listen up. You’ve experimented with SF’s Burmese options (best in the country!). You’ve dived deep into the provincial variations of Northern and Southern Indian food. You’ve acquired a fine taste for the tingling-numbing hybrid of joy that is high-quality Sichuan food. We’ve got your next regional cuisine, right here: Shaanxi Chinese food.
First, a brief history lesson. Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi, was the original capital of China, in roughly 200 BC (at about that time, the Qin emperor commissioned the 8,000 warrior statues that the restaurant is named after). Xi’an is in roughly the center of the country, which put it in prime position along the ancient Silk Road, which led from the Mediterranean, through the Middle East, to China. Not coincidentally, Shaanxi food has a decidedly different vibe from many other types of Chinese cuisine – there’s lots of mutton, pita-like bread dishes, and spices from a much wider swath of Asia (including a significant Muslim influence – the city has a large population).
Terra Cotta Warrior is a noble representative of the magic of Shaanxi cuisine. All the essential elements are here – the pork “burger” wrapped in a mini almost pita bread, the lamb soup with chopped cubes of that very same bread, and noodles for days. Noodles are perhaps the number one specialty of Xi’an: they’ve got hand-pulled, knife-cut, and giant-stretched-and-slapped-on-a-counter varieties, and others that we probably haven’t heard of. Terra Cotta Warrior has an appropriately voluminous selection of noodles, and they are all delicious.
How’s the atmosphere? It’s a hectic Chinese restaurant. There are huge families sharing 20-dish meals, cramped standing-room parties in the waiting area, and activity everywhere. What else would you expect? As long as you don’t come at primetime, though, the wait tends not to be too long.
But you heard it here first (or maybe you didn’t, doesn’t matter): Xi’an is the next culinary frontier, and Terra Cotta Warrior is establishing a beachhead in SF. Get out here before mediocre knockoffs are popping up everywhere.
You gotta have these, because they’re the classic noodle option. Revel in the hard edges and the springiness of each strand…pretty delicious.
A sleeper hit: the garlic helped this shredded pig ear transition from slightly frightening to terrifyingly delicious. Would absolutely get again.
It’s not a “burger” in the way you might be thinking – more like a small pita bread with shredded meats in between. Perhaps something like an un-sloppy sloppy joe. You want the hot pepper version, for sure. Or maybe the cumin lamb.
Another signature dish. A giant bowl o’ cubed bread, soaking in a spicy lamb broth. Warm tonic for cold days.
A little different flavor than we were expecting – less Middle Eastern spices, more fryer flavor. But this is good comfort food if you’re used to more wok-oriented Chinese action.