Xinjiang Islam Provincial Restaurant: Found the Cream of the Crop?
A little while back, I’ve finally managed to gather the troops and head over to the west side of town for the last of the Xinjiang Provincial restaurants in Beijing that had managed to evade me: The Xinjiang Islam Restaurant 新疆伊斯兰饭庄, attached to the provincial representative office, inside the Xinjiang Hotel. It is located inside the courtyard of the Xinjiang Hotel, not to be confused with the other establishment that is right on the street.
I headed over there on a cold november saturday night with some of the usual suspects that were willing to brave the temperatures and tag along for a meal on the less travelled western side of Beijing. The restaurant was quite busy on both floors but we still managed to score a table for 10 persons around 8:00 pm which is usually their busiest hour. I’m gonna take a slightly different approach on this review and try to have it organized!
Probably the biggest and most extensive menu out of all 3 Xinjiang provincial restaurants. Not only did it have all the classic dishes but it also boasted a few options I had not seen at the other two especially as far as their variety of fish and beef dishes. Dishes were listed both in English and Chinese with good pictures, clearly organized according to meat type and what not. It’s very much foreigner friendly!
Probably the biggest surprise of the night: The staff was amazingly on the ball with a service oriented attitude and approach. We were never harassed as we waited for the rest of the party to arrive and there was always a waitress available when needed. The lady that took our order was extremely helpful in recommending dishes and keeping me from over ordering. She also helped balance out the meat dishes with vegetable and providing useful pointers that were not price dependent. This was up there along with the service of places like Na Jia Xiao guan or Hai Di Lao.
Let’s get serious for a second because it’s all about the food at the end of the day! The had the biggest chuanr this side of the gobi desert using proper wood skewers much like they do back in xinjiang. juicy, tender and heavenly. It’s actually the first time I see a restaurant in Beijing using skewers made out of proper tree branches and there’s something very primal and strangely appealing about it.
The dapanji was an amazing concoction with just the right balance of spice, meat, noodles and veggies. Definitely a joy to eat and the empty plate at the end of the meal was ample proof.
The beef liver was so good that it managed to convert non-liver eaters and help them see the light with ample – but not overdone- amounts of cumin and onions adding to the flavor.
flat bread, lamb, vegetables, jellyfish, lamb ribs and meat baozi were all excellent if not exceptional with only the yogurt scoring below par in my book.
Whereas the Kashgar and Urumuqi branches represent their respective cities/regions, the Xinjiang Islam Restaurant is the flag bearer for the rest of the province… I can say without a doubt that it holds that flag high and proud! That was one hell of a good meal, extremely difficult to beat as a dining experience. As far as restaurants go, that place has their act together and it shows at every level. It’s almost too perfect and professional which goes against my idea of Xinjiang and its own flavor of chaos. How does it rank against the other two? very favorably!!! It was almost perfect! The dianping reviews also agree with me as far as i can tell!
That said, I still rank it second, behind the Kashgar representative restaurant but that’s a personal preference: I love me a meal made by a 3 star michelin chef but I am more likely to enjoy that same meal cooked by a grandma that’s been making it for 70 years according to a recipe that came from her own grandma. Either ways, can’t go wrong with any of those two establishments.
Now, I gotta find some time to go back where it all started, the Urumqi Representative Office where my adventures started over 2 years ago.
Xinjiang Islam Restaurant – 新疆伊斯兰饭庄
Xīchéngqū Sān Lǐ Hélù 7 Hào
Tel: 6830 1820
note: I forgot my camera that day so most pictures from Dianping