Magazine article The New Yorker

Biang!

Magazine article The New Yorker

Biang!

Article excerpt

If restaurants were rock bands, a food-loving musician suggested recently, Xi'an Famous Foods might be Nirvana circa 1991, the year punk broke. For years, this food stall in a basement mall, serving western-Chinese food, was Flushing's most famous underground act, drawing devotees from Manhattan, who stood in line for cumin lamb burgers and liang pi--"cold skin" wheat noodles served with spongy cubes of gluten and a spicy sauce, whose addictive properties have inspired comparisons to crack. Media attention followed (an appearance on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" was the equivalent of an MTV video), and, finally, it went mainstream: recently, Xi'an opened outposts in Chinatown and on St. Mark's Place, where N.Y.U. students and skater types crowd the takeout lines. Its original foodie fans were left feeling a little bereft.

The force behind the growing Xi'an empire is Jason Wang, a twenty-four-year-old Washington University graduate who now runs the restaurants with his father. Wang has stadium-size ambitions--including a food truck and a centralized "factory" kitchen to supply more outposts--but, in the meantime, he has taken a detour back to Flushing, opening Biang! on Main Street. Unlike its sibling restaurants, with their lines and numbered food pictures on the wall, Biang! is a sleek, sit-down affair. (Biang, the name of the restaurant's signature noodle, mimics the sound the noodles make when they are being snapped into shape. …

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