Jun 11, 2011

Xin Jiang Barbecue 新疆野宴-OUT OF BUSINESS

Address: 台北市大安區敦化南路一段160巷25號1樓
                 No. 25, Lane 160, Section 1, DūnHuà South Road, Daan District
Phone #: 02-8771-8001
Business Hours: 17:30-0:00
Website: Xin Jiang BBQ Facebook Page
Price Range:   $$$
Accepts Credit Cards: yes
Attire: casual
Good for kids: yes
Take out: not all items
Waiter Service: yes
Outdoor seating:  no
Alcohol: yes


Food Quality: 4 out of 5
Decor:  4 out of 5
Service: 4 out of 5
Overall: 4 out of 5
Recommendation: Xin Jiang themed Recline-Down BBQ Restaurant


Taipei has offers a wide range of options for those seeking barbecue meet. The predominant restaurants are the Japanese style yakiniku self-serve bbq with it's variants, then the Korean barbecue restaurants, and then you get the hybrid Taiwanese hot pot / griddle-based BBQ restaurants. Xin Jiang Barbecue is one of rarer restaurants that offer a wide variety of skewered food items for you to grill over their charcoal tabletop pit. You might have had a taste of Xin Jiang bbq skewers with their famous Cumin Lamb Skewers 羊肉串. They have this and many more skewers utilizing fresh ingredients. The main seasonings at this BBQ restaurant is cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. The lack of sauces is no problem as these simple ingredients are enough to accentuate the natural oils and flavors of the meats themselves. You might find yourself paying around 500 NT per person, but this is definitely worth it based on the quality of the ingredients. If you are fond of Cumin Lamb Skewers 羊肉串, then you must visit Xin Jiang Barbecue.

The interior is designed after with a Xin Jiang theme in mind. Immediately noticeble is that they give you cushions to recline on instead of tables with chairs to dine in. You are required to remove your shoes before entering the restaurant, but that can be viewed as a fun part of the experience with the right attitude. They don't use natural gas with the BBQ pits, but they use pure charcoal. There are many artifacts reminiscent of Xin Jiang, and the servers wear a top and hat designed with ethnic Uyghur style in mind. Most of the items are raw skewers that need to be grilled at the table. However, they do have various cooked items that are very good. I was quite disappointed in this visit because they were out of Oxtail Stew 牛尾燒, which is a braised oxtail stew with very tender oxtail segments paired with angel hair thin noodles in heavy ox broth. Definitely get the Oxtail Stew and I post it up as soon as I get the chance to eat here again.

These are the lamb skewers that you need to season as you see fit and grill. The servers here will help you grill them if you are new and do not trust in your own skills. Personally, I think it's more fun to do it myself and not have an awkward table conversation with a server in the middle. These skewers are 75 NT each, but the quality of the meat makes the price worth it. Those 3 skewers for 100 NT at the nightmarket has nothing on this. There is a clear marbling to their lamb meat, and they smell and taste undoubtedly lamby.
Here is the after shot of my lamb skewer. I seasoned it kind of light the first time around, with a little bit of pepper and salt and a sparse sprinkling of cumin. The lamb itself is suffused with flavor and its own oil is very delicious. I reckon you could eat these seasoned with just a pinch of salt.
This is the "Hand Grab Rice" It's kind of like a rice pilaf with cilantro and braised lamb on top. The rice itself has a lot of flavor from some sort of chicken stock or seasoned water it was cooked in. The braised lamb was tender and flavorful, much like a lamb shank without the excess saucyiness, but with the flavor suffused in the meat. I only ordered this bowl of rice because they ran out of Oxtail Soup. The rice turned out to be a very good alternative, but the oxtail soup provides more balance to the oily BBQ, and the angel hair thin noodles are delicious.
You can also order veggies that come skewered or wrapped in tin foil with butter inside. That is onions skewers and we also got bell peppers, Enoki Mushrooms, and Clams with Luffa. I did not feel like I needed to capture those are film because they really just tasted like you would imagine them to be.
After seeing my distraught face due to the lack of Oxtail Soup the restaurant offered me a plate of braised tripe. These were seasoned well: Oily, spicy, and with the green onions all over. The tripe itself was very snappy and elastic. There was a mild innard smell from the tripe, but not too much to make it gross.
Since a bunch of barbecue items could be overwhelmingly oily and dry, I recommend getting some vegetables like this plate of stir fried lotus roots. They are a little oily, but they are refreshingly crisp in comparison to the lamb skewers and other skewer items. They taste like a crunchier version of heartless vegetables (空心菜).
Lastly, here is a shot of a squid that we ate as a snack. I like to eat grilled squid, and this one was just as good, even without heavy sauce painted all over its body. It was grilled into more like those dried squid you can get as snack items in smell and taste. However, the texture was more tender and chewy than sinewy and hard. There are more items that we did nto get, but I recommend the lamb skewers for sure. Explore the items this place has to offer. Xin Jiang Barbecue is unique, and they offer premium Tsing Tao beer at this location. For those that like to knock a couple beers back with their BBQ, the amberesque Tsing-Tao premium is a perfect pair with this style of BBQ: It is refreshingly crisp and semisweet. The more the merrier at this restaurant, so invite a couple of friends and give this place a shot.

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