My party of four got seated. The course revealed an unsurprising surprise: a hodgepodge, one of heavily Sichuan dishes.
“Is your restaurant Shaanxi?” I asked later, over the phone.
“Kind of,” a manager replied, and said nothing further.
That order consisted of Xi’an-style beef stew, pork skins, soup dumplings, soy-marinated eggs, mapo tofu, braised pork belly, cumin lamb with “fresh noodles,” and a Taiwanese braised beef stew that my Taiwanese-American friend ordered because his grandmother had cooked the dish, passing the recipe to his dad. I also got mung bean iced tea, as Xi’an Fusing doesn’t serve booze.
The chef-owner of Xi’an Fusing, Michael Leung, once owned Gourmet House of Hong Kong (closed in 2017). He is the owner of Asian Cafe Express, across Mesa’s Dobson Road from Xi’an Fusing, the former eatery leaning more into the gastronomy of Hong Kong.
Xi’an Fusing is in Mekong Plaza, where the best approach is to stack your meal with a grocery run at Mekong Supermarket, or a red bean bun from AA Ozzy Bakery.
First, the soy-and-not-tea-marinated egg came. The yolk was cooked to a hard yellow, not green-ringed but close. The soy brought a nice, minimally acrid flavor that allowed some of the soy bean’s nuances to shine, almost seeming to suggest spices like turmeric. If the egg were cooked two or three minutes less, it would have been great.
Soon, a barrage of other plates assailed our plain table, which looked out from the L-shaped restaurant — its intermingling white-and-yellow lights and office-like grid ceiling, with swaths of wallpaper the color and mood of Grey Poupon — to the plaza’s parking lot. Game time.
One of my friends thought the dumplings had been microwaved. I would have agreed, but I don’t think you can nuke that kind of metal.
The two main noodle dishes were a step or two better. The “fresh noodles” studded with cumin-scented lamb, a common Shaanxi union, turned out not to be handmade. Bankrupt of their usual heat, strewn with scallion, the noodles weren’t thin and wide, but yellow, tubular, and kinky, saturated with a blunt oiliness. Great light-night food, perhaps.
Notably, none of the five noodle options at Xi’an Fusing resembles Xi’an’s famous chewy, lush, endless lengths of flour and water.
The night’s winner, other than a cleanly vegetal mung bean iced tea, was a starter of pork skin. Petals of pallid skin filled the saucer like a soup, the skin with a visual texture like beeswax. Those fatty curls dripped sauce, mellow and balanced with faint garlic and five spice. Of those we tried, this was Xi’an Fusing Cafe’s best dish.
This was also our last bite of pork. And though promised, the belly never came.