Restaurant Review: Xi Xia
Xi Xia is a brand-new spot in Kenny Centre. Although the restaurant debuted without much fanfare, it’s already crowded, with tables filled with folks hunkering down to biggie bowls of Western Chinese Fare.
Historically, the address has played home to a parade of Indian restaurants (Sher E Punjab, Cinnamon, Saphire, etc.); Xi Xia introduces a departure from the established path, while staying in sync with the rest of the international strip mall. Kenny Centre is already a renown destination for Belle’s Bread and Akai Hana. It also boasts a Chinese bakery and a hot pot joint.
Decor-wise, Xi Xia has freshened things up with a bright and colorful mural painted on a brick wall. The color and brightness in a formerly dark establishment helps signal the change in approach for the location.
Menu-wise, the list of offerings is short and quite manageable. That said, things got off to an iffy start in the appetizer section. Here’s the deal: Something called “Pop Fries” might sound potentially intriguing. But that’s only if you assume that the waffle fries mentioned in the description are somehow something totally different in Western Chinese cooking. They are not. Waffle fries are the same thing everywhere. So, in Pop Fries ($6), you get standard issue mass-produced fries, with a trace amount of orange cheese stuff and some spicy kim chi. The elements don’t really merge and the whole things comes across oddly.
Lesson learned: waffle fries are waffle fries.
But, there’s a whole world of wonderful waiting beyond the strange fries. Consider the Salt & Pepper Chicken ($7). It also comes as a wings option, for those who like to work around bones. The regular version, though, is something not far from popcorn chicken in size, but meatier. The little nuggets are lightly dusted with some sort of breading, and flash fried. The end product is neither notably salty nor peppery, but instead offers has a nice, mildly briny flavor all its own.
Signature Beef Noodles ($12) are a great way to experience luxe loops of house noodles. They are noodles worth eating, with a tender firmness that testifies to their freshness. Served in a robust broth, the notable noodles share space with sliced lean beef, daikon, boiled egg, cilantro, and some tofu. It’s busy enough to be entertaining, and addictive enough to keep slurping.
While the “Western Chinese” moniker firmly roots menu influences to a particular region, the actual offerings venture into other territories with dishes such a Korean Style Seafood Noodles and Japanese Miso Vege-Noodles ($11). As the name might indicate, the latter is a plant-centric option, based on ramen and a miso broth amped up with a wonderland of tofu, spinach, peas and a little cilantro.
Another interesting plant-centered option is the Tomato and Egg Stirred Noodles ($10). Tomatoes aren’t typically found in local takes on Chinese cuisine. This dish is based in an engaging mix of tomatoes chunks (not just sauce) and clots of egg with noodles. The result is quite likable.
There is also an alternative menu at Xi Xia. It offers poultry parts that include Chicken Foot, Duck Tongue, and Duck Head. Depending on how you interpret the menu, it looks like the Tongue is three times more expensive than the Duck Head. The latter seems like a better value (though perhaps you might miss out on the tongue)*. That particular menu is for future adventures, when the tomato-and-egg combo grows old.
You can do your own exploration at 1140 Kenny Centre Mall.
For more information, check out Xi Xia on Facebook.
*There is a 10 percent probability that I did not understand the pricing on the alternative menu. Keep that in mind before ordering duck heads.