255 Elizabeth St Melbourne, VIC 3000
|Opening hours||Daily 11.30am-3.30pm, 5pm-10pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Phone||03 7015 8023|
If there's anything better than eating fresh handmade noodles as long as your arm in a sweet, heartfelt restaurant I wasn't able to think what it might be on the recent Sunday I filled up at Xinjiang Lamian.
This speedy, simple little eatery puts a very personal spin on the food of Xinjiang, in north-west China.
Owner Victor Zhang grew up in Urumqi, much closer to Mongolia and Kazakhstan than Beijing. His uncle owned a restaurant and passed on secrets that Victor incorporated into his own dishes.
He also draws on family traditions – the chives his father grew in pots back home, the cucumber salad his mother made – and the multicultural mix of his vast inland birthplace, home to the oppressed Uighur minority as well as more than a dozen other ethnic groups.
Xinjiang is famous for wheat noodles, stretched and boiled to order. Lamb is a key ingredient, as is cumin, reflecting the Silk Road positioning of Xinjiang.
These emblematic elements star on a menu that zooms from soups to skewers to stir-fries and the famous "big-pan chicken" stew.
And of course, noodles. Zhang's favourite is the version tossed with fragrant chives and sliced lamb. Beg for scissors if the bouncy metre-long noodles seem determined to slither into your lap rather than your mouth.
Charcoal-grilled lamb skewers are cumin-dusted and delicious. Tiger salad – with cucumber, coriander, spring onions, housemade chilli oil and sesame dressing – is a cool, fresh foil for the meat.
Supple dumplings are filled with lamb and cabbage: they're great with black vinegar and chilli.
Xinjiang Lamian opened mid-2020, a tricky time for CBD ventures. It's been tough.
But as the city revives and people rediscover the joy of going out for noodles, it's surely time for many more Melbourne-bound trips to Xinjiang.