Xiian embodies the power of numerology. My first visit was when the spelling of the name was regular. At that time, the food barely passed muster. On my second and third visits, the food has been improving by leaps and bounds. Coincidentally, it is when the spelling moved to the extra ‘i’. Whatever it is due to, Xiian is stylish in an unobtrusive, understated sort of way. Not only that, it is one of the few South East Asian places in Noida Sector 18. The best part is that the service matches the interiors: gracious and unobtrusive as well.
The good news is that the food is of a certain standard: the owners have tried to bump it up a notch or three above the regular chicken with hot garlic sauce type of joint, so the food travels all over South East Asia. The not so good news is that you’ll have to turn a blind eye to the correlation between what is on the menu and what finally arrives. So Thai dishes are given a Chinese twist and vice versa. And Malaysia comes out looking the worse for wear. However, the good dishes alone make it worth visiting Xiian, especially if you live or work in Mayur Vihar/Noida.
The kothe (Rs 275 chicken; 245 vegetarian) are the best things on this menu. The upper surface is soft, the filling moist and flavourful and the underside is chewy and crisp after being pan-fried. The Japanese-style seafood soup (Rs 160) is way above average and is a complete steal at the price. Every time I have ordered it, I have got at least six shrimps, in addition to glass noodles, strips of nori and a clear, light, subtly flavoured stock.
Other tasty items on the menu include lumpia (Rs 315/290 prawn/chicken), a pleasant egg pancake filled with minced prawns or chicken, fat horses – a delightfully named cup of minced chicken topped with a crust of whipped egg white and coconut cream, and then steamed. Nothing to do with horses at all, and not very much in the way of flavour either, but for the bowls of sweet chilli sauce and tangy lime juice with onions and coriander leaves. Lion’s head meatballs (Rs 315 is another pleasant dish, albeit not a patch on the Cantonese original, in which meatballs are scored on the surface to create a lion’s mane effect. It needs considerable skill to achieve this effect, but what we were served was a tasty dish of vaguely Chinese provenance.
The trouble with the kitchen at Xiian is that the staff appears to have been inveigled from elsewhere with a photocopy of the original menu as the template. Take udang lemak (Rs 495) for instance. Not much more than a pleasing yellow curry, South East Asian style, it is actually a tangy Nonya dish that features prawn paste and a fistful of anchovies. Nobody in or around Noida would eat that way, so the dish has been made minus these two vital ingredients. I find it pointless, but perhaps that’s the sum total of the skill of the chef!
It is only because of the rather too ambitious menu that one notices the provenance of some of the dishes. Angel chicken (Rs 315) could have come from anywhere, and with the peppery sauce, the chicken and bell pepper dish was hearty and satisfying.
G 45, Sector 18, Noida
Open from 12 noon to 11 pm
Credit cards accepted, alcohol served
Meal for two: Rs 900