I recently headed to Mian at 808 Sheridan for a spontaneous lunch, only to find upon arrival that it had closed, and it was the first day of business for a new restaurant.
Wait, WHAT? First, what happened to Mian? Don't panic, spicy noodle fans: If you remember from my blog about it, Mian and Chengdu Taste (which first occupied this space) are owned by the same owner-chef. They're simply consolidating the menu and opening on the second floor of the same building on January 18.
I was a little confused because the same staff and managers from Chengdu/Mian were working this new restaurant, Zhi Chinese BBQ. It's also a Northern China-style restaurant, but not under the same owner — "It's a friend," the staff said. Their friend is probably not part of a big chain like Chengdu and Mian, as the menu is all over the place (as you'll see in the photos below), but it has potential. In a town that only offered Cantonese, or Southern style restaurants for generations, it's refreshing to see a new wave of flavors from the North.
I think people might order the cucumbers thinking they'll be cool contrasts to the spicy food, but this is actually a cucumber kim chee dish. It's not a bad thing, but I just thought I'd offer that PSA.
Another PSA: we asked if the "chef's potato" was french fries, and for the record, the staff did say no. The potatoes are crinkle cut, but that's the only resemblance they have to fries. They're basically sauteed and seasoned, and served as a side dish.
People who know pig ears, will love this dish — it was probably the best thing we had. The strips are super tender and cooked in a shoyu-sugar broth to give it a delicately seasoned taste throughout. It's good with or without the spice powder served on the side. They do have pig snout listed below it on the menu, and although I'm not usually squeamish, I haven't had the courage to try that yet!
We were pleasantl surprised with the garlic needle mushroom, which is actually enoki mushrooms in garlic butter. Now, this is a good accompaniment to spicy food!
There are three kinds of skewers: Lamb or beef ($6.99) or pork belly ($5.99), and they all kind of look alike. Our favorite was the lamb, as it had a good, robust, meaty flavor. The pork belly is also good, and the beef (especially compared to the lamb) was a little nondescript.
Who doesn't love fried chicken wings, right? These are very herby, whicih we liked, and moist. If you're going to order these, though, we recommend getting the spicy wings as that has better depth of flavor (don't worry, it's not too spicy). The meat is very moist, too.
The shrimp and clam with rice noodle is much spicier than it looks, and we liked the savory broth. The shrimp and clams were fresh, so each lent a different element of its own natural flavor to each bite.
Don't be fooled, these aren't manapua — there's no filling in the steamed buns. They're plain, and meant to be eaten as an alternative to rice (although plain steamed rice is available) if you want something different.
The noodles here aren't clear, they're more like chow fun. To be honest, unless you don't like your food (temperature) hot, you could skip these and go straight to the shrimp and clams with rice noodles. Not that these are bad, but I thought the other noodles were better.
The savory shoyu boiled eggs don't have a description on the menu, so I'm posting them here so you can see what they are. Not bad, but just another item to add to the hodgepodge selection of food. It's a good side dish, though.
As mentioned at the beginning, Zhi has potential and it seems like they plan to be fine-tuning their menu as they get into their groove. This is actually the fourth restaurant in the same space, but still serving Northern Chinese cuisine, so we'll see how they do. They're open daily for lunch and dinner.
Zhi Chinese BBQ