Cheat Sheet: Terra Cotta Warrior, a Northern Chinese Specialist
The Gist: This new Outer Sunset restaurant specializes in the cuisine of the Northern Chinese province of Shaanxi, which is not common in SF. The Terra Cotta Warrior menu explains that food from Shaanxi has a heavy focus on spicy and sour flavors, favors noodles rather than rice dishes and eschews sugar for ingredients like garlic and onion.
The Vibe: The small space is decorated with traditional Chinese art and is used efficiently with two large family tables, a few four tops and counter space for two on a comfy bench. It's already pretty bustling and reservations are recommended.
Eat This: Spicy and sour shredded potatoes are a very atypical Chinese food find in the U.S. But the hash brown-like shreds, stir fried in oil with red chili and bitter melon, are a true standout. The cumin lamb burger comes spiked with jalapeno chunks and is served on a pleasingly soft, pan-fried white bun. And one warning: Hand-pulled noodles with Qishan minced pork (pictured) are one of the few dishes not marked as spicy but it packs plenty of buzzing heat within the piquant, sour broth.
Drink This: Beer and wine are pending; for now, it's green tea and soda only.
Skip This: It's best to focus on these unique Northern Chinese specialties rather than ordering the dishes you can get at any Chinese restaurant, like fried rice, Kung Pao chicken and Mu Shu pork.
The Damage: Dishes run $3.95-$18.95, though most cost between $5.95-8.95.
The Verdict: Spicy, crave-worthy food that you can't find outside of the Avenues for a steal.
Terra Cotta Warrior, 2555 Judah Street; 415-681-3288