I'd like to preface this post by saying that I'm not the starstruck type. Monday night I went to Barnes & Noble in Union Square to hear David Chang and Peter Meehan talk with Tony Bourdain about the new Momofuku cookbook. While I enjoy the f-bomb dropping Chang's food, my reason for going had nothing to do with Chang or his new book. I was there to buttonhole Bourdain and get him to sign a copy of Edible Queens. I hadn't seen Bourdain since July when I took him and Eric Ripert to Flushing for the cover article. After what proved to be an entertaining talk Chang and Meehan stayed behind to sign books. As soon as Bourdain left the stage, I rushed downstairs to catch him. Just before he got into a waiting car, I got him to sign the cover of the magazine.
Little did I know we'd meet in Flushing again.
I thought that fleeting exchange would be my last chance to chat with the No Reservations star, but yesterday I awoke to a Facebook post from my friend Kathryn: "Anthony Bourdain will be shooting at Xi'an Foods in the Golden Shopping Mall at lunchtime." Shortly before I left she posted a correction saying the shoot had been moved to the Flushing Mall. When I got to the Flushing Mall Food Court there was no camera crew to be found. Liang Pi and his son, Jason, explained that the shoot was taking place in the Golden Shopping Mall after all, so I joined their entourage and we headed over for what would be Bourdain's third visit to the man from Xi'an.
With several photos of Liang Pi and Bourdain on its walls Xi'an Famous Foods is a shrine of sorts to the chef-turned-globetrotter. Before Bourdain and company got to work I approached him. "I'm not stalking you, honest," I said by way of asking for a photo with him.
It turns out the shoot was for Chase Sapphire, a premier travel rewards card. Bourdain stood at the counterand slapped the card down on the counter with the phrase "And I'm always hungry for more," before digging in, as a crowd of eager Chinese fans looked on.
Naturally he ordered a plate of the savory wheat starch noodle and gluten salad known as liang pi, or cold skin noodles. Bourdain also got some lao huo zai, or tiger vegetables, a bracing salad of cilantro, plenty of jalapeños, and green onions.
"I gotta do a lamb burger and some noodles too," he said ordering a zi ran chao yang rou jia mo, and some yang rou gan che mian, or savory cumin lamb hand-pulled noodles.
Once he was done filming Bourdain got down to some real eating. "It's all phenomenal, but these noodles are like a drug, I can't stop," he said of the chewy hand-pulled noodles shot through with bits of cumin-scented lamb and slicked with plenty of chili oil.
"If I lived around here I'd be eating here every day," Bourdain said. My sentiments exactly, Tony.