Cháng ān dòu huā
This one could easily make a meal for a lighter eater, and at our table, disappeared quickly in a flurry of spoon-scooping. It's not the silkiest, most custardlike tofu you'll find, but it's supple and clean-tasting and, with pickled Chinese vegetables and a characteristic sauce combo of chili oil, soy sauce, black rice vinegar, and dammit-what-are-those spices, a genuinely exciting bowl of food.
Zī rán kăo miàn jīn
Seitan "sausages" get a little tougher than we'd like on the grill, but are well-seasoned and totally satisfying as a vegetarian option.
Má là shuàn níu dŭ
Beef stomach skewers are quite tender, boiled rather than grilled; and in a savory, sesame-tinged sauce with Sichuan bean paste, fermented tofu sauce, and chili oil, they're another skewer we'd highly recommend.
Liáng bàn má là yáng liăn ròu
I love how at Xi'an Famous Foods, there's just a "lamb face salad" on the menu, whereas at Biang! they double down on your curiousity and tell it like it is: the liáng bàn má là yáng liăn ròu ($10) is listed as "Cooked lamb cheeks, tongue, eyeballs, and palate meat served with bean sprouts, cilantro, celery, scallion, cucumber; spiced with Szechuan pepper and proprietary spicy sauces." We'd translate it this way: "a happy tangle of crisp vegetables and chewy, or tender, or soft lamb bits, in an alluring spice mix with plenty of sauce." While the adventurous will have fun telling cheek from tongue, the rest of us can just be happy with various lamb pieces at this happy, humming level of spice.
Qiáo miàn jiăo tuán
One of the most downright fun dishes I've encountered in awhile. "Warm and thick all-buckwheat pudding" is sort of hard to envision when you read it on a menu, but it's a clingy, slightly elastic, almost bouncy mound of soft dough (am I making this sound appealing yet?) that's a little bit chewy but, thanks to the buckwheat, not totally smooth. It's pretty neutral on its own, but swipe it through the dipping sauce (there's spicy mustard oil in there, a little soy, and definitely more) and it's as alive with flavor as any of the other dishes.
An chŭn dàn ròu cháng kăo mó piàn
They arrive sporting quail eggs atop the pork sausage, each little yolk just set and ready to puncture, so that it soaks into the toasted mantou (steamed bun). You'd see a similar construction at a Manhattan tapas spot for $15/plate.
Qí shān shào zi biáng biang miàn
Bits of pork belly in a sauce both more sour and a bit spicier than others, with whole star anise pieces in there too. Try to snag a noodle with your chopsticks and you'll realize that they're longer and more tangled than really allows you to get one at a time ("Is it maybe just 2 or 3 really, really long noodles?" mused a friend, and that seems plausible.)
Qiáo miàn liáng hé luo
Buckwheat noodles (smooth-edged but a little rough, a little bouncy) whose sandpaper edges help them pick up the chili-soy-vinegar-mustard oil, cut again with cooling cucumber and cilantro.
Xi yù kăo xiáo niăo
A dish you'd never see at Xi'an Famous. The quail is marinated and roasted, giving it crisp skin and tender flesh, and it's served atop another familiar element—the crunchy cilantro, scallion, green pepper, and celery salad that's one of the better things at Xi'an. (Is there any way to make plated quail look elegant? I've never seen its compact little body look anything other than stiff or awkward or vaguely obscene.)
My favorite of the desserts, steamed rice cake with a barely sweet red bean and red jujube filling.