First chowing of 2016 was dinner at Eden Silk Road Cuisine in Fremont. When I called to check whether it was open on New Year's Day, I was surprised that my phone recognized the telephone number. I'd been here under an earlier iteration as Chinese Cuisine a couple years ago. All the Hong Kong-style chandeliers and gewgaws have been removed and replaced with Central Asian and American chain restaurant decor.
The Christmas tree was still on display in the anteroom, alongside the illustration of Uighur musicians.
Getting cash at the Chase ATM across the street, the unmistakable aroma of cumin-scented grilled lamb wafted over me. Oddly, none of this perfume is noticeable inside the restaurant. Still, my palate has been primed to go nuts ordering lamb. Sadly, we did not have enough time to order the whole lamb kebab in advance.
To drink, I went with our server's rec and ordered the Special XinJiang milk tea, $4.95, asking for medium-sweet. It was served in an attractive teapot that nests in the cup. The cup had raisins, pistachios, almonds, and cashews. The tea itself was on the mild side, indeed medium-sweetness as ordered, and cooled down much too fast in the cold dining room.
Our grilled meat cravings were more than satisfied by the Lamb kebab, $11.95. Mostly tender with some pieces of crunchy gristle, the meat was cooked to well-done. It appeared to have been pounded to tenderize and the cumin-mild chile seasoning was a wet paste. The charry highpoints had a pleasant crustiness and extra flavor, just wish there were more to lend grilled character. The side salad of lettuce and Persian cukes in a sweet vinaigrette was innocuous enough. Rice topped with cooked down onions and tomato reminded me of something I've had at an Afghani place. This was our favorite dish of the meal.
Gosnan (spelled gush naan on the bill), $8.95 turned out to be a ground lamb-filled pie. The pastry was bland and tough, and soon turned soggy falling apart when tugged on to bite. I would not order this again.
Tugre, $5.95, ordered with the lamb option (beef is also available) turned out to be shui jiao. The Chinese characters on the bill make that clear, however the menu had different ones. The bill priced it a buck lower as well, and at less than $6 for a dozen dumplings, was a good deal. These seemed to be made fresh rather than frozen, as the ground lamb seasoned with a faint but of cumin was juicy and loose. The wrappers were toothsome and the wrapping was quite uneven with some showing gaping edges. Not exciting, but good.
We'd had an extensive conversation with the server about the laghmen section of the menu and eventually settled on the Flat Dough Leghmen, $11.95. While we had wanted to order this with the lamb option offered with the other noodle dishes, we were told this only came with beef.
The simple stir-fried beef and green and red peppers glazed with mild tomato sauce vaguely reminded us of Chinese-American tomato beef, but (ironically) without curry. The beef was thin and very tough. The wide noodles were very slippery and not as firm as I had at Liang's recently. Also, this dish was barely warm, and the noodles were cold.
Service was pretty sketchy, seemingly a combination of inexperience and language issues. For example, when we placed our order for four dishes, I asked our waiter if we could sit at a larger table so the dishes would fit. He said it would not be a problem. Well, at our two-top, putting just two serving plates down has them hanging over the edge of the table and the tea pot and beverage glass were in danger of toppling. The metal skewers used for the lamb kebab are longer than the table is wide and could hurt someone who walked by the aisle. When I pointed this out later to him, he retorted that we did not finish our food fast enough! Also, a busser chose to squeeze between me and an empty table on the corner instead of walking around the corner. He slammed into my back, knocking my utensil out of my hand and making my handbag fall on the floor. He did not even acknowledge that he ran into me. I asked the source of the meats. The server said he could guarantee that they were halal. I explained that other halal restaurants can tell customers which markets they buy from and show the certification. It was beyond him to go ask someone.
The restaurant opened in August. It's still rather rocky service wise. Eden does have larger portion size going for it, but none of the dishes struck us as craveable. I will return some time to see if it has gotten its act together, but I'm not in a hurry to return.