Myles Odermann

A Chinese restaurant chain that serves cuisine from the central Chinese city Xi’an opened its first American location in the Elm City over spring break.

Xi’an Cuisine — a fast-food restaurant at 77 Whitney Ave.  — had its soft-opening March 11. The restaurant serves authentic Xi’an food such as grilled kabobs, a tomato-based and pasta-like soup called mashi, and roujiamo — a Chinese-style hamburger with stewed meat between two pieces of flatbread. Those dishes cost between $4.50 and $6.50. In China, restaurant owner Wei Gao operates roughly 40 Xi’an Cuisine locations. New Haven’s restaurant is the first in America, said local Xi’an Cuisine manager Kevin Guol.

“We’re bringing real Chinese food,” he said. “Not the American-style Chinese food, but 100 percent Chinese. Food is the port into a civilization, so we want to make this the port into Xi’an.”

The restaurant replaced the Chinese restaurant Chao Restaurant & Wine Cafe, which sold Taiwanese cuisine, wine and dim sum. Chao closed in January after its owners retired from operating the restaurant.

Some of Chao’s fans hope Xi’an Cuisine will atone for the loss of their beloved restaurant.

“Chao Chao is irreplaceable for me, but I’m glad it’s replaced by more Chinese food,” Yixuan Yang ’19 said. She added that she has her “fingers crossed” that the replacement is good.

Guol, who spent two years helping manage New Haven’s Taste of China, said he hopes Xi’an Cuisine will be able to host its grand opening by mid-April. Until then, management will work to expand the menu and decorate the restaurant.

While Gao trains the kitchen staff, one of the other owners, Liwen Ma, will help decorate and market the restaurant, Guol said. Ma, originally from Xi’an, also owns the Silk Road Art Gallery on Audubon Street.

The third owner, Hu Ping, is also a seasoned restaurant proprietor. She owns Taste of China in New Haven and Clinton, Conn. as well as another Chinese joint, Steamed, in Madison, Conn.

With three experienced owners, Guol said the New Haven joint will hopefully be one of many Xi’an Cuisines that open in the United States. Management also hopes to expand within the Elm City with a food cart, Guol said.

The brick-and-mortar Xi’an Cuisine is on the same block as Hong Kong Market and Great Wall Restaurant, both of which also serve the local Chinese community. According to management at Hong Kong Market and Great Wall Restaurant, Xi’an Cuisine will likely not impact those businesses. All three places specialize in different products, so they are complementing one another rather than competing, said longtime local Lin Lan.

Along with serving lunch and dinner, Guol hopes Xi’an Cuisine will also become a night stop with hours stretching until midnight.

During its soft opening, Xi’an Cuisine is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.