From the outside to my Western eyes, Shaanxi Gourmet in Natick, MA, looks like pretty much any other Asian restaurant - characters from a language that I'm not familiar with, metal-and-glass doors, some Asian statues (copies of terra cotta warriors, in this case), a clean, but not entirely well-kept front.
Walking into the restaurant was also pretty similar to many that I've been to before. Only here my nose was assaulted by a very strong smell - the mix of many scents that were not even close to being found in my kitchen growing up. Though eventually I did place the powerful aroma of sesame oil, among the bouquet.
I initially picked this place because I've never eaten Chinese, that I know of. I've had other Asian cuisine - Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese - all delicious. And this one looked authentic, which is why I decided to eat there. The hostess seated me at a table covered with a nice, white linen tablecloth, a china plate, and chopsticks!
It was a little after lunch hour, and there were a handful of people present - but I was the only one who didn't appear to speak an Eastern language. That was probably a good sign. The next good sign was when I opened the menu and was greeted with dishes like, "pig feet", and "cold sliced pigs ears". You're not going to find that at Panda Express.
I ordered F4 - I think it was called "spicy crunchy chicken with rice", and I can tell you that it was delicious. The chicken was chopped up in these small pieces - about 1/4" cubed - with some sort of salty-fried coating. Then there were these pieces of crunchy fried rice - like an amazing spicy rice cake. Not like the rice cakes that you pick up at Whole Foods, though. Think of like... a premium rice crispy treat, but spicy instead of sweet. That's the best way I can explain it. There were tons of red peppers, chives, and... maybe cloves? I'm not sure. I also got some regular soft white-rice to go with it, and I'm glad I did. This dish was so incredibly good - I would eat there again any day, and just writing about it now is making me hungry for it!
If you are interested in real Chinese food, Shaanxi Gourmet is a legit place to go near Boston.