Thursday, 27 May 2010

Ba Shan – Part Two of a Trilogy

With ample time before our film started at the Prince Charles Cinema, we had time to eat somewhere in Soho or Chinatown.
Rasa Sayang came to mind again, as it so often does these days. I’m still bemused with everyones complaints about the bad service there. I’ve never experienced bad service or witnessed bad service there. Maybe my expectations are lower than other peoples.
Also I have eaten at Baozi Inn several times recently and all the noodles I’d had have been of top quality. I remembered in a previous life we ate at Bar Shu on several occasions. So why not try the middle sister, Ba Shan. Good idea.
From what I could gather before hand, the interior was a collection of small dining areas kitted out to look like old teahouses. Very quaint.
We arrived with no reservation and were greeted by a very happy smiley waiter who after taking our names, seated in the front room looking out towards Greek Street. Soho it seemed was beginning to liven up already.
The menu is orientated towards the foods from Szechuan and Shaanxi Provinces in from what I was told, more towards the smaller portion size. Chinese tapas as someone mentioned to me. Oh really.

I love the picture card menu, it’s a good way of introducing people to the foods of these regions. As most people will be just used to Cantonese food they serve in and around Gerrard Street. Although that really differs from Cantonese food in Southern China. Big time.
There are all your favourites on there, like Kung Pao Chicken, and a Szechuan Hotpot. There are also some dry wok dishes. Might try those next time.
After some joking with our waitress, we ordered some Jiamo. It’s basically a pork sandwich from Shaanxi province. The pork was tender and braised very well. It had some nice flavour, but upon looking inside there was a distinct lack of pork. I would have enjoyed a whole lot more, not that I’m greedy at all, but I love pork sarnies.

We ordered two mains. One was duck tongues with braised julianned celery and chilli. Our waitress told me several times that this dish was really hot. I was fine I told her. Thoughts of my near death experience with a chilli in Saigon came back to me. But all turned out well. It was the pork trotter cooked with lashings (their words not mine) of ginger that was really hot. But bearable. More of a numbing of the mouth rather than mouth searing pain.
Did you know duck tongues have a small bone in them. We neither. Came as quite a surprise. The skin was crispy and inside was still moist. It slipped off the bone with ease. Now if we’d been in a small stall in Chengdu market, I would have spat the bones on the floor, as is the custom. But we weren’t, we were in Soho, so I placed them on the bowl to my side. Much preferred to be back in Chengdu though.

It wasn’t that hot after all, maybe the waitress had asked for it to be toned down for us. Ahh so thoughtful. The braised celery was divine. Really good flavour and worked well with the duck tongues.
She forgot to tone down the pork trotter. This gave my mouth such a great feeling, it felt like it was dancing with my food, not only was the taste divine, but those mouth numbing chilli’s made me feel like I was back in Chengdu. Pure heaven.
Apparently ginger is very good for the complexion (the menu says so), and with the amount of ginger in that dish I think I should look like Brad Pitt now.

All in all it was one of the best Chinese meals I’ve ever had outside of China or Hong Kong. Really, really, good.
The price of this good food does hit you at the end. Ours with rice and a couple of beers and tip was £41. Not a cheap Chinese meal by anyones standards, but as I say, you pay peanuts you get monkeys. If you want good food, you have to pay for it. Maybe some people take offence to paying a lot for Chinese food when they can get it as cheap as chips a few minutes away. But that is a whole other world away.
Just as we were waiting for our bill and change. A group of four came in and sat in the same room as us. Northern they were, not that I’m prejudice or anything. But it was quite funny when they started looking through the menu. “It has pictures,” one said. “Ohhh tripe,” said another. Their faces took a funny turn as they went through the menu. Obviously out of towners thinking they would try some of the big city food, as it wasn’t up to their normal sweet and sour pork balls, or special fried rice. They left citing the picture menu put them off.
Food from this part of China is a truly different kettle of fish, but one to explore with great excitement and an open mind.
Next stop a return to Bar Shu.
Ba Shan on Urbanspoon

No comments: