Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Bar Shu review London Soho Sichuan restaurant - dan dan noodles if nothing else


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Address: 28 Frith Street
London W1D 5LF
Tel: 020 7287 8822
Nearest Tube station: Leicester Square

Ratings (out of 5 *) Price: Below £20 pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: ***
Service: ***
Ambience: ****
One will never run out of places to dine at London’s Soho. The streets running perpendicularly north from Shaftesbury Avenue are lined with independent restaurants that you’ll be spoilt for choice.

We meant to go to Yauatcha for its Taste of Yauatcha a couple of weeks back but were told that the place was full (it was one of those spur of the moment thing). Instead, we cross a couple of streets and ended up at Bar Shu instead.

A friend who has been to Sichuan claimed that Bar Shu’s Sichuan food is the best she has come across outside the province. Having not visited Sichuan before, I can’t make the same observation but I was immediately taken by Bar Shu’s interior décor when we stepped in for an early dinner that Sunday.

Chinese opera masks and wooden carving art adorned the wooden panels that lined Bar Shu’s walls. There were even little touches such as a metallic water basin (half filled with water) put against a wall, which added to the entire feel. The wooden lined bar could be an exhibition piece on its own though the bottles of alcohol on display looked awkwardly out of place.

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Bar Shu’s menu, which was filled with attractive photos, made the dishes look rather appealing; Chilli Cool’s gaudy menu faded in comparison. Also, I found out later that there was a dining room towards the back of the ground floor. A large round table that could easily sit ten, that is perfect for a private event.

“You must try the dan dan mian (noodles),” Wife urged as we flipped through the menu. She did lunch earlier at Bar Shu with a friend and promptly declared its dan dan noodles the best that she has tasted thus far.

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Bar Shu’s dan dan noodles (£4.50) didn’t disappoint. Its thick noodles weren’t starchy and its broth tasted surprisingly clean and light despite its chilli oil base. It easily surpassed the one served at Chilli Cool.

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We felt a bit adventurous and went for the sweet potato noodles (£4.50). The ultra starchy dish came in sour and spicy soup. You don’t really need a pair of chopsticks for this as a spoon would easily suffice. I struggled to tug at the soft slimy thin vermicelli like noodles. Would probably avoid this the next time round.

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Twice cooked pork (£8.90) was a bit too dry for our liking. Not only that, it tasted somewhat mild bordering on being bland. Not for anyone who is looking for some ‘Sichuan kick’.

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The bear’s paw was underwhelming. It was drier compared to the same dish at Empress of Sichuan. The only saving grace was the dried bean curd having soaked up the spicy sauce provided some flavour to the dish.

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We went for sweet potato cakes (£4.50) for dessert and waited for long time for it to appear – longer than the time we spent waiting for all the rest of the dishes. Unlike the main courses, Bar Shu’s sweet potato cakes turned out better than expected. Red bean paste encased by soft sweet potato cake, the freshly prepared dessert is a must eat at Bar Shu.

Bar Shu, a stone’s throw from Shaftesbury, sits on an excellent location. Not only that, it boosts a second floor with windows overlooking the intersection between Frith Street and Romilly Street. Couple that with its refreshing Chinese decorated interior, it is set to capture any spill over crowd from Chinatown. One thing to note though, you would be asked for gratuity when paying the bill, just be mindful that 12.5% has already been added to the bill.

Bar Shu on Urbanspoon

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