Exemplary Sichuanese cooking in Chinatown combining low prices and exceptionally high quality - modest decor but immodest skill in the kitchen.
‘One dish, one style; a hundred dishes, a hundred tastes.’ Baiwei (which means ‘a hundred flavours’ in Chinese) exemplifies this Sichuanese culinary adage. This more poetic name has now replaced the unsavoury moniker the restaurant opened with – ‘Big Leap Forward’ – which stuck in the throats for some. (The Chinese characters pictured in the propaganda painting above translates as 'drumming support for The Great Leap Forward'.) The Mao-era decor remains, but it’s a cosy place with a lengthy selection of authentic, home-style Sichuan, Hunan and northern dishes served with uncommonly friendly service.
Dispelling misconceptions about Chinese food and educating the masses on proper Chinese food one book at a time, Sichuan food expert Fuchsia Dunlop has also left her mark on the menu of this newest addition to the Barshu, Ba Shan and Baozi Inn restaurant group. True to another Chinese saying, ‘China is the place for food, but Sichuan is the place for flavour’, the dishes from the southwestern province are robust with an abundance of dried chillies, Sichuan pepper and fragrant garlic.
For the Chinese, the texture of food is as important as the taste. The slithery, rubbery bite of the cold pig’s ear, tongue and tripe tossed in tangy black vinegar made an appetising starter.
The gong bao tofu is an interesting variation on the better-known gong bao chicken. Silky pieces of pan-fried egg tofu are coated in lustrous sweet and sour sauce, then lavished with crunchy peanuts and dried chillies.
Long beans are an excellent choice of vegetable for pickling, as the bean cavities nicely trap their sour brine. Here they are mixed with lightly marinated minced pork that has been fried, a pleasing contrast of flavours.
Only the dan dan noodles didn’t live up to expectations. Though the ground beef was satisfyingly chewy and the sauce aromatic, the Chinese alkaline noodles were limp and waterlogged.
They say two’s company, three’s a crowd, and four’s a party.This gang of four from the Barshu group are rocking Chinatown with their celebration of south-west China’s home cooking.