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david goodfellow

Bar Shu, Ba Shan, Boazi Inn.

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As I drove down Frith Street, just across the road from Chinatown proper(a few months ago), shock, horror, Bar Shu was still closed, I felt slightly silly for not phoning in advance, however we had other dining options.

Literally across the road is its sister establishment Ba Shan, and thankfully they had a table. We were in for a pretty decent Saturday afternoon.

Comforted by the fact that the chefs are from Sichuan province and having award winning food writer Fuchsia Dunlop as consultant, we were more than hopeful of a result.

The place itself is worthy of exploration, as there are different eating areas to choose from depending on your mood.

The menu is split by appetisers, shaanxi flatbread sandwiches and steamed buns,Chaoshou-wantons and dumplings, Xi'an-style pot sticker dumplings (guotie). Dry wok, dishes served in a wok, plus seafood,fish,poultry,pork, and beef dishes etc, etc, however I'm surprised there was no lamb dishes( do they have lamb in Sichuan?)

This is what we had.

Edamame with sichuan pepper.(£3)

Five spiced beef salad, with coriander and garlic (£6)

Chicken & Shitake mushroom guotie (pot sticker dumpling) £5.20)

Deep fried prawns with fish fragrant sauce (£6)

Gong Bao chicken with peanuts (£7.50)

"Ants climbing a tree" beanthread noodles with morsels of mince pork (£7.50)

I think we had another dish, plus some boiled rice.

The stand out dishes were the portly sweet prawns which were not infiltrated at all by any hint of oil," delish "

Plus one of the best Gong Bao chicken we have eaten,

The "Ants" dish was also very enjoyable. We assumed the ants was the minced pork, and the tree is the noodle?

Everything else that we ate was hard to fault except for an over vinegary dipping sauce that jarred a bit.

Service was very attentive, and even though it was fairly busy the young lady guided us through the menu patiently.

One caveat though, the bill is somewhat hard to understand with little bits of paper not totalled up, and a good job we checked carefully or I would have paid another service charge on top of the one already added.

Well, we do think this is a class act, easily as good as Red Chilli, but of course not in the value stakes, portion size is about half of what you get in Manchester.

I feel that I must add that some recent reviews that I have read are not consistent with the rave results this place received when it first opened. Some suggest the chef(s) have gone back to Bar Shu since its reopening.

Any reports most welcome.

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We left Ba Shan feeling happy with ourselves and decided to walk over to Chinatown to look around and locate Boazi Inn for future reference.

We had read some good reviews by respected bloggers and were looking forward to our visit next time we were in town.

Down a side street off the main drag, its pretty unassuming from the outside and I would most certainly not consider going in to this place without a recommend.

We looked at the menu, which consisted of mainly noodle dishes and after a bit of cajoling with the wife, and mindful that we had just finished a meal, we decided that we could just about squeeze a taste of one dish to get a flavor of the place so to speak.

This place has a cafe feel to it, no finesse whatsoever, uncomfortable seating in the form of stools, sticky tables, plastic garlic, chillies, and corn on the cob, hanging as a form of decoration.

Service is wham, bam, thank you mam school,

What a wind up.

We had one noodle dish and a couple of drinks between us,

Twice cooked Pork, green and red pepper, with stir fried leeks, was ok swimming in chilli oil, the pork was like bacon and the dish as a whole lacked visual appeal.

This dish was no better than I can create at home, so it failed in my opinion because when we go out I want it to be better than I can create at home.

Ok I know it was only one dish and it could be argued that my taste buds were not as sharp, having just had another meal, however we shall not be dashing back here very soon.

Anybody else been?

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You'll have to road test the Gung Bao chicken at Red Chilli - I had a belter of a version at the Atherton branch some weeks back.


John Hartley

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I'm surprised there was no lamb dishes( do they have lamb in Sichuan?)

According to Ms Dunlop in her book Sichuan Cookery: "Lamb or mutton is a rarity on conventional Sichuanese menus. It's more often associated with cookery in the northern provinces, where the culinary legacy of China's conquest by lamb-eating Mongols in the thirteenth century is more keenly felt. You do, occasionally find lamb in the cooking of Sichuan's Muslim communities, where it stands in for pork."

I do enjoy her books, find the recipes are good, and the insights into Chinese cuisine are fascinating. But I was quite underwhelmed by Bar Shu when I visited it soon after it had opened, and was surprised she was the consultant.

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I'm surprised there was no lamb dishes( do they have lamb in Sichuan?)

According to Ms Dunlop in her book Sichuan Cookery: "Lamb or mutton is a rarity on conventional Sichuanese menus. It's more often associated with cookery in the northern provinces, where the culinary legacy of China's conquest by lamb-eating Mongols in the thirteenth century is more keenly felt. You do, occasionally find lamb in the cooking of Sichuan's Muslim communities, where it stands in for pork."

I do enjoy her books, find the recipes are good, and the insights into Chinese cuisine are fascinating. But I was quite underwhelmed by Bar Shu when I visited it soon after it had opened, and was surprised she was the consultant.

Thanks for that insight, now that I have been to the other two, its inevitable the journey to Bar Shu isn't far off, rest assured it will end up on here :smile:

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Ba Shu

image_0001.jpg

Well in all honesty we did not plan a weekend visit here but things changed at the last moment due to other circumstances. Nevertheless we were in for a treat, as I am glad to report the cooking is well up to standard and found it just as good as its sister restaurant across the road, and better than much raved about Chilli Cool.

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The interior, to me is not as inviting or as cosy as Ba Shan but they do share the same bare wooden seating which thankfully the food distracts you from. As it was a Sunday afternoon and because of its location just outside of Chinatown proper it was only half busy, which is exactly how we prefer things. Service was swift and to the point and our three main course dishes arrived promptly. The dishes we chose were those which I have cooked at home from Fuchsia Dunlop;s book Land of Plenty.. As Ms Dunlop is food consultant at both restaurants I wanted to compare my attempts at home with that of a professional kitchen. I somehow knew that there would be no comparison, as in any event don't you find most food tastes better if someone else has cooked it?

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Dry Fried Green Beens (£8.90) is in the book, but without the addition of the minced pork served here. I cook at home with the pork added but straight away could taste the difference in this dish and my version as in the recipe it calls for the addition of " 2 tablespoons Sichanese Ya Cai", which is not available locally in my local Chinese supermarket. This link will explain better than I, the product and long process involved in bringing this very tasty ingredient to the table. Personally this dish is about the best use that I can currently find for green beans, however you need to use the very fine ones for this recipe. Give it a try I'm sure you will enjoy it.

image_0003.jpg

Fish Fragrant Aubergines (£8.90) is a cracking dish, and again served with minced pork. There is no mention in her book about skinning said vegetable however it is clear to see in the photo that is what occurs. Ginger, garlic, soy sauce, chinkiang vinegar, sugar, spring onions are all in there. But the heat and ultimate spicyness is from the Sichuanese chilli bean paste. I have tried two types at home and one of them is very salty, so beware.

Needless to say this version is better than mine, but not by a country mile I'm pleased to say.

image_0004.jpg

Gong Bao Chicken with peanuts (£10.90). Well we never seem to eat Sichuan food without ordering this all time classic. I can never seem to get it quite right at home, and this version is just about perfect. Not too sweet, not too hot, although the heat builds up quite nicely. The menu descriptions are accurate also, with the little red chilli signsby the side of the dishes denoting heat.

Pricing is high as you may expect given its location. Seafood especially is perhaps best saved for a special occasion as for instance, Gong Bao prawns attracts an eye watering price of £18.90 (plus 12.5% service) Perhaps double what you will pay at Red Chilli in Manchesters Chinatown.

Be on your guard also that your final bill will include the forementioned service charge. It is slightly confusing as it is presented with a few slips of paper stapled to the back of the bill.

Ours came to £60 which included a bottle of wine but nothing else.

Having said all of that the food is very good indeed.

Would we return?

Most certainly, but not for seafood at those prices. Still with being selective you can still eat for a not too unreasonable amount.

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Dry Fried Green Beens (£8.90) is in the book, but without the addition of the minced pork served here.

The UK edition of Land of Plenty is entitled Sichuan Cookery and gives recipes for both with and without the meat. I thought the two books were the same apart from measurements etc. Though why they have different names beats me. One friend liked Sichuan Cookery so much she decided to buy Land of Plenty as well. Major disappointment.

not for seafood at those prices

Anyway, seafood is not really traditional in Sichuan cooking either. It is a landlocked province.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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