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Bar Shu


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Right you lot - I know some of you have been to Bar Shu and I don't see any reviews. 'Fess up please! I'm hoping to organise a group outing for the hotpot to relive my visit to Sichuan, and would like to know what else I shouldn't go past on first outing.

Much obliged!

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Lunch here Friday. Strangely I really enjoyed it while Rachel thought it was just "Ho Hum".

I'm useless at remembering the names of dishes but really enjoyed starters of dried beef, chilli and Szechun pepper and also a Chicken dish which was oily and not as hot as I expected/decribed on the menu. I thought the deep fried beans could have done with a touch more salt but otherwise were good. Beef fillet came thinly sliced with fantastic salty and hot pickled chillis which gave a very satisfying pop when you crunched into them. I had some sort or Bar Shu prawn dish, shell on which were OK, reasonable quality prawns, piled on top of some ubiquitous vegetable mixture. Another dish of chopped chicken was seasoned delicately (the main flavour I detected was ginger) and served on top of small discs of lettuce to wrap them in. Felt guilty about ordering a meat feast so we had some steamed rice on the side which was woefully overcooked.

Service was friendly and our waitress enquired as to whether we enjoyed it, liked the chilli, found it to hot etc. a nice change in a London chinese restaurant. Unfortunately service was spoiled a little at the end when the bill was presented, no breakdown, just a total, no indication of VAT, service charge, the dishes you have had etc. The individual orders are stapled to the back but are illegible to anybody except the waitress. She then asked "would you like to add a gratuity to your bill for the staff?" I was a little surprised at such a direct approach especially as when I then enquired further service was included in the total.

Overall I thought it was interesting and would go back but it didn't blow my mind quite as much as some reports would suggest although it was good to see something different in the way of chinese cuisine. A touch expensive as well IMO. Cost including 2 beers each was £93.

Edited by Matthew Grant (log)

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Thanks Matthew! really appreciate your review. Good point to note about the service. I really hate that.

will try not to go with expectations set TOO high then. I'm still keen to check out their hotpot.

might drop in for a snack to check it out over the weekend.

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Ha Ha! Well spotted. I'm changing it now. It should have been "thinly"

The hotpot is expensive. Starts at around 322 for the basic broth and then you pay for everything hat you want to put in it, these are North of £20 in some instances.

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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On the pricing point Bar Shu is pricing itself above the market, sometimes significantly above. I have a nagging suspicion this may rebound on them - it will probably affect casual footfall custom in soho who a) only want sweet and sour pork and crispy aromatic duck anyway and b) can find this cheaper elsewhere in Chinatown.

Unless it can build a sustainable franchise as "the sichuan place" and get away with charging more it may struggle. The comparison is with eCapital which tried to be different as the "the shanghai place" but over time seems to have emphasised this less and less.

On the other hand I suspect they are running cheaper prices to get local custom in. Basically whenever I'm there I get chucked in the basement with loads of mainland chinese all having very similar communal pots of some kind of stew or another. I suspect they are getting a cheap deal as a) everyone seems to be having the same thing and b) think it unlikely mainlanders could afford the menu prices. Unfortunately my putonghua isn't good enough to verify this.

ta

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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Ha Ha! Well spotted. I'm changing it now. It should have been "thinly"

The hotpot is expensive. Starts at around 322 for the basic broth and then you pay for everything hat you want to put in it, these are North of £20 in some instances.

322 for the basic broth????!!! are you serious? or are you quoting in shekels???

:wink:

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Lunch at Bar Shu today. We started with husband and wife offal slices and cold duck with egg. The offal was superb - silky slices of meat with a sichuan chilli oil dressing. Great depth and balance of flavours but not as tingly hot as I'd hoped. The duck was fine but perhaps a tad dry.

Mains were red braised belly pork and whole sichuan sea bass. I ordered the pork as I've made it a few times at home (mostly from the Hugh F-W Meat book and once from Fuschia Dunlop's book) and was curious to see how it compared to my efforts. Disappointed to say that it wasn't much better, but perhaps that reflects how easy it is to make - I'm no Chinese chef. In particular I thought the sauce could have been reduced more.

The fish was perfectly cooked but a long long time coming - they apologised and said they had a big party upstairs and the chef was over-stretched. It came with a fairly non-descript gloopy sauce that didn't do it any favours. We also had fish-fragrant aubergine as a side which was disappointing - similar gloopiness in the sauce. A bit too bog-standard Chinese. Rice was below average.

So altogether a slightly disappointing meal, although perhaps we should have ordered the spicier options - I got the impression they were toning it down (compared to my very limited experience of this style of food - twice in New York and once in Beijing). It wasn't cheap either - £73 for two for food, one beer, one glass of wine and tea (and similarly gnomic bill to Matt's). Will probably give it another try and order more adventurously, but I can't see it lasting with those prices.

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  • 3 weeks later...

yeah went on satruday for hotpot with 13 others.

quite scary walking into the restuarant

as i could feel my eyes tingling from the amount of chilli that was in the air!!! :blink:

we had the double hotpot and loads of wine.

Food was ok can't really complain as there no other place in london that does sichuan hot pot and the soup base was hot and numbing and thermonuclear red although surprisingly not as hot as i'm used to.

The bill came to about £30/head.

Not bad actually but there was a few niggles.

First when we said we wanted the hotpot they said that we had to preorder it??

then he said something about it taking a few hours to get the soup base ready??

but when we pressed him he went off and got us the hotpot ordering sheets. :huh:

not sure what that was about might have been trying to force us to order ala carte??? as sichuan hotpot doesn't take hours to prep the stock??

Service was typically chinatown abrupt and coldly efficient.

also we were on the third floor and their wireless pdq machine couldn't work on the top floor the bluetooth was out of range :wacko:

so 4 of us had to walkdown stairs and wait for the only pdq handset they had to pay our share of the bill.

but the place is quite nice they spent a pretty penny on the decor and the rest of the menu did look promising should be going back this week to order off teh ala carte.

braised abalone £68/person ouch!!!

Edited by origamicrane (log)

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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First visit: a solitary lunch a couple of weeks ago. As I was by myself I thought I'd just have a bowl of noodles and some pickled vegetables. Ha. 1 bowl of dan dan mein at £4.50 could have fit in the palm of my hand. Not exactly value for money….the meat sauce was good but the noodles were a bit average. If I could have mixed the sauce from Bar Shu, with the noodles and portion sizing of Chinese Experience across the road, I would have been much happier.

At least portion of pickled vegetables was satisfying for £6, and they were really quite good. Crispy, tart with a good balance of acidity and crunch.

Still hungry, I decided to delve into the menu of bigger dishes while there, foresaking any chance of dinner. I chose the mapo dou fu (Mrs Chen's pock marked bean curd), and some rice, then proceeded to make a pig of myself by demolishing the lot.

Total for the noodles, pickles, tofu, rice and tea was £23 including service. But I didn't need dinner….

The next visit was last weekend, strategically bringing my other half so I could try more dishes.

Appetisers:

Long-flat-wide-slithery dark green/brown buckwheat noodles with soft poached shredded chicken in a lovely light soy/vinegar dressing.

Word from the kitchen came that they had run out of pickled vegetables, which is a shame as they're really good - but we didn't need them and passed on a substitute.

The "mains":

Double cooked yard beans with pork. Great and fantastically moreish, the beans were all cooked and the mince pork nicely crisped, but my one criticism was that it slightly over salted.

Beef slices in a fiery sauce - delicious, but more oily and less "soupy" than the one we usually make from Fuschia's book. I have to say I prefer the one we make at home. Contributing factor was that the beef used at Bar Shu had obviously been tenderised and had that spongy texture from overuse of soda. Disappointing - and yet I ate every morsel (leaving behind as much of the oil as I could for the sake of my arteries..but damn it was tasty)

Hot & sour crab - sweet crab meat locked inside a type of crab with slightly hairier legs than I'm used to getting, but no deterrent there. Every bit of its body was sucked, cracked and chewed to get the meat out and the sauce extracted from within. I loved the sauce it was cooked in: Stir fried with peanuts, dried chillies, garlic and bamboo, spring onions. Great combination of flavours. I loved this dish…and from the look on the waiters face when he came to retrieve the plate, it showed!

Cost for food + 2 tiger beers, 1 glass chenin blanc (wine by the glass comes in 250ml measures only, at avg price of £4.50), chinese tea for 2 and copious amounts of rice to soak up all the flavours: just under £80 with service

The service varied between perfunctory and friendly and sweet. Really depended on who was serving you - most of the staff were charming and lovely though.

Overall judgement - will be going back when a huge flavour hit is desired. I'll also try to pick out a more balanced meal. The full effect of the menu above was just too oily, salty and rich. The upside was that I didn't have to eat until dinner the next day - so I guess I could complain about the high prices like a lot of other people, but it really seems like great value when you think about it! 3 meals for the price of 1 large one :raz:

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yeah went on satruday for hotpot with 13 others.

quite scary walking into the restuarant

as i could feel my eyes tingling  from the amount of chilli that was in the air!!! :blink:

we had the double hotpot and loads of wine.

Food was ok can't really complain as there no other place in london that does sichuan hot pot and the soup base was hot and numbing and thermonuclear red although surprisingly not as hot as i'm used to.

The bill came to about £30/head.

Not bad actually but there was a few niggles.

First when we said we wanted the hotpot they said that we had to preorder it??

then he said something about it taking a few hours to get the soup base ready??

but when we pressed him he went off and got us the hotpot ordering sheets.  :huh:

not sure what that was about might have been trying to force us to order ala carte??? as sichuan hotpot doesn't take hours to prep the stock??

Service was typically chinatown abrupt and coldly efficient.

also we were on the third floor and their wireless pdq machine couldn't work on the top floor the bluetooth was out of range :wacko:

so 4 of us had to walkdown stairs and wait for the only pdq handset they had to pay our share of the bill.

but the place is quite nice they spent a pretty penny on the decor and the rest of the menu did look promising should be going back this week to order off teh ala carte.

braised abalone £68/person ouch!!!

My understanding is that they ask you pre-order it because they only have ten of them. Seems pretty reasonable to me - and I think the reviewing fraternity have done a pretty good job of publicising the fact.

Jay

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Was there for dinner on Sunday.

My summary would be that it only delivered 70% of its potential but even operating at 70% one new Sichuanese restaurant cooking decently and making a real effort to be regional is worth any number of your standard Chinatown clones. So I’ll be back.

What I particularly liked about it:

- Chicken in Fiery Sauce was lip-tinglingy good

- I liked the way the beef had been tenderised in the spicy stew in which we had it – it meant the textures of the beef and the noodles, mushrooms and soup all came together nicely

- It was so refreshing to find a Chinatown restaurant whose menu was doing something really different

- Similarly it was so refreshing to find a Chinatown restaurant that was prepared to deliver the Full Monty in terms of heat and spices

- There were oodles of interesting possibilities on the menu to keep me coming back.

It wasn’t bad value at £30 a head for a starter each, a main each, plus rice, shared veg, service and a couple of beers. And I could get a table at short notice.

Things that were less successful

- A little less invested in the high-tech inter-staff voice-comms system and a little more invested in ‘customer care’ training wouldn’t have gone amiss. You know: smiling; taking an interest; steering people through unfamiliar waters with a modicum of charm and understanding etc.

- I felt that I could have cooked some of the dishes better myself. Oh sod modesty, I have cooked both the ribs and the twice-cooked pork better myself. Doesn’t mean they weren’t tasty and of a reasonable standard, but still…

- “We would be pleased to offer you a selection of cold starters in an attractive lacquer box”. No they wouldn’t, try as we might to persuade them to.

But like I said, all-round pretty decent and an injection of welcome variety onto the scene that deserves to build a bit of a following.

Gareth

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My understanding is that they ask you pre-order it because they only have ten of them. Seems pretty reasonable to me - and I think the reviewing fraternity have done a pretty good job of publicising the fact.

makes sense....

they could have just said that....

god knows why they told me it was due to the stock taking time to prep. :huh:

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Jung Chang is Robert Elm's Listed Londoner today. She likes Bar Shu, but says her favourite Szechuan restaurant in London is a place I'd never heard of called Angeles in Kilburn. There's a review in Time Out that says its been going since 2003.

Add on: what was the name of the restaurant on the site of Bar Shu that used to do the flambee, with the flaming torches either side of the door?

Edited by camp_dick (log)
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