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May 13, 2008 09:36 AM

Cha Cha Moon

Had lunch there today - all dishes are priced at £3.50 for the next 2 weeks, so do hurry if you're interested in trying Alan Yau's latest venture - a low-budget, posher version of Wagamama - with various types of noodles (soup, lao mian and fried) and some nice side dishes.

I had Taiwan beef noodles - lovely tender chunks of beef, but accompanied by three huge chunks of pure fat/gristle as well. Noodles were all clumped up together and I struggled to eat them without splashing broth everywhere. I really recommend the spring onion pancake - 4 large slices, perfectly crisp, not oily, not dry, lovely filling, perfect with soy sauce and chilli sauce dip. Prawn guotie were OK, nothing special (apart from having prawn as a filling). A big mistake and no-no was the chilli prawn lao mian. What arrived was something resembling sweet and sour prawns, with a dash of chilli. The other thing to recommend is the Guava Collins drink. It's a must.

I've written about this at length in a post just published, with photos.

I'm recommending you try this, not because I had an amazing experience but because it's just £3.50 per dish. I'm going back next Wednesday lunch to try some other things - dan dian mian, zha jian mian, cold chicken jen pi etc.

No reservations by the way...

Helen Yuet Ling Pang

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  1. Hi Foodie Guide,

    I was there at the same time as you. I'm afraid I thought it was pretty terrible - even at the promotional price, although I had different dishes. I will tell all when I write it up.

    By the way we've always been told not to take any pictures in Hakkasan, even of our meals but here I was snapping away and nobody said anything although I did keep a lookout for any managerial jobsworth types. I only wish it was worth the effort. Oh well.


    1. This was my take on Cha Cha Moon.

      Not very impressive. But then given its location it probably doesn't need to be. See you in Whiteleys ? Hmmm...may be not.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Hermano Primero

        The menu doesn't even sound very appetising. They need better writers! Why does this remind me of Ang Lee's latest.. Lust:Caution?!?

        1. re: zuriga1

          I suppose it's cheap enough for people to try out and not feel hosed if it they don't like it and there's always the (remote) possibility that they're still developing the food and that it will get better.

          1. re: Hermano Primero

            That's how I feel about the food. Not fantastic, but it's early days, and it's cheap, so you can 'afford' to make errors. You can see my horrible Holy Vaasna drink in your photo, Hermano Primero, and my friend's head!

            Will feedback after next Wed's lunch...

            1. re: Hermano Primero

              I'll give it a go in a few weeks. They deserve the benefit of the doubt for now... time to get a grip.

              1. re: Hermano Primero

                The fact that the dishes are priced at £3.50, and that Alan Yau himself was overheard giving constructive criticisms to his chefs all night (on the two nights I went), is indicative of how they're using this period to improve on the dishes. Given that a lot of the food is less well-known in the UK (compared to peoples' knowledge of Japanese soup noodles, for example), it's a smart move. Watching, and adjusting. Though for those of us hoping for a taste of home, it's disappointing.

                1. re: supercharz

                  I saw Terry Durack (from the indy) gave it a positive write-up on his blog...I await his full review with interest.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    See FM liked it as well though the review smells all wrong.

                    I was going to go on the opening but it was delayed and I got fed up waiting - I wonder if there was any schmoozing going on.

                    Incidentally I went to Cafe Anglais when TD went and they were all over him like a cheap suit.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      Terry Durack is probably the only review worth reading, considering he is one of few critics who knows what he's talking about when it comes to Chinese food...

                      Fay Maschler's review was odd, though I couldn't work out why.

                      1. re: supercharz

                        It does come over as more of a hagiography than a critique. When she writes like this it usually indicates some sort of shill although this is usually reserved for places owned by friends and family. Maybe AY is a friend ?

                        1. re: Hermano Primero

                          I think perhaps so - I attended a talk on Chinese food at the British Museum last month, hosted by FM, with guests Alan Yau, David Tang and Fuschia seemed quite a cosy affair to me!

                          1. re: foodie guide

                            Very interesting. Luckily we're here to tell it like it is !

                            1. re: Hermano Primero

                              I won't be writing about Cha Cha Moon for a few weeks yet. It's too early. Dishes are currently cheap for a reason...

            2. Just wondering if anyone has been here recently and what they thought. Overall the critics seem to love it but the punters seem to be sending out very mixed messages.

              If the same food was served at the same price in a Chinatown Cafe without the Alan Yau name attached would it still get plaudits ?

              4 Replies
              1. re: Hermano Primero

                I ate there last night. I thought it was good value for 3.50 a dish, but I worry that I was impressed by the value than the food. When prices go up, I'm not sure I'd go back. Highlights were a a duck noodle dish, I thought the duck stock was really good, and the chinese sausage in a the spicy ho fun dish we had. However I didn't think much of the chilli that was used, it tasted too much of cheap chilli powder. The noodles also came served in cake form, and were hard to separate. Not sure if that's deliberate or not, maybe just my ignorance as to how it should be served. Overall, the food was just not that impressive.

                I was slightly disappointed but that could be because one of the most memorable meals I've had in London was in Yauatcha, and I think Cha Cha Moon lacks the attention to detail that I really liked when I ate there.

                1. re: spli

                  Which makes the critics response all the more suspicious. "Shill" is the word that keeps popping into my mind.

                  I thought the quality of the ingredients was poor. I'm pretty sure - at least based on what I had - that the per dish cost of the raw materials was less than 3.50. Of course, he would still need to absorb the overheads.

                  1. re: Hermano Primero

                    I thought it was pretty poor too - and I've also been disappointed by the 'critical' coverage. I think it illustrates how little your average critic knows about Chinese cuisine _and_ how much the general standard of Chinese cuisine in this country has recently dropped (so people are eager to celebrate something that looks smart on the surface).

                    1. re: Ian

                      I ate here yesterday and thought it was okay - nothing special. I had three dishes. I have to agree with the poster who wrote that he wouldn't be going back once the prices had gone up - an increase in price from £3.50 to say £7 or £8 per dish cannot justify the current level of quality.

              2. I am coming into this very late!

                So, I've been twice now, and each time, I have liked one dish but not been too enamoured with the other. I have no experience of eating in HK unfortunately, but it's early days, so I hope it improves.

                The quality and consistency does need to be improved. It's encouraging that he's on site frequently, criticsing and looking to do this.

                A friend from HK thinks AY's food is fusion generally, and not pure HK. Same with this place, perhaps?

                6 Replies
                1. re: niamheen

                  I wouldn't describe his food as fusion - you can find similar dishes at Modern Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong.

                  1. re: niamheen

                    There are certainly some minor updates on dishes, which is part of Yau's trademark, but they are subtle so I wouldn't call it fusion, either. The roast duck soup noodles, for example, was interesting in that he 'borrowed' wolfberries from traditional Chinese tonic soups and added it to the dish. Same with the chicken fen pi, with the kick of wasabi in the sesame dressing.

                    It's a place I now like to go to by myself for a quick lunch, but not a place I would recommend people to go to to experience 'Hong Kong-style' (or Chinese-style) food. Yet.

                    1. re: supercharz

                      Interesting! I bow to your superior knowledge, it's not a food area that I am an expert on. Although, I am trying :-)

                      1. re: niamheen

                        What makes me laugh is that someone has posted against the Sunday Times review that the 'ingredient combinations are actually 100% authentic".


                    2. re: niamheen

                      Some of the dishes aren't particularly HK and look like they're from Singapore/Malaysia to me, e.g char kuay teow or the turnip cake stir fried with egg, green onion etc... I could be wrong, but fen pi, a noodle made from mung bean flour is probably more local in the Shanghai area. It looks like the menu is drawing street food dishes from all over rather than just HK.

                      The sichuan style dumplings (hong2 you2 chao2 shou3), essentially wontons in a spicy sauce with vinegar, soy sauce and chilli oil, could use a touch of bean paste. The meat filling consist of minced chicken with chopped waterchestnuts, which is not exactly traditional, as minced pork is more standard. The wontons were big, but I wished that they had more was a "tail" a flat part where the skins come together when the wonton is folded -- the flutter of the tail as one slurps down a wonton is quite a pleasant sensation. Of course it would be better if it was more spicy. This isn't a dish that is endogenous to HK either.

                      Cod with bitter melon and black bean sauce stir fried with glass vermicelli is basic but nothing special. A fairly classic Cantonese flavour combination.

                      1. re: limster

                        You're right, the menu goes the whole hog with dishes from all over China (and yes, fen pi is a Shanghainese dish, usually eaten as an appetiser, though). I'm still not convinced this was a good idea - on the one hand, it introduces the variety of dishes found all over China and adjoining areas such as Taiwan and Singapore, but on the other, I suspect that this catch-all approach is damaging them. There will clearly be some dishes in which the chefs excel, but some they are probably not so familiar with. The wontons were a prime example - poorly executed, in my opinion.

                    3. BTW, A A Gill "does for it" in today's column in the ST.

                      "I was annoyed even before I sat down. It annoyed me twice. Once, by being called Cha Cha Moon, which sounds like someone from Star War or a James Bond shag".

                      Made me chuckle anyway. Gill did not like the food. At all.