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May 16, 2008 08:40 AM

How is Bar Shu now? (London)

Just wondering how the restaurant is doing and what they do well. I'm sort of considering a last minute trip over there for dinner tonight as a celebration for the end of all of my exams. I'm in the mood for Sichuan food and even though I can get amazing stuff as of May 21st (but only until I leave for Thailand on the 26th), I'd kind of like to sample this place. Also, any advice on getting proper levels of spice or ma la? Any other Sichuan or Hunnan restaurant options? Has Oriental City and in turn Shangri-la closed down yet? As far as orderng is concerned, I will probably avoid at home super-favorites such as cumin lamb, mapo dofu, and water cooked beef as I'd rather go for variety and food that won't disappoint in comparison.

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  1. go to snazz sichuan instead - avoid bar shu. and i hope you did well on your exams.

    1 Reply
    1. re: howler

      I liked Snazz Sichuan when I went, but you should probably ask them to ramp up the heat as you like it super-spicy, JF. I know limster felt it could have done with being a bit more heat.

      I particularly liked the fish-fragrant aubergines, the strange flavour rabbit and the prawns with cumin.

    2. In addition to the ones mentioned, there are a couple of Sichuan places in/near Chinatown, don't know if they're any good. There's one on Tottenham Court Rd (sorry forgot names, hope someone will chime in) and other is on the corner on Gerrard Street. Might be worth scouting out.

      2 Replies
      1. re: limster

        Red 'n' Hot is the one on Tottenham Court Road. It was good when I went about a month after it opened, but I've had reports of poor service, particularly if you're non-Chinese looking to try the dishes they haven't translated into english.

        1. re: limster

          BTW, also noticed a few Sichuan dishes e.g. water cooked fish & beef (shui3 zhu3 yu2 pian4/niu2 rou4), tripe and beef (fu1 qi1 fei4 pian4) on the white board inside No. 10 restaurant very close to Earl's Court Tube. Anyone tried?

        2. Thanks a lot for the call and advice, Howler.

          My companion and I just returned from an excellent meal at Snazz Sichuan! Expensive at 46 quid for two, but excellent, particularly given the fact that we ordered a near-banquet amount of food. Our initial arrival warranted a human wave-like attack remiscent of China's entry to the Korean War to get us to buy alcohol. After the storm passed, we ended up with a 3.50 bottle of water (they don't do tap) and we ordered our food. The pork belly and tofu soup in a casserole bowl, the fish fragrant aubergines, the ma po do fu (silly choice on my part and my only regret), and the pig tails and upper pig legs (seemed more like ankles from piglets???)

          The food was more or less excellent and the interior was nice too. It was all a notch or two below what I would get at Chengdu Tian Fu or Little Pepper back home, but excellent nonetheless. In fact, the fish fragrant aubergines were as perfect a version of this dish I've had at home or abroad, NY included. To start, the ma po do fu seemed lacking. It was OK and I liked that the do fu's texture held up well (aka was cooked right.) The ground meat was fine too, but the heat and tingling were so lacking. Also, the flavor seemed like quite a few steps below ei. Chengdu Tian Fu back home. It almost seemed like the sauce base was stir fried in advance or mixed in advanced. It just seemed oddly sweet and different for the dish, but not in a good way. The fish fragrant aubergines were, however, delicious with a bit of spice. Again, about as many Sichuan peppercorns as you'd find in an Italian restaurant, but despite this the dish was delicious. Fish fragrant dishes don't really require that sort of ma la aspect anyway; the layering of chili oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil was more than enough. The soft, but solid texture of the aubergines was also quite appealing. The soup was another winner with a lovely light broth that was heavily redolent of ginger and a light porkiness. It was an excellent Sichuan soup and a great addition to the meal, but the meat in it was not pork belly. To be honest, it looked like pork butt or maybe even something spam like. Despite that, the dish was very nice and it has a lovely variety of textures with pork, tofu skin, etc. A very nice balance to such heavy oily dishes. The real winner and probably my favorite dish was the pig tails and pork... knuckles? The spicing was correct and to make matters even better, the dish came in a pile of chillies. Dried, fresh, red, and green. There was an honest to God pile. Sichuan peppercorns were also liberally thrown throughout the whole dish (they were definitely old and had quite a weak tingle though.) The meat itself was deliciously flavored with a ma la sort of flavor; heavy on Sichuan chillis as well as other spicy notes such as star anise. Overall, a delicious dish that had us sucking out the gelatinous goodness of pork while avoiding dropping them from our chopsticks. Also, you can get open some of the tail portions to eat the extremely porky marrow. Definitely a winner in this dish. By the way, if you're planning to more or less banquet it between two people, then don't get two orders of rice. That was quite hard to finish as filler towards the end (we ate in Sichuan arrangement with soups and rice to the end.)



          11 Replies
          1. re: JFores

            £46 expensive for two? You *have* to be kidding...

            On the tap water question...

            While it's against the law in Scotland for a restaurant to refuse free tap water if they have an alcohol licence, in England it seems to depend on the local council and whether then have added this requirement to the restaurant's alcohol licence. However, generally the expectation is that a restaurant provide tap water free of charge when asked...

            1. re: Ian

              >£46 expensive for two? You *have* to be kidding... <

              Well, maybe you're not a student on a student's budget. Everything is relative. I'll stick up for JFores. That would be (in today's money) almost $100 for two. It would have to be pretty good for anyone to pay that much in America for Chinese food.

              1. re: zuriga1

                You can't compare USA prices to UK - food is considerably cheaper in the USA.

                £46 for two is below average for two in the UK and particularly London.

                For example: I went to a neighbourhood Italian restaurant alone last night and spent £26 - that got me soup, pizza, espresso, a bottle of sparkling water and service. I spent a similar amount a few nights before in a nationwide chain. I'd say your average meal cost in London is at least £25 per person for two course including a single drink each.

                1. re: zuriga1

                  Although £46 is not really equivalent to $100 in real terms, is it?

                  Anyway, glad you enjoyed it and I agree that the aubergines are amazing. I think it's very naughty that they refuse to povide tap water and that their bottled water is so expensive.

                2. re: Ian

                  I think that's quite expensive and I wouldn't be able to fathom spending anything more here on a meal. 25 quid is almost half my budget for the week. It's more than what I'll spend on groceries for a week, and it's 4 meals at Gram for 1 if split between two.

                  Aside from that it was really good as far as what I've had in the UK. When compared to the US it gets less clear, because at nearly $100 it is actually 4-5 times more expensive than an equivalent and higher quality meal in Flushing would be. But I've just avoided thinking about that and concentrated on having good food.

                  1. re: JFores

                    Snazz is a lot nearer to the centre of London than Flushing is to Manhattan so I think the rent and thus the overheads would be way higher in the UK.

                    BTW Do they have a minimum wage in the US ?

                    1. re: Hermano Primero

                      Yeah they do, though I'd venture to guess that the rates paid to workers in many of the lesser known Chinese restaurants in NY can vary heavily. Keep in mind a lot of them are family run too (two of my favorites are totally family owned and operated.)

                      And yeah, Snazz is definitely a bargain considering its location. I couldn't easily imagine such an excellent meal for so cheap in the area. The water thing is a wee bit irksome though, especially when you're shelling out on enough food to easily feed four people between two of you. All in all, I'd definitely go back, but it's a place I can only afford really rarely. Kind of like Tomoe which I've unfortunately only made it back to once. All of my budgeting bought me some shiny new tickets to Thailand, Bangladesh, and India along with places to stay though!

                      1. re: Hermano Primero

                        They do have a minimum wage in the US, which differs from state to state (and which is lower than in the UK... still, not sure it's lower once you adjust for cost of living!)

                        1. re: D Hound

                          Yes, New York State's is above $7.00. I think they have a rule that if the national rate is higher, they will match it, but I doubt that's ever happened.

                      2. re: JFores

                        Bear in mind that Snazz is probably the best Sichuanese restaurant in London, if not the UK. Given that the average cost of a meal out in London is £40 per head (according to Time Out), I'd say you got something of a bargain!

                        1. re: JFores

                          While it is important get a global context on value, for practical purposes on this board it's better to compare value relative to other places in London/UK. If I were to compare every Chinese place I ate in the US with those back home, it wouldn't be pretty either.