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New Aroma, Chinatown, London - promising Fuzhou cuisine

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A new place on Gerrard St.

I can never remember if dong1 fen3, a slightly chewy noodle common in Fujian cuisine, is made from sweet potato or mung bean flour. Will have to letter better hounds fill that info in. Nevertheless, the rendition at New Aroma was a pleasant surprise - the noodles were served with a good seafood broth that it soaked up over the course of the meal, lots of flavour. Chock full of oysters, some sort of big clams (chopped up to bite sized pieces), prawns, significant amount of crab, probably three quarters of a whole crab, the seafood of better than decent quality, a tiny shade of chewiness in the clams, the crabs cooked softer than I would have liked, but otherwise very tasty, especially the sweetness of the crab juices as I sucked them from the shell, with an almost butter like quality. Always great to dissect crab at the table from its shell. Obligatory baby bak choy for contrast, and airy strips of celery.

Definitely a serious notch up from New Fuzhou (also on Gerrard Street, and if their dong1 fen3 or lychee pork/li4 zhi1 rou4 are any indication, rather average) and Fuzhou restaurant on the other side of the block (Lisle street iirc).

Will have to try more to see how this place shapes up.

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  1. thanks for this limster, have been working a bit in St James', so every lunch reacquainting myself with old chinatown spots. Have added Noodle Bar and New Aroma to my list of unfamiliar places, which also includes Super Star. Tell me how does the menu play for non-chinese speaking hounds? I remember you saying that Super Star was geared along the old good chinese menu/bad tourist menu dichotomy, was wondering how easy my introduction to Fujian cuisine was going to be. Will persevere regardless, but perhaps if it is the case that the interesting stuff will be unknowable you could make a few suggestions? Realise this was your first visit and all. Thanks for all the great posting.

    4 Replies
    1. re: skut

      also is dong fen the name of that specific type of noodle, or the preparation of the noodle in seafood broth as described?

      1. re: skut

        dong fen is a noodle type; the full name of the dish is seafood with dong fen (hai3 xian1 tu3 dong1 fen3).

        The Fuzhou dishes at New Aroma are on a Chinese only menu, so it might help to arm yourself with some typical fuzhou dishes ahead of time, or ask for help with translation.

        Noodle Bar's menu is entirely in English. Try cajoling the chef to make knife shaved noodles. It's unlikely he'll agree right away, but if enough people ask, perhaps he'll try making it.

        Super Star's menu I think is largely available in English, but there might be a non-English menu as well, I'm not positive.

        It would be good to have more info on all these places, I've visited them a couple of times max, and that's not a significant sample at all, given the size of their menus and how restaurants can generally vary in quality. I'm sure your chowhounding will pay off, and I'm looking forward to learning about new finds.

        1. re: limster

          cheers pal, will certainly report back. The knife shaved noodles sound interesting, like spaetzle maybe? Always a sucker for a bit of coarse uneven texturing. Particularly interested in New Aroma as my patronage of Leong's has introduced me to various Taiwanese renditions of what I understand to be Fujian staples, and was interested in pursuing this to the source so to speak (btw last visit to LL: xiu long bao still superb, taiwanese pork kebab still better than Ba Shan, everything else now sadly not great, particularly the oyster omelette, which was again lacking in green shoots, and worst of all, heat. Service still charming though.) Anyway, I look forward to dropping by both these places sometime this week.

          1. re: skut

            The knife shaved noodles are thinnish ribbons, cut from the surface of a lump of dough. Skill matters a lot to ensure that the ribbons are thin, uniform and long.

            Great to hear an update re: Leong's -- Taiwan is opposite to the more southern side of Fujian, and their cuisine has a heavier southern Fujian influence, as opposed to the northern Fujian aka Fuzhou cuisine.

            BTW, ate at New Aroma again. Solid but nothing special rendition on Chinese broccoli/gai lan/jie4 lan2 in a pleasant ginger sauce. The lychee pork was pretty good - bright red from a batter with red wine lees common in Fuzhou cooking. They're nicely fried, then covered with a starchy garlic sauce that blunts that crunchiness of the batter; I wished the sauce was a bit more complex and more sparingly used. (Lychee here refers to the colour and the way the pork is sliced, to give a lychee like appearance after deep frying, which New Aroma was partially successful at.)

    2. Here are some photos from a trip to New Aroma with Limster and others earlier this week: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kake_pug...

      It was my first experience of Fujian cuisine and I'm already keen to try more.

      The photoset also includes photos of the Fujian menu — it's in Chinese only, but I've had a bash at translating in the captions.

      13 Replies
      1. re: Kake

        Looks great! In addition to what limster has written would you say there were any must have dishes?

        1. re: emusinthezone

          I'm not sure I've tried enough of the menu to make such a pronouncement. But I did like the sweet potato balls; stuffed with nori and pork, and served in soup.

          1. re: Kake

            I think the dishes that folks enjoyed most were the potato balls, the Fuzhou style fishballs (stuffed with minced pork) and the red wine lees sauce that came with the eel. I also quite like the understated but delicate Taichi dou4 hua1 - green and and white versions arranged into a yin-yang symbol in the bowl. Quality of the seafood in the various dishes was good overall.

            1. re: limster

              The king prawns in bamboo (竹筒蝦) were a little overcooked for my taste by the time I got to trying one, but I think that might have been because they'd been sitting in the herbal broth for a while by then — there were so many other dishes to try!

              I didn't photograph the taichi dòu huā, but another of our party did: http://www.flickr.com/photos/robot_st...

        2. re: Kake

          Kudos! The last three dishes are:

          Bean Curd Strips with eel
          Chinese Chives with Bamboo
          Stir-fried Crab

          1. re: scoopG

            Thank you! I've edited those in to the caption. A couple of questions, if you don't mind me picking your brains...

            In the crab dish, does the character 塊 indicate that this is a single whole crab? Or something else?

            What's the final character in the name of the Chinese chives dish? I can't find it in my dictionaries.

            1. re: Kake

              "塊" means piece - it would cut up pieces of crab.

              Re: final character - It's a kind of clam I think.

              1. re: Kake

                In the last dish, it is bamboo. 竹 = Zhú = bamboo.

                1. re: scoopG

                  Isn't 竹 is the 4th character, not the 5th one, which is "蛏." Makes me think it's "bamboo clam" or a longish clam like razor clam.

                  1. re: limster

                    Think we are looking at different pages! I was looking at this one - 韮菜炒竹 - the "Stir Fried Leeks and Bamboo"

                    1. re: scoopG

                      I think you're looking at the same page — http://www.flickr.com/photos/kake_pug... — but Limster is reading off the photo and you off my transcription, which has a question mark in place of the 蛏 that I couldn't figure out how to type!

                      1. re: Kake

                        Just found your link! Earlobe soup?
                        Is it wood ears/fungus? But that looks like duǒ (ears... or maybe flowers...)

                        Sorry, me illiterate.

                        1. re: MonkeyC

                          Yeah, I really have no idea what that one is, and Googling doesn't help. I'll ask next time I go!

          2. Another favourite - the swallow dumplings; filled with pork and possessing excellent skins, very balanced stiffness and resilience.