M & Z, Fitzrovia, London
A menu of mostly Shanghainese, and also Sichuan dishes, but also spots of Hunan and other regional Chinese.
Kao3 fu1, cubes of wheat gluten in a sweetish sauce with a light hint of dark clovey spices, with peanuts and bites of crunchy wood ear fungus, is fairly well made, the minor weakness being that the wheat gluten could be a bit more tender.
Xiao3 long2 bao1, the steamed broth-filled dumplings were decent. The filling was nicely seasoned and savoury, the stiff skins on the thick side, very similar to the rendition at Red Sun in Marylebone, much less delicate than the superlative version I experienced at Min Jiang.
Potstickers aka guo1 tie4, were nice, golden brown in crispy on one side from pan frying, the skins resiliently al dente (similar to the xlb, but perhaps more appropriate here). One or two were more charred than they should be, but otherwise tasty.
Several other Shanghainese dishes here. Would probably be back to try the Lion's Head meatballs, the smoked fish and the stir fried rice cakes, among other things.
The Jinling salted duck is beautifully cured -- firm, hammy, flavourful (and obviously salty) meat. Lion's head meatballs is a textbook example -- the minced pork is lightly packed, to give a faintly spongy feel to the meatball; within are scattered bits of pickled mustard greens, enough to give an extra but nuanced savoury dimension. The stock around it has a tiny hint of sweetness, is smooth rich and evenly and gently flavoured with woodsy spices and herbs.
I tried this place out for lunch today after reading this - it was unquestionably a complete disaster.
Arriving at 1:15, we asked for a main menu instead of the £4.80 one plate rice or noodle dishes. Salted duck, grandmother's braised pork, three slivered vegetables and steamed rice for two of us. The salted duck appeared after 15 minutes, and after having eaten that, we proceeded to wait 40 minutes. the pork appeared, 10 minutes passed and I asked where the rice was. The answer was that they had run out of steamed rice but could give us egg fried rice instead.
I asked why it had taken so long. They told us there were too many people there. I asked why they had that many seats (all of about 20...) and they were stumped.
We had to leave to return to work. To be fair to them, they boxed up the pork for us to take away and didn't charge us for it.
i don't know if i ordered badly, or if i got white-personed, or what, but the cumin beef had no discernible cumin. in fact it didn't taste much of anything. probably most like a black bean sauce from any crappy takeaway. on the plus side it was very quick.
funnily enough, two asian guys who were sitting behind me have just turned up in my office for a meeting. maybe i'll ask them what they had!
as cumin beef is in fuschia dunlop's sichuan cooking book i assumed it was a sichuan one and would be rather more tasty. hey ho. i might go back and try some of their other stuff, i enjoyed the walk along cleveland street and being able to sit at a table for one without feeling like a leper.