Crystal China, Bermondsey/Southwark, London
A new Chinese restaurant on Tower Bridge Road with dishes from multiple regions: Sichuan, Shanghai and Dongbei (I'm wondering if the chef is from Dongbei).
Tried the Sichuan items first (will go through the other sections eventually). Twice cooked pork is appropriately oily, glossy with chilli oil, good tender fatty slices of pork stir fried with leeks and bell peppers. Nicely spicy, with sweetness to counter the fat, but slightly sweeter than other versions I've had. Could be more smoky flavour wise. A noticeable vein of ginger. In the realm of tasty and good but not grand.
Similar quality in the ants climbing a tree -- chewy, bouncy sweet potato noodles with great texture and a good coat of chilli oil to keep each noodle from sticking. More ginger and sesame oil flavour than usual, and less of the ferment bean/dou4 ban4 flavour. Good bits of minced pork and clear, fresh shreds of green onion cutting through the oil and starch.
Will probably try the village-style Dongbei dishes next.
The house special crispy aubergines were fairly well deep fried -- the aubergines within were very soft, and the shells crispy, at least until they got drenched in a gloopy sweet/spicy sauce, cut somewhat by the sharpness of finely sliced green onion. Average overall.
There's very good stir frying technique, at least in the way scallops were handled -- the slices of scallop were firm, succulent, and slightly bouncy -- texture control comparable to Koffman's. But the scallops were bland, almost devoid of flavour, as was the entire dish (including broccoli and carrots), very much in need of salt to bring out some flavour. Only very slightly consoled by the fact that it was half price -- there's a page of half price seafood deals in the menu.
A superb aubergine stir-fry, glossy with with the red orange of chilli oil, the richness cut by thin ribbons of green onion. Beautiful textural control - the aubergines were perfectly soft, almost creamy, without being mushy.
Loved the nicely spaced bits of raw garlic in the peanut dipping sauce for dipping the thick slices of bean curd/tofu with a crispy surface of egg coating. Never thought the pungency of garlic could go so well with peanut.
These were from the Dongbei section of the menu, the more rustic, village-style dishes, and from my very limited sample, the best from their menu so far.
aaaargh i'm flying to new york tomorrow - will have to try this when i get back.
i love everything aubergine; it's time to ask indian zing if they can do another maharashtrian dinner. the stuffed aubergines, the batter coated aubergines, the bharit (think the maharshtrian rahib) are all to die for.
At a recent dinner, I was really impressed with the di4 san1 xian1, a Dongbei/NE China dish that involves stir-frying potatoes, aubergines and bell peppers. The texturing was excellent -- the aubergines were beautifully soft, the bell peppers had a good fresh snap, and the potatoes, the best of the lot, had a wonderful dense, smooth and ever so slightly waxy texture, cooked just before the point of softness, a brilliant example of skilful textural control and contrast among the different ingredients on the same dish.
Crystal china is my new favourite.
perhaps its because its the only place which uses sichuan pepper corns liberally. barshu etc please note.
perhaps because of a pork/fungus/egg dish that is astonishingly moreish with some very different textures competing for attention. masterful.
sichuan cabbage. plenty of offal. unusual dishes with a provenance unknown to me.
once again i find myself profoundly grateful that limster is around.
Thanks for your kind words as always -- great you like the place -- there's also a good number of NE China aka Dongbei dishes towards the last 2 or so pages the menu before the rice/noodle section. Try the tofu with sesame sauce (might be called homestyle bean curd or something of that sort on the menu).
BTW, the nearby Lebanese Jad Grill is not bad but not great. Among the stuff we had, baba ghanou was pretty smoky from what I remember, and the juices were good.
what a place this is! it really has the best water boiled beef/pork and the best twice cooked pork in town. that should be enough reason for anyone to make the trip down here.
but the sesame sauce dressed aubergine is out of this world, as is the amazing dry hot pot.
i've been eating here twice a week for a long time, and familiarity has not dulled my appreciation for the cooking.
what is anyone waiting for?! go NOW!
p.s. the clientele seems to be mainly young chinese homesick students - "people come here taking bus and train" the waitress dimpled.