Liverpool - Chinese or Indian?
Looking to you here, Harters and Teresa!
Am taking my son for his 19th. Just the two of us. This will be our first time into Liverpool for eating. He loves Sichuan and dim sum and 'proper' Indian in equal measure. I have been scouring the boards and had thought Chilli Chilli, but their website is down and their phone not working - have they closed? The Chinatown stalwarts look to be a bit chow mein unless they have secret menus?
Is Eastzeast OK? Looks to be a bit of a supertanker operation, so worried the food will suffer accordingly.
Any other wise ideas?
Yesterday I noticed a new (well, I thought it was new - but they have been open for 18 months apparently) Chinese place near the top of Seel St. It's called Mr Chilli, and does mainly Sichuan dishes. We had planned to go to Chilii Chilli, but fancied giving this one a try, as the menu looked the part. But it was really disappointing.
We ordered dan dan noodles, mixed meat hotpot and broccoli. The dan dan noodles were almost a noodle soup - it was tasty enough, with a nice background flavour of peanuts from the oil, but it was nothing like I'd expect the Sichuan classic to taste like (no fermented cabbage in it at all). The hotpot was very hot (with chilli), as you'd expect, but watery and it had no depth of flavour at all - again, there was no evidence of what I thought would be a key ingredient - chilli bean sauce.
We were gutted - we don't get out to eat as much as we used to, as finances are tight, so when we do, we really want it to be good. We should have stayed faithful to Chilli Chilli - that'll learn us.
Having said that, you have to kiss quite a few frogs to find a prince ...
Right - I've been on a fact-finding mission for you (well, maybe quite a lot of it was for me as well....) and went to see if Chilli Chilli was open tonight... and... it was - so it's still an option for your son.
The other good thing was that our favourite waiter was there for the first time in ages, and he chose the food we had from the Chinese menu - and it was fab.
I think I've reviewed the dishes we usually go for there - a mixture of items from the Sichuan menu and from the menu only written in Chinese. This time it was all from the latter, and we had a quite spicey, cold chicken dish as a shared starter. The chicken was poached perfectly, and came in a soy-based sauce with shredded carrots, roasted peanuts and coriander. Very salty because of the soy, but delicious.
Our main course was what he called Malaysian Morning Glory (or just Malasian veg) - it was a spinach-type green veg with stalks still on, cooked in a light sauce with dried ground shrimp or shrimp paste - it had that very distinctive flavour. With it he recommended lamb chops - and they were divine. The best way I can describe it would be to say that it was a bit like salt and pepper lamb, but much more subtle and with more aromatic spices - it was crispy and tender and delicious.
We ended with the first proper Chinese pudding I have ever had - something he described as being mango jelly (possibly with tapioca?), which was a liquid, milky and soothing antedote to the earlier assault on our taste buds.
All of this, which was more than enough for two, came to 34.50, including 4 beers and a pot of tea.
I hope this isn't too late, and that your son chooses Chilli Chilli, because it really does have some great dishes, so long as you don't go for the normal (i.e. bog standard British Chinese stuff) menu. Stick with the Sichuan one, or even ask them to help you choose from the secret Chinese one. The problem with the latter is that there are only one or two staff who can speak enough English to help you out with this. If you fancy going for it, the guy to ask for help is the young Scouse-Chinese waiter called Paul. I think you would probably be understood though if you asked for Malaysian veg and lamb chops!
Let us know where you end up.
Very god news, and thank you for your investigative journalism! Sadly he's chosen Tai Pan as he was swayed by the fact they still do dim sum in the evening (and we're certainly intrigued by whelk dumplings!) Will keep Chilli Chilli for a date night I think. Good tip about Paul!
re: helen b
Well, can recommend Tai Pan. It's in the middle of nowhere, above a huge Chinese/Asian supermarket which was unfortunately closed, otherwise would have been fun to nose around. It's a vast space - I imagine 200 covers - which was half full with almost entirely Chinese diners when we were there.
They offer about half the (long) dim sum menu after 6pm, so we had very decent har gau, siu mai, siu long bao (or however you write it!) pork buns and spring rolls. All very good with thin skins and generous filling. The soupy dumplings were admirably just that. Crispy duck was a bit so-so, though generous with the accompaniments. I think next time we'd have a Cantonese roast duck which the next table were enjoying. For main we shared a whole sea bass steamed with ginger and spring onion which was expertly deboned at the table for us.
All very good. I think we might go back next time on a Sunday lunch for trolley dim sum when the twins can be trusted not to screech the place down and possibly even munch on a pork bun! Chilli Chilli next on the list, thanks Theresa!
Generally Liverpool Chinese is better than Liverpool Indian, as there is a much bigger and older Chinese community here. I have eaten once at the East z East in Liverpool and a couple of times at the one in Preston, and, as Harters says, they are much better than the standard curry house, and the menu includes some Punjabi dishes not generally found on British Indian menus.
As for Chilli Chilli - I didn't even know they had a website! I've just had a look, and it looks like they have just started to develop one, and have only got as far as the front page! I haven't been for a while, so I don't know if they have closed down - I hope not. It's probably worth trying a few more times. I'm sure I've reported on it in more detail somewhere on here.
Other places worth trying are:
Mei Mei - a bit vast, but good and popular with local Chinese people (not that that necessarily means anything). A bit more "upmarket" than the others in China Town.
Yuet Ben - a short menu with some more unusual dishes on it, a nice atmosphere and friendly staff. Good food too - it's been a few years since I've been, but it is such an institution that I'm sure Terry Lim's standards are just as high as always.
There is another Chinese place which others rave about, but I've not been - the Tai Pan above a Chinese supermarket on one of the roads going North out of the centre - so it's a bit off the circuit, but I seem to remember people saying the dim sum is particularly good.
One more Indian worth considering is the Mayur on Duke St - posher than most, and it's been a while since I've eaten there, but by all reports still of a high standard.
re: helen b
Lucky you, Helen.
I've not been to Fraiche since last June. Been trying to get a table for one of Marc's "Menu Black" evenings but they're all booked for the foreseeable future. Had hoped to take the nephew as part of his 21st celebrations but have now settled on Aumbry (in North Manchester) - no star as yet but only a matter of time, IMO.
I can only comment on the Manchester EastzEast and, indeed, only on one of the two branches here.
Like most good Indian food in the Rainy City, EastzEast originates from Bradford (that's Bradford, Yorkshire, not Bradford, east Manchester). These mini chains (like Akbars and Zouk) are providing some of the best south asian food in the metro area. Yes, the menus do have something of a sense of the high street curry house but the actual offerings are much better. IMO, of course. EastzEast is my current (and long-term) favourite in the area.
If you end up going there, perhaps check out the menu for the Desi or handi dishes which always seem to be better to my taste than some of the more bog-standard sounding dishes. Across the menu, you'll notcie they offer dishes in regular or large size. Don't be tempted to go large unless you've arrived with a vast appetite. There is generosity at work here.