When I got to the restaurant, I was surprised by how small the tables were. I wondered how all the plates we'd inevitably order fit on the table. When I sat down I felt like a giant and it was most disconcerting. Anyway; the food. The menu is split off into appetisers, various style of dumpling (steamed, fried, in soup etc), noodles, rice and vegetables.
I made sure to order 'Spicy Potato Slivers', as I've heard a lot about this dish. Potato isn't something I'd immediately associate with Chinese food so I was curious as to how the dish would be. We were served these spinach and beanthread noodles; it was a cold dish and was pleasingly tangy. Unfortunately we'd almost finished the dish before I realised that I didn't actually order this and we were missing the potato slivers. Service was hectic and hard to get the attention of so I let it slide.
Spicy Chicken Salad wasn't fiery, but had a nice lip tingling effect of the Sichuan peppercorn. We also ordered some pork steamed dumplings and some prawn wonton-style dumplings in chilli garlic oil. These were nice, but once again lacking in heat. Why say it's spicy when it's not? I don't think it's my tastebuds - it does seem extremely dumbed down.
These little flatbread sandwiches looked cute, but were disappointingly small - smaller than my palm. We remarked that they were a bit like mini pitta breads, with not enough filling. I had chosen beef in cumin for the filling and while it was flavoursome and well spiced, a little more of it wouldn't have gone amiss.
We were then served some choy sum which I'd ordered with a noodle dish - Shangxi noodles with pork, tofu and 'sizzling' chilli oil. This was rather a disappointment - There was a lot of broth to noodle ratio and it took a while to fish any pork and beancurd out. Once again... not exactly nose-runningly spicy. But hang on a minute... where were those chicken and shiitake mushrom guotie (fried) that I'd ordered? I flagged down a passing waiter and off he went to investigate. Meanwhile, we'd finished our noodles, they were cleared away and we waited.
And we waited. And then for good measure, we waited some more. Again, I flagged down a different waiter and enquired about my missing dumplings. "Ah yes, you've had them, the steamed ones". No no, I said - we haven't had them, I'm after the fried ones. The waiter insisted it was the steamed ones until I said the word for potstickers in Cantonese, and like that his attitude changed - he couldn't have been more helpful. He claimed the dumplings for us must now be cold (?) and he'd get some fresh for us. So, after half an hour's waiting between dishes, we finally got the chicken and shiitake mushroom guotie.
This, served with black vinegar dipping sauce, was probably the best dish of the night. They were crispy with a meaty but light filling. Visually they're a bit cruder than their Shanghainese equivalent, war tip, but are no less tasty.
I'm a bit torn about Ba Shan. The dumplings were indeed very tasty, but I am confused as to why the chilli is toned down - surely we know what we're letting ourselves in for? I had a fiery meal at Baozi Inn, so I'm not sure why it isn't the same here. The service needs to shape up - the wait we had really was ridiculous. While the waiter's patronising attitude made me laugh at the time, it was a bit off. It was also pretty pricy, with the bill coming to around £80 with a few beers each.
24 Romilly Street,
London, W1D 5AH
Tel: 020 7287 3266