Saturday, 18 April 2009

Ba Shan

Ba Shan is a new Sichuanese and northern Chinese restaurant, owned by the same people that own Baozi Inn and Bar Shu that opened recently. I read favourable reviews here, here and here, and so was delighted when I was invited to dinner there.

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.

Ba Shan

24 Romilly Street,

London, W1D 5AH

Tel: 020 7287 3266

12 comments:

Fat Les said...

If you did order more booze during the 1/2 hour waiting between dishes, then their ploy worked. Pity your experience here was so-so, I'm going back to check things out especially the Loch Ness Monster dish of Spicy Potato Slivers!

Kang Kang Kang Kang Kang. said...

Sounds a little steep, and I too am struggling to think of many chinese dishes with potato in it, hmmm ...

Helen said...

It sounds like a bit of a rip to me. £80 for what sounds like a pretty average meal, which crappy service. Particularly when you think of the prices at Baozi Inn.

Browners said...

That sounds like a very stingy sandwich. Even for a girl. The very least they could do was ram it full of pork belly with all its wibbly fat still on a la Leong's Legend!

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

This is sitting near the top of my wishlist. But I'm going to wait a little longer before I wander over. I have a lot of dim sum to eat first!

An American in London said...

How many people did you dine with (i.e., trying to figure out what the £80 covered)?

I had such a horrible meal at Bar Shu that I can't get excited by this new venture by the same owners (though I have to admit Baozi Inn is not bad).

Ann said...

We went a few weeks ago (4th April), and I was really looking forward to the potato slivers, but they were off that night :o(
We also had the cumin beef buns, and thought pretty much the same as you. I make cumin beef quite often, so was looking forward to the 'real thing', but couldn't detect the chili, even though we'd asked (when requested) for everything to come authentically spiced. Of the other dishes we tasted (salad, dumplings, noodles, choy sum - pretty much the same as you!) we agreed the chicken and mushroom potstickers were the tastiest.
Overall pretty disappointing (and pricey), and the tables and stools are ludicrously tiny. Looking forward to Bar Shu reopening, as we've eaten much better there for cheaper...
Ann/applelisa

Kavey said...

I have to admit, your review has definitely put me off going, what with that whole thing of insisting you'd had a dish you knew you hadn't until you said it's name in Cantonese! Not impressive on the service front, especially given that I don't speak any Cantonese!

Lizzie said...

An American - it was between two of us. Pricy stuff.

Ann - Interesting that they asked you how you'd like your food spiced. They didn't do the same with us. I can't imagine many people saying "well, I'd like it inauthentically spiced and massively toned down, please".

genuiness said...

It seems like typical condescending chinese restaurant attitude you received then... 'fake' caucasian food with plastic service, even though you are half chinese.

Ann said...

I think they probably asked us about the spicing as we had a PITA couple sat next to us who were going through every item on the menu and asking if it could be cooked with no chilli, as they didn't like anything with any spice. Grrrr!

Niamh said...

What a shame & a surprise. I did hear the same about Bar Shu before it closed.