bar shu, london w1
last week three friends and i decided to try the sichuan delights of bar shu.
opened earlier this year, bar shu is one of a very few sichuan restaurants in the capital and has been hailed as a place worth visiting. assuming you can cope with hot food that is! sichuan cuisine is known for its “ma la” (numbing and hot) dishes - the numbing effect comes from sichuan pepper (a tingling mouth as you feel the heat followed by a numbing effect) and the heat comes from the plentiful use of chillis and chilli oil.
having read a few reviews we didn’t take long to order. we started with numbing and hot dried beef (beef with a taste and texture reminiscent of jerky, flavoured with the sichuan peppercorns and smothered with chilli oil – a good introduction to ma la!) and phoenix tail lettuce in sesame sauce (the cooling effect of the lettuce with its tahini sauce was appreciated as our taste-buds started to adapt).
several dishes then arrived together - fire-exploded kidney flowers (kidneys cross-hatched as squid often is, then quickly stir fried with mushrooms, causing the flesh to “flower” and creating a beautifully tender texture), dry-fried beans (incredibly more-ish green beans fried with crumbs of minced pork, garlic, chilli and ya cai, a mustard green), pock-marked old woman’s bean curd (soft bean curd with a rich spicy sauce, this was one of my favourites) and twice-cooked pork belly which was melt-in-the-mouth tender and flavoured with a chilli bean paste.
as we worked our way through these dishes we all started to feel very full but then came our final dish – a hot and fragrant whole crab. this was beautiful to look at and even better to eat. an abundance of sweet crab meat, a fabulously rich mixture of brown meat and herbs and spices, which was packed into the shell, all sprinkled with ginger, garlic, chilli peanuts and spring onions.
the crab tasted wonderful but i really wish it hadn’t arrived at the end of the meal as my full tummy and tiring taste-buds really didn’t appreciate it as much as if it had been our starter. this is what i will request next time we visit!
28 frith street, london w1 5lf
telephone - +44 (0)20 7287 6688