Bar Shu

I’d heard much about Bar Shu before finally eating here last Friday. It’s most well known for its Northern Chinese cuisine, easy to probably get in mainland China but distinctly less popular and hard to find around England. I’ve noticed many Northern Chinese restaurants popping up around London and just haven’t found the opportunity to try any of them.

I booked Wednesday night for a party of eight for Friday evening. By booking ahead for such a large party, we ended up in one of their private, more intimate function rooms on the second floor – a little bit hard to find but for the privacy, definitely worth it. Over the phone, they told us we could only have the seating for 2 hours but the evening must have been very quiet since we were allowed to sit there all night.

Not being familiar with Northern Chinese, Bar Shu is considerate to have a highly visual menu making it easy to pick. Fortunately I was dining with lots of people familiar with the cuisine so I didn’t have to worry about it.

Here’s all the different things we dined on:

Fragrant Chicken in a pile of chillies – Reminded me of the black chicken I had in Hong Kong. My mouth watered in anticipation just from trialling the spiciness in this dish. It definitely has a lot of kick although the pieces of chicken were very minuscule, literally hard to separate from many of the other ingredients.

Dry fried green beans with minced pork – Nice green beans that had a subtle flavour, made salty by the addition of the pork.

Pock marked old woman’s beancurd (Ma Po Tofu) that was saucy, but not as fiery as I had hoped. It was a strangely sweet sauce as well.

Assorted meats in a fiery sauce – ox tripe, pig intestines, pig’s blood and luncheon meat in a more subdued spicy sauce. It’s very much a lucky dip for textures.

Boiled sea bass with sizzling chilli oil – This is a spectacular dish that I recently saw cooked on Poh’s kitchen. It’s not for the faint of heart with, literally a bowl of oil at the table. The fish was magnificently cooked though – soft and succulent and that slight heat from all the chillies. It’s not as hot as you’d think it would be considering the fish was immersed in all those spices.

Bar shu cold noodles with chicken slivers – The cold noodles helped bring a slight relief to the bombardment of spices and flavours. The noodles were drenched in a sesame soy sauce with garlic

Jellyfish ribbons in dark chinese vinegar – A lovely mouth feel that also was a great way to prevent the mouth from being overwhelmed by spices.

Lotus Root with Woodear mushrooms – A delicately light dish that was another great, non-spicy dish. The lotus root crispy like an apple and the mushrooms providing a strong earthy flavour.

Numbing Beef – This was supposed to be an appetiser and it simply turned up first before the rest of the dishes made their way to the table. It was definitely what it was called on the menu with the Szechuan peppers kicking in with its numbing effect.

Chinese vegetables – Even a simple dish like this was drizzled with chilli oil, though this one was barely noticeable after all of the other dishes.

Perhaps it was because we had a private room upstairs, but service wasn’t as rushed and prompt as most Chinese restaurants were. They didn’t keep the water topped up as much as they could have, but the waitress checked in just enough for the weekend. The food is decadent and particularly rich with oil and spices, so it’s not a dinner you want to have every night. However there is no doubt the food was well executed and full of flavour and sensations you tend not to have in many other cuisines (even your typical Cantonese Chinese restaurants). Delicious!

Name: Bar Shu
Found at: 28 Frith Street, W1D 5LF, London
Phone number: +44 20 7287 8822

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