13 February 2011
The Smashing Dumplings
A couple of weeks ago - alright, it was longer but I won't tell if you won't - I talked about "discovering" a great coffee bar called 3 Little Pigs in a shoe shop on Warren Street. The reason for discovering said coffee bar was an invite to lunch at Mushu, a new Asian restaurant that's giving the street a much needed kick into 21st Century eating.
"Fast fresh oriental food" is how the Mushu website puts it and I can't describe it any better. At lunchtime, the emphasis is on speedy, hearty and healthy eating. In the evening, the vibe is more "izakaya" in style. Yep, exactly... No, to be honest, I needed to look it up too. It's basically a point where bar meets restaurant, where you can linger over a beer or a bottle of wine and graze as the mood takes you or attack the menu in more conventional dining-style. Either way, it's an open, well-lit space, sensibly priced and, while not reinventing any culinary wheels, certainly giving them a decent spin.
To some extent, after the rise of Mooli's (no, I'm not going on about them again. Well, not for a day or two) and Koya, Mushu feels like a very natural next step and a very welcome addition for those of us who head northwards. Lunch for us took an agreeable hour plus but there were plenty around us rattling through in their permitted 60 minutes. All of us, I imagine, left feeling agreeably full and positively refuelled. I hate this idea of food as fuel - yes, it is, but it's also a great source of pleasure - but there's that lovely sense of being re-energised by certain decent food, rather than being left lethargic / like you're walking through treacle. You'll leave Mushu feeling set for whatever the afternoon or evening can bring.
We idled our way through a few of the menu's "must have" choices. Potstickers - oh dear god I love those things - were excellent, although the title of this piece refers mostly to the beef and kimchi water dumplings, which burst in a delightfully messy, spicy manner. A plate of those and a couple of beers is a very good night out in my book. Delicious aubergine came sticky, sweet and sprinkled with sesame seeds, kara age had decent crunch and bite, while in contrast the "Lions Head" meatballs had virtually no texture and were equally marvellous as a result. Over in katsu curry corner, well, everything there was as comforting and addictive as you'd expect...
Anything original? No. Really nicely executed, well priced and just plain tasty? Absolutely. Another simple and valuable addition to the London dining scene.