24 Romilly St, Soho, London W1D baoziinn.com
We like a bit of dim sum so we went out and got us some
Actually, there is another problem and that’s eating a sweet dim sum half way through by mistake and you can’t go back to savoury can you? No, you can’t.
Anyway, Baoziinn in Romilly Street, is the first restaurant in London to offer all-day Cantonese Dim Sum with Sichuan and Hunan influence, along with Northern Chinese street food, or at least I’m told they’re the first. If you know better, please’share’, as they say.
It’s a new place from restaurateur Wei Shao, who, twelve years ago, opened Barshu, a place that really opened people’s eyes to Sichuan food, as well as making their eyes water. Sichuan food is of course legendary for its fierce chili heat and the numbing effect of the Sichuan pepper on the lips and tongue.
In order to try the dim sum at Baoziinn we had to forego the traditional cold starters we’d usually have in the evening, which was ok as I am not a fan of cold food anyway, and went straight onto the steamed stuff.
There are, let me see, yes, seventeen dim sums on the menu and interestingly as well as being Sichuan influenced on the filling, these have taken a bit of an Italian approach to the wrappers and are coloured with beetroot and spinach; dim sums of course usually only have colour from being translucent enough for the filling to glow through.
We ordered a stack of steamers, out came ruby prawn dumplings in beetroot pastry, watercress prawn dumplings in turmeric spiced pastry, prawn and chive dumplings in spinach pastry and Sichuan pepper pork and prawn’shao mai’ in chili juice pastry. We left the latter until last, reasoning they might have a bit of an effect on our taste buds, but we happily gorged on the rest. Prawns that popped with taut plumpness and which all had different taste overtones from the other fillings, and in one case the turmeric spiced case.
They say you can tell dim sum quality from the number of pleats, but I never remember how many. They were well made that’s for sure, the cases not too thick but not so thin that they burst too easily. Many a slip twixt cup and lip.
The Shao Mai were upturned like flowers, very pretty and pretty hot. I loved them and the numbing spices and they got me ready to dive into a bowl of chopped salted chilli steamed squid. This was a visual stunner, so I took a picture of it, not by standing on my chair though as someone did a few tables away. I mean, really?
Anyway, the mix of tender squid, hot chilli and chopped green spring onion wasn’t easy to get the chopsticks around, so I cheated and hung the circles on the sticks and slid them down into my mouth like curtain rings. Not very elegant, possibly bad manners, but highly effective.
Bao were a big thing not so long ago, London does like a craze in food, but it seems to have died down a bit now. Baos are of course steamed buns that always remind me of Mick Jagger’s lips/Rolling Stones logo and are very hard to resist.
Here they are slightly different, instead of being folded over the filling they are complete and sealed and called baozi.
These were quite large, a little too thick skinned for my taste as it masked the tasty barbecue pork filling. And it was tasty, mighty meaty. And, rather unusually, a dish called fried prawn brioche, a burger of prawn meat that had been, as described, fried. It reminded me rather of prawn toast, only more substantial. I wouldn’t want to eat two, my body is a ruined temple, but this one was worth carrying out further desecration.
Why are Dan Dan noodles so named? Don’t worry, I have Googled it for you (at least I admit it) and found it comes from the name of the poles, the’dans’ the street vendors suspended the food from as they wandered about selling it.
It’s always a delicious dish I find, thick noodles in a soy, sesame and, peanut and Sichuan fiery sauce topped with crisply fried pork mince and spring onions. You need to tumble it all together as soon as it arrives at the table and get stuck in.
Excellently fresh noodles, bouncy and chewy, plus just the right balance of ingredients and spices made this one of the better dan dan noodles I’ve had, and I’ve had a few.
We had some pak choi, briefly stir-fried and dressed with a splash of soy, to keep up our vitamin C intake, these still had texture and colour and hadn’t been reduced to rags as can so often happen. A hot wok and speedy service is the answer.
Overall a good feast at a fair to very fair price, considering the decor and style is more upmarket than’Mao-style canteen’ might suggest. Plus, the three floors offer a choice of ‘dining destinations’, as they say
All day dim sum? Yes, go get some at Baoziinn