24 Romilly Street, London W1D 5AH. baoziinn.com
Already well-liked for their colourful Dim Sum. Baozilnn have turned up the heat with some excellent new Szechuan dishes.
Just a few minutes’ walk from our office, Baozilnn is a place we like a lot. Not so informal as the places in Chinatown a few hundred yards away, but at the same time disciplined and friendly and with none of the brusqueness (to put it politely) you can receive from staff in Chinatown.
We’ve already reviewed Baozilnn’s Dim Sum, so we won’t talk about them now.
We’ve come for the new Szechuan dishes – that numbing, often fiery style of cooking that is so very addictive.
And with the Dim Sum done, delicious as always, especially the Ruby Prawn – beetroot dyed pastry stretched taut with the plump filling – we stand by and get ready to take the heat.
Of course, Szechuan pepper is not actually hot in itself, its trick is to produce a numbing sensation on the tongue and lips.
The plant is a member of the citrus family, not a pepper at all, and so there is also a lemony zingy flavour along with that sensation of licking a torch battery.
That sensation seems to set off spice perfectly and so Szechuan pepper is usually, but not always, partnered with copious amounts of fresh or dried chilli.
You don’t usually eat the pieces of chilli, unless you’re feeling particularly macho, but brush them off the meat or fish. Their flavouring job is done by the time the food hits the table,
First dish – Hot and Numbing Sea Bass fillets with Chinese Mushroom – has lots of garlic, lots of chilli peppers and plenty of Sichuan pepper, as well as dried shrimp in the sauce, to further deepen the flavours.
Deep and pungent and oily, the sauce laps over the generous number of sea bass fillets that easily give way to a slight poke with the chopsticks.
The numbing sensation is powerful, the flavours mighty. The fat slices of Chinese mushroom dotted about are a perfect texture foil to the fish. We break away from shovelling this in as fast as we can to try a dish of Pock-Mark Mapo Bean Curd.
This originated in the Sichuanese capital, Chengdu. There’s a story that explains its somewhat unattractive name, you can look it up, but the real story is how good it tastes.
Perfect for vegetarians, the slippery tofu is packed with flavour from garlic and black bean paste, plus of course Sichuan pepper. It defies my meagre chopstick skills, skipping and sliding like soap in the shower, so I just go at it with a fork so as not to miss a single scrap.
I had to have a bowl of Dan Dan noodles; that combination of soy sauce, sesame sauce, peanut sauce and minced pork all gripping tenaciously to plump noodles is one that Baozilnn do so very well. I could eat this every day.
Baozilnn’s Hunan dish of steamed prawns with chopped salted red chilli has been talked up by those in the know, and by golly they’re right.
Spicy, sour sauce coating butterflied big prawns that had been pickled in vinegar and yes, there is plenty of chilli as advertised.
This one does bring us out in a slight’glow’ and produces a flurry of nose-blowing. The translucent glass noodles lurking underneath, all soaked in that sauce are a messy delight.
We’re pretty pooped by now, the table looks as if Jackson Pollock dropped by for lunch and my dry cleaner is going to lose it when he sees what I’ve done to my shirt.What a great meal though, full on flavours and I am numb from the neck up.
Staff are friendly and smiling, rather proud of the dishes they bring out as they have every right to be.
There’s a drawing of Mao on the wall in one of the many rooms, he’s surrounded by happy peasants and he seems rather cheerful himself.
He has a bowl of food in front of him, so it’s no wonder.