Tuesday, 8 December 2009

haozhan literally a great place to eat

i and i had our tastelondon girlie dinner date last night. post two tastelondon dinners i have now been accused that i am responsible for what i call ‘a moment on the lips, forever on the hips’ syndrome. i’s contention is that we are eating more than we would do without the tastelondon card. blame it on tastelondon i, not me! anyway, haozhan is a rather glamorous chinese restaurant in the heart of china town. it’s modern and minimalist with its black furniture and clean lines. i points out that the Christmas lights are slightly cheesy but on the whole it’s nothing like its regular counterparts that feature big red lanterns and lots of tacky gold.

at haozhan we order in pairs – two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts as its 241. on the side we order a pot of green tea (and only later do we discover that there was quite a tea selection that we had missed). it takes us a while to figure out what we want and there is much balancing of ingredients between the appetizers and entrees. eventually, we settle on aromatic crispy duck and curry softshell crab to start with.

the curry softshell crab is lightly battered and fried golden with curry leaves and the heat of sliced red chillies. it’s a wonderful melange of flavours, soft and mellow with a little spice. I and i pick at the little bits of batter with our chopsticks till we can lift no more. next is the aromatic crispy duck that has been deftly shredded and removed from the bone.we both assemble our crispy duck, finely julienned cucumber and spring onions in paper thin pancakes smeared with a deep slightly molasses flavoured hoi-sin sauce, roll them and tuck in. i love the contrast of flavours in Chinese cuisine – sweet, salty, spicy and soothing.
our entrees arrive and both i and i stop to admire the presentation. the hoazhan tofu is squares of tofu in two tones with its cover of chopped spinach and white of scallop with a crown of salmon roe served in a row on a long white platter. the haozhan beef rib eye is served in a shallow white bowl in a contemporary shaped basket of fried vermicelli. previous reviews of this place say that haozhan’s tofu is so good it can convent non-tofu lovers. our first bite proves the point. the tofu is silken and tastes almost like a warmed custard. the scallops are fresh and tender. the only pity is the salmon roe which is more texture than flavour. but its lacking qualities do little to mar the experience as the tofu itself is excellent. i found it to be too rich after eating two pieces, a feeling that i don’t echo.
there was a brief pause before i and i tasted the beef and for a moment after that there was complete silence. the beef was tender and juicy and packed full of flavour. there was a hint of sweet that cut through the black pepper and the red wine with the onions adding a little crunch and wholes cloves of softened stir fried garlic coming together to make a fantastic entree.

i and i chose not to order any rice or noodles, a wise decision as we really were quite full at the end of the meal. we spent considerable time swapping stories about the men in our life and their eating habits, a conversation that continued through dessert.
we had thought of splitting one dessert but the waiter suggested two. it was practical advice based on 241 but not so practical for our waistlines. it was well worth it though! I was more partial to the haozhan cream of pumpkin which came in a martini glass. it is a chilled pumpkin and cream puree with a scoop of vanilla ice cream dusted with a bit of cocoa and some steamed black rice to add texture to the smoothness. i really liked the stronger nuttier flavour of black sesame ice cream with crunchy vegetable seeds.
we’ll definitely be going back here!