8 Gerrard Street
020 7434 3838
Date of Last Visit: Friday, October 5th, 2007
The Victims: Echo, Bill, Xiang
The Damage: £20 each with Tsing Taos for the boys and me.
The Background: I store a lot of stuff at my office. Shoes. My monthly wine delivery. Mobile phone chargers. Gym clothes. Etc.
So every so often, I stop in the office to pick something up. The last couple of times, I've run into Xiang, who's newly arrived from China (for the second time). He's usually on Skype (or some variation thereof), talking to his wife and daughter back in China.
Moving to another country is hard. I've got it easy because I speak the language here. And even when I lived in Germany in 2003, I had the benefit of decently passable German. But in Munich, my weekends took on a noticeable routine–McDonalds. (It was right across the street, and they had bagels. Give me a break.). Gym. Wander streets endlessly. Go to scary Internet cafe at Hauptbahnhof. Call parents and tell them everything I'd already told them in email.
So I thought dinner with Xiang might be in order. Combine this with three reviews of Haozhan all in the same week–The Telegraph, The Independent, and The Guardian, and well, the gods were trying to tell me something.
The Entrance: You don't get written up in three major rags and not get a crowd. So Haozhan was already pretty full at 7 when we arrived. Here's the thing though–the three guests I brought were the only Chinese people in the place. Now normally, when I go out to eat with Echo, I'm surrounded by Chinese people. So this was a little weird.
The Ordering: We put Echo in charge, like she normally is. She starts off with the waiter in English, but they soon switch to Chinese and there's a barrage of questions towards me…"Do you like pork? Do you like beef? What type of vegetables do you want? Do you like it spicy?"
The Food: And it arrives. The clear winner–for me–is the quail with chillis which is lightly breaded and fried and is just so nice and crispy. We also had an order of jasmine ribs, which I have absolutely nothing to complain about.
And then come the mains…the tofu arrives and it's dramatic looking. Four fried short squares, each topped with a scallop and some roe. It's a very soft tofu that is creamy on the inside…these disappear quickly. The tofu was my 2nd favorite dish of the night after the quail. Szechuan duck is nice, but not very szechuan-y. And the mongolian beef is just beef, to me, but it's presented very nicely with some light onion-y things. The big let down dish is the vegetables with lotus root, which were very bland.
The Service: Pretty friendly. Pretty efficient. After reading all the reviews, I expected it to be super excellent, and it wasn't. It was good though.
The Bad Part: An older couple came in about 30 minutes into our meal and were seated next to us. The gentleman was unwashed and I'll leave it at that.
The Funny Parts: Xiang's announcement: I like drinking. And smoking. Me teaching them all the meaning of ADS. (After dinner smoke. So later, on our walk to the bus, it became, "I like drinking. And ADS."
The Loos: They should send someone in to pick things up every hour or so. Although nicely done–great tilework–no one had touched it since lunch at least.
The Verdict: Echo declared that Haozhan was her new favorite restaurant in Chinatown. So I think that says something. I liked Haozhan too.
Random Fact: Haozhan means Good House in Chinese.