Jen of Dashi Dashi organised a Saturday lunch meetup last weekend and we, Luiz of The London Foodie and his Dr G, and May of Slow Food Kitchen gathered to try her local Sichuan restaurant, Tian Fu, in Shepherd’s Bush. I’d already got the thumbs up for this restaurant from a couple of my Chinese colleagues and was looking forward to that lunch. Of course, I was looking forward to the company too, not having seen any of them for a few months!
I have to admit that I did feel like I was cheating a bit on my local Sichuan restaurant by heading to another relatively local one. Well, they needn’t worry – not because the food was bad (actually, the food was very good here) but because they don’t do our favourite corn with salted egg yolk! Do any of you feel this way with your local favourites?
Between the five of us, we ordered six dishes. First to arrive were the dry fried green beans (£6.80) which came in a massive pile and were fried till tender with pork and minced pickled vegetables. They were rather toothsome little beans, lovely things.
The rest of the dishes arrived in equally large portions. The fish fragrant aubergine (£6.80) came in a large shallow bowl full of the tender, silky vegetable. The flavours were well balanced and utterly addictive and let the record show that a certain blogger finished the last of the sauce with the last of the rice at the end of the meal! (I’ll be honest – if my stomach hadn’t been full to bursting, I would have done the same!)
Cumin lamb (£8.50) while not Sichuan but rather from Xinjiang, was exactly as I remember in the Muslim Restaurant in Beijing: tender slices of lamb fried with lots of cumin and onion. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so good. It’s absolutely delicious with white rice and I can even imagine it being a great bar snack by itself.
The dry braised beef tendon (£8.50) had a wonderfully addictive chew to it and had a slow burning heat with all the chillies with which it was fried. I don’t normally order tendon but this was just delicious.
A grilled sea bass in chef special chili sauce (£12.00) turned out to have been deep fried in batter but it was still delicious for it. As you’d expect, a whole fish, with bones, topped with a whole mishmash of things making up the special sauce, is quite difficult to eat but it was quite worth all the work. There were loads of things going on in that sauce – lots of different tastes and textures too. A warning to pescetarians and those with allergies out there: the special sauce on top contained minced pork and peanuts!
Surprisingly, the water boiled pork (£8.00) came with lots of crushed chilies rather than the usual whole dried chillies or dried chilli chunks I’ve usually seen, making it quite spicy. Thin slices of pork, along with Chinese cabbage and beansprouts, were swimming around in the chilli laced broth; you don’t drink the oily broth unless you’re a masochist! However, I can’t recall many Sichuan peppercorns, those little nubbins of numbness.
With jasmine tea and white rice for everyone (surely it’s impossible to eat Sichuan food without white rice), and service, the total came to £72.20. The menu has something for everyone – there are many Sichuan dishes (both spicy and not spicy) and even a section in the back for British-Chinese dishes. There’s even an all-you-can-eat Sichuan hotpot deal that I’d love to try in the winter. Service was a bit grumpy but it’s great that we have another good Sichuan place out here in the west. Thanks for organising this again, Jen!
37 Bulwer Street
London W12 8AR
(it’s very close to the Debenham’s end of Westfield, towards the green)