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Red & Hot, Chinatown/Charing Cross Rd, London


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Red & Hot, Chinatown/Charing Cross Rd, London

limster | | Aug 31, 2008 03:21 PM

A mini chain with branches in Birmingham and Manchester, seemingly popular for the sichuan style hot pots, an obvious peppery aroma in the air.

I stuck with the regular cooked dishes and was generally happy.

Ma2 la4 dou4 hua1 (hot and numbing bean flower) has a decent level of spiciniess, although more wouldn't hurt. It lacks sufficient sichuan peppercorns for the cooling numbing quality, not a tingle of my lips. But the flavour is otherwise sound: a gentle course of vinegar in the background to round off the heat, a pleasant aromatic, peppery and chilli flavour. They use soft bean curd rather than true dou4 hua1 (bean flower), a very fine and delicate bean curd that is often served sweet, but occasionally dons a savoury flavour in dishes like these.

Dan4 dan4 mian4 (dan dan noodles) come topped with tiny crispy bits of pork, and a fairly aromatic base of chilli oil. The noodles are a tad soft.

Shui3 zhu3 niu2 rou4 ("water cooked" beef), a fiery sichuan classic, is a bit tame here, no numbing quality and could be more spicy, but the spicy and peppery flavour combination is good. A rich layer of oil, as expected, so that as the slices of meat are taken of the bowl, they become coated with a sheen of the oil and the flavour it carries. Napa cabbage and celery are also present, for a contrast.

The glutinous rice dumplings filled with sweet ground black sesame (tang1 yuan2) are very well made, superior to the ones at Dragon Castle that I tried recently. The skins are soft and delicately chewy, the ground black sesame almost liquid.

Pretty good on the whole, and certainly worth checking out. The aromatic qualities of the Sichuan dishes at No. 10 Chinese Restaurant, especially the spicy fragrance of the oil-based sauces, suggest a more dexterous hand on the wok there, but Red & Hot does a better job for baseline spice level. I think the chef at No. 10 is probably more skilled and it may be easier to up the spice level there than to have the Red & Hot kitchen calibrate the flavouring better. But one never knows till one tries. Will have to request more numbing spiciness at both places and try more dishes to see how they compare. Will be curious to try the nearby New China on Gerrard Street for their Sichuan items.