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Gourmet San, Bethnal Green, London

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Gourmet San, Bethnal Green, London

limster | Aug 8, 2009 04:07 PM

Solid homey cooking.

An elegant cold appetiser (House Special Vermicelli, yi4 pin3 jin1 si1 literally "shredded gold"), admirable knifework producing a mixture of items julienned to just the right dimensions for a delightful textural harmony with vermicelli (probably made with sweet potato flour fro the slight chewy quality). Crunchy cucumber and carrots, jellyfish with an initial tenderness followed by a snap, the soft crunch of enoki mushrooms, Chinese ham, crisp cilantro stiff and fresh on the teeth. Also a pleasant symphony of flavours, set off with a powerful garlic and finished with just the right lick of complex acidity from a nuanced application of black vinegar.

A tender and tasty lamb skewer, with a good shading of cumin and coriander.

Dong1 bei3 di3 san1 xian1 ("3 NE style vegetables", on the Chinese-only menu, not sure what the dish is listed as on the bilingual menu which I haven't seen but it's not on the bilingual takeaway menu). A basic stir fry of green capsicum/bell pepper, good tender potato and aubergines, heavy on the oil and salt, good textures on all ingredients, and a homey rendition with nice textural differences between the 3 vegetables.

Nong2 jia1 xiao3 chao3 ("Farmer's stir fry," on the Chinese-only menu, not sure about their translation) -- deft stir frying of green "jian1 jiao1" peppers, good smoky notes that contrast the meaty savoury slices of steaky bacon (think UK bacon, not US bacon). Another homey, comforting dish, as one might expect from the name. Aromatic and oily, with a sparse scatter of red chilli slices for a subliminal bit of heat.

Ge1 le4 san1 la4 zi3 ji1 (Ge1 le4 Mountain-style spicy chicken, also Chinese-only menu) -- deep fried bite-size pieces of chicken thigh and wings, stir fried in a dry wok with chilli and sichuan peppercorns. While not the best rendition of this dish I've had, it showed fairly good dry stir-fry technique, carrying the flavour of the chilli and the peppercorns to give the moderately tender chicken pieces a slight numbing spicy quality and tiny tingling citrusy overtone from the peppercorns.

Fried sesame balls coated with a bit of red bean paste on the inside were not bad, with a good glutinous chewy texture but could have used more red bean paste.

Was curious about where the chef was from, since the menu had dishes from Sichuan (central-southwest) and Shandong (northeast, around the Beijing area), in addition to the Xinjiang-style grill. I asked and found out the chef is from NE China, but also happens to cook Sichuan/Szechuan dishes. (I guess in retrospect it made sense, the take-away menu describes their food as "Chinese Northern Authentic Restaurant"). That prompted me to try more of their NE Chinese (Lu Cuisine) rather than Sichuan dishes, except for the Ge1 le4 Mountain-style spicy chicken which was a Sichuan dish and the lamb skewer which was Xinjiang, both of which I had my heart set on at the beginning.

Lots of reports of their Sichuan and Xinjiang grilled dishes here -- e.g.:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/542184
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/584399.

Would love to hear more about their NE Chinese dishes, since that's their native specialty. In particular, has anyone tried the "stew chicken with special mushroom" (xiao3 ji1 dun4 cai4 gu1) or any of their dishes with black vinegar or "brown sauce" (jiang4 bao4)?

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