I am a little late with this one, I am possibly the last food blogger to write about Haozhan. I’ve wanted to go since it opened, but never did and I think this is because it is in Chinatown. This made me nervous, as, generally the best Chinese food in London is found outside of Chinatown. I like going there for their grocery shops, and, go frequently for sichuan pepper, spring roll wrappers and random treats. I enjoy the bakeries and their dairy free semi-savoury delights. But, with few exceptions, the restaurants are not great. However, I continued to read good things and I decided I should really try it.
Hoazhan comes with solid credentials – Jimmy Kong of New Fook Lam Moon opened it with Chee Loong Cheong, formerly of Hakkasan, in the kitchen. Hakkasan is one of Alan Yau’s famed establishments and one of London’s few michelin starred Chinese restaurants. It offers sophisticated Chinese fusion food, but, is in the upper echelons of my current budgetary restrictions, so it was good to get an opportunity to taste the offerings of a chef that had worked there.
I have been twice now, the first time for a friends birthday on a Saturday night, nervously as I had recommended we try it, but had no experience of dining there to reassure me. On arrival, we were ushered upstairs to a round table, and within a short while, we were ordering. It was very busy, full to capacity. The appearance is quite trendy and very different to most of the other restaurants on Gerrard St. The green and black is attributed to Feng Shui, the whole effect was very modern, clean and efficient.
Service, on the other hand, was very much what I have come to know in chinatown – abrupt and swift – but, unlike alot of its neighbours, it had a charm, and by the end of the night we were all laughing at the misunderstandings surrounding getting a birthday candle put in a dessert for the birthday boy. Reviewing the menu, it appeared to be fusion, blending influences from regional asian cuisines with Chinese cooking, there’s marmite prawns and cheesy lobster on the menu, the lobster is a step too far for me I think, but maybe one day I’ll try the prawns.
We ordered a selection of starters – standout were the chilli squid which was crisp, light and beautifully spiced and so full of flavour, the veggie mixed starter was good, if average and the coffee ribs were rich and flavoursome.
Mains went from fabulous to bizarre. I had a gorgeous homemade tofu dish and would have written this post if only to tell you about it – Haozhan tofu – four fried homemade tofu cubes, like a savoury custard with spinach skimming the surface, all topped with a scallop and some fish roe. A friend had curry prawns which were very spicy and came served in a huge round of bread. Bizarre and super spicy. I’ve already mentioned the lobster and the prawns!
For dessert I had the red bean pancake, which was just ok, nothing spectacular. The deep fried ice cream was fine but not amazing.
Impressed as I was with the savoury food, I wanted to bring another foodie friend there. I, the creature of habit and desperate for more squid and tofu, ordered the same meal. He ordered the chilli deep fried soft shell crab and the crispy shredded beef. My meal was spectacular as before but his was disappointing: the crabs were slightly burned and the beef was borderline – very sweet and average.
It was a shame, as the previous night was generally, a very positive experience. I’ll definitely go again, if only for the tofu.
2 courses with one glass of wine, 2 beers and tea was £60.
8 Gerrard Street
0207 434 3838
Correction (20th June 2008) – I had the chilli squid starter, not the chilli tofu. I am clearly just a little focussed on that tofu main course!