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I was going to title this, “you need to come here”, which is quite self-explanatory. Open for just four months, Xu is the sister of Fitzrovia favourite Bao and one of the newer breed of stylish restaurants to move into Chinatown. Modelled after a 1930’s Taiwanese eatery, the minimal retro vibes lend a feeling of escapism enhanced by the playful and inventive food on offer. Geometric chairs, emerald and pearl striped flooring and delightful circular vintage bars on each floor proves that when it comes to interiors, nostalgia is very much now. As for the food, the menu is split into small sharing plates (recommended to choose four between two diners), with larger main dishes and substantial sides. Here’s what to order at Xu:
We opted for the chilled clams (£5), accompanied by chili marinade and basil oil, which was served as a kind of icy gratin. Although we were to discover that portions here run on the small side, at £1 per clam, this was the most overpriced starter. The numbing beef tendon (£5.50) fared a lot better and lived up to its name – the Sichuan chilli washed the tongue in spice, a sensation that comes with caution. The tendon itself was so silky and buttery that it melted away in the mouth.
From the mian shi section, which is essentially dishes containing carbs, the beef pancake (£10) emerged as a winner. Short-rib presented in a bone marrow with garnishes, the delicate DIY plate reminded me of the Chinese version of Temper’s tacos. Xu’s mapo tofu (£11.50), a personal favourite dish of mine, was a mix of textures: Silken tofu with skin and without was drowned in a hot plate of spicy, moreish sauce with Sichuan peppercorns punching through the sweetness. An umami accompaniment came in the form of the Lardo Lard onion rice (£3.50), sushi rice grains topped with wafers of translucent flavourful fat. Wonderfully barbecued and succulent char siu (£18.50) sat atop juicy cucumber hearts that were charred for a mild smokiness. If there was one dish that could win over a difficult diner, it would’ve been this.
Drinks are no disappointment either, the House Tea is served in a whiskey glass with small, delicate glassware and their homemade sparkling tea is a lightly sweet and aromatic beverage that’s fermented in-house. The Takkiri, a milk-washed Kavalan and oolong tea is a far cry from the sleazy nightclub pour (green tea and whiskey that tastes as disastrous as it sounds) that is so popular in Asia. It’s smooth and has enough of that award-winning whiskey flavour without the bite. A whiskey cocktail for people that don’t drink whiskey… and a Chinese restaurant for people who are over Chinese restaurants.
30 Rupert St, London W1D 6DL