Monday, 6 June 2011

Restaurant Review: Mushu

A new spot to sate those West End dumpling cravings. Go on, you know you have them. Admit it. This is a review originally written for Blue Tomato magazine.

Mushu bills itself as a Japanese izakaya restaurant. This word is formed of the Japanese “i” meaning to sit and “sakaya” meaning sake shop – the result being a drinks bar where substantial food is also served. A little like Japanese Dim Sum, then. Or oriental tapas. Whatever we call it, it’s a concept which we wholeheartedly approve of, and one which would make a genuinely interesting addition to London’s dining scene.

Welcomed into Mushu at the hands of the owners, shown to our seats and chatted to, there’s a skill to making people feel quite so at home in such exotic environments, but Mushu have it down to a fine art. At first glance, the extensive menu littered with Japanese terms, could be intimidating, but the ability to order lots of small dishes takes the pressure off.
Our feast included mushroom, cabbage and sprouted seed packed vegetable water dumplings (shuijiao, £5.75 for 6) which burst in the mouth unleashing an addictively earthy flavour, whilst the accompanying homemade Sichuan sauce provided spice. Pork & cabbage potsticker dumplings (£5.95 for 6) are so named as they stick to the bottom of the pot during cooking, giving them a crisp base and slightly smoky flavour. Mushu’s versions are quite probably the best we’ve had in London – meaty, not at all fatty and full of subtly spiced pork flavour.

A miso aubergine dish nasu dengaku (£4.95) is new to us, and an instant highlight. Miso and aubergine become one creamy, gooey hit of salty umami. Soft shell crab tempura (£7.65) is generously portioned and substantially meaty and crabby tasting – unlike many versions of this which we’ve tried; and there’s sushi and sashimi to go around either.

During the day, Mushu is a quick service lunch spot, whilst the evenings see the lights dimmed, the pace slowed, the menu extended and the atmosphere upped. Plum wine, sake, Japanese teas, cocktails, wines and beers are all available to enjoy in Mushu’s relaxed environment, ordering and eating as you go along. And the very reasonable prices mean you don’t have worry about going overboard.

Mushu brings a bit of Wako to the West End and a bit of Fuji to Fitzrovia. And quite frankly, short of hopping on a flight to the Far East, we couldn’t think of any better place to enjoy a bit of laid-back Japanese hospitality.

Mushu, 53 Warren Street, W1T 5NL

>> originally published in Blue Tomato magazine

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