Monday, 18 January 2010

Matthew Norman - WTF ?

The last thing you anticipate from even the finest Chinese chef is the showing of respect to the veg. Here, though, the french beans were "wonderful. All spicy and ­perfectly crunchy," cooed my friend.

The above quote is from Matthew Norman's review of My Old Place from the Weekend Guardian magazine (16 January 2010).

So yet again, a 'professional' restaurant critic comes out with complete bollocks about Chinese food. Has this idiot never tasted Cantonese stir-fried pak choi with garlic or sampled fish-fragrant aubergine (yu xiang qiezi) from Sichuan ? Or perhaps, he thinks the chef isn't showing enough respect to veg when putting together lo hon zai or monk's vegetables - a complex dish comprising up to 35 ingredients eaten by Buddhist monks.

Well all I can say is that 'the last thing you anticipate from even the finest British restaurant critic is the showing of respect to Chinese food'.


  1. Well said.

    There are so many Buddhist Chinese in the world - what on earth do they eat? Disrespected veg?

  2. You go Mr Noodles! What a ridiculous statement

  3. Hear hear! Well said! Couldn't believe that this is what's going through his head.

  4. Noodles, make sure you tag or label his name in full. He's a twattus maximus.

  5. Great post. You'll also notice that Norman was clueless in describing perfumed, citrusy, non-lethal Szechuan peppercorns as "the nuclear missile in the spice arsenal".

  6. Haha - glad to read this and spot on.

    Also not sure if you have been to My Old Place recently but like its son, Gourmet San, it can be very hit and miss. Part of that is that a Westerner like me is inexperienced with the dishes and you can end up with a meal full of dishes which are too difficult for my palate and part of it is sometimes the food is good and sometimes it is just ok.

    The guys is obviously a prat.

  7. I think we all agree that Mr Norman is an ignorant idiot although I think Fat Les puts it better ! And as Y&F points out, the review has more howlers. I still haven't actually made it to 'My Old Place' although I'd be none the wiser if it was any good from Norman's review.

  8. My Old Place (and its sibling, Gourmet San) is pretty hit or miss, and while it serves a few Szechuan dishes, I wouldn't call it a Szechuan restaurant. Most of the Szechuan classics I've tried there are terrible (the kung pao chicken had no spice and no peanuts).

    But it's bustling and cheap, and occasionally you hit a good dish or two that makes the trip worthwhile. It's not a great or reliable restaurant by any stretch of the imagination (but it's close to my office so I've been there a few times).

    As for Matthew Norman - his glowing/adoring review of Easarn Kheaw in Shepherd's Bush didn't match my experience there at all. At the time, I figured the resto must have gone downhill since he reviewed it last January, but with his latest review of My Old Place, perhaps all he likes is for his Asian cuisine to be cheap.

  9. A-in-L - another excellent point ! Although I've not been to My Old Place, I've heard it serves food from Dongbei (NE China) as well as from Sichuan and Xinjiang where the lamb skewers hail from.

    Having re-read his reviews of My Old Place and Esarn Kheaw, I get the sense that Norman fetishises a certain notion of what he deems to be "authentic". This includes the food being cheap and the interior being ostensibly ethnic. Sadly this seems to blind him to whether the restaurant is any good or not.