Lion's head (shizi tou 狮子头) is an iconic dish that is synonymous with Shanghai. Before any animal rights peeps get on my case, lion's head meatballs are made out of pork. The name comes from the fact that these meatballs are massive (like a lion's head) and is served with cabbage (representing the lion's mane). When done properly, they look something like the photo below:
|Lion's head meatballs @ Xiao Nan Guo, Beijing|
|Lion's head meatballs @ Mushu, London|
On the plus side they were juicy and well seasoned and with the 30% discount voucher, I paid £4.55, which seems a fairer price. Before you think that I'm really stingy, I'd pay £5, hell I'd even pay £5.50 but £6.50 is a bit too much for a quick lunch served in a take-away container.
Returning the next day, I decided to try Mushu's speciality, Beijing dumplings, which you can see being made in the open-plan kitchen. Available in three varieties, classic pork, beef & kimchi, and vegetable, these are served either boiled (shuijiao 水餃) or pan-fried (guotie 鍋貼).
As well as ordering them on their own, you could do what I did and order a dumpling noodle soup (£6). From the various permutations, I decided on pork dumplings with egg noodles (the alternative is something called Shanghai udon – don't get me started on this improper noodle terminology).
I also didn't like the disposable container it was served in; being more like a giant cup than a bowl, it was a pain to fish the noodles out of the bottom. And again price was an issue. This kind of fare should cost £5 tops, if they want to charge £6 then it needs to be a better quality product.
Mushu is a casual joint serving a short menu consisting of simple Chinese and Japanese dishes. You order at the counter and whilst there are individual tables, much of the seating is communal.
Other than the fare that I sampled, the most noteworthy Chinese dish is the Beijing classic, spicy ja jiang noodles (zhajiangmian 炸酱面); whilst the Japanese choices include yaki soba and chicken katsu curry. I'm normally apprehensive when I see places that 'mix and match' cuisines but given the brevity of the menu, there's not much scope to balls things up.
I've had a good moan about the prices but there is a 10% discount for students and NHS staff. Very handy for those that work or study at the nearby University College Hospital.
I really wanted to like Mushu as treats like lion's head and freshly made Beijing dumplings are all too rare in London. Unfortunately, I think the food is ordinary and overpriced, and compares unfavourably with the likes of Hare & Tortoise.
Mushu, 53 Warren St, London W1T 5NL
Nearest tubes: Warren St, Great Portland St