Tuesday, 15 March 2011

At Last! General Tso Makes It To London

I've finally tracked down a decent version of General Tso's chicken (左宗堂雞) in London. Never having had a proper rendition of this American-Chinese dish before, I wasn't sure quite what to anticipate. That said, it felt more real compared to my previous brush with what turned out to be a fake General.

From what I read and had been told, I was expecting a tart piquant dish with sweet undertones. I wasn't disappointed. It was hotter and less vinegary than I expected, but very moreish nonetheless. So where did I finally track down this dish? It was at the relaunched Ba Shan, previously a xiao chi (小吃) or 'small-eats' joint, that now specialises in Hunan cuisine.

The General Tso's chicken was one of many delights, as we also enjoyed in no particular order: mashed aubergine, potato slivers, duck egg with chillies, beef brisket in mini-wok, Peng's fried tofu, hand-torn cabbage, steamed catfish with salted chillies and noodles, and Chinese bacon with dried radish.

Everything was excellent, and the dining room had a warm charm that is all too rare in London's Chinese restaurants. All told, a brilliant dinner with some excellent company. Highly recommended.

Apologies for the brief write-up but I've got review fatigue. The thing is I'm finding it increasingly difficult to do a full blow-by-blow account of the restaurants that I visit. That's not to say I'm getting bored of eating out in London; it's just that I'm not up for writing about the experience at any great length.

I hope you understand and I'm not ruling out a return to writing 'proper' restaurant reviews should I get my mojo back. In the meantime, I'll be blogging about other stuff that I hope you'll find as interesting as I do.

If you can't get a table here...
... then you might want to try Golden Day on Shaftesbury Avenue. It isn't as accomplished as Ba Shan but it also serves Hunan cuisine.

Ba Shan on Urbanspoon

Ba Shan, 24 Romilly St, London, W1D 5AH, (Tel 020-7287-3266)
Nearest tube: Leicester Square

PS: For a more in-depth review of this meal, by The Grubworm, please click here.


  1. I've heard quite a bit about Ba Shan recently and good to know you approve. Have to make my way there too then.

  2. I had no idea that Ba Shan relaunched itself! Hmmmm.... got to try it one day.

    Hope you get your mojo back - I know what you mean; it can get difficult at times. Good luck!

  3. It was a great meal, certainly more different to Sichuan food than I was expecting. Thought the tofu was very good indeed, as was my first ever taste of preserved eggs and also Chinese bacon. Next time, I want to try the ducks tongues. Mmm-mmm.

  4. I loved Ba Shan (and the company :). I have to write it up before I forget all the good things we ate... I am sitting here in Wales dreaming about Hunanese food.

  5. Oooo I can't believe you didn't bring American in London with you! You know she is OBSESSED!

  6. Have yet to check out Ba Shan. Hmm, will probably head there this weekend. And General Tso's first on the list!

  7. You could go down the educational route? I find that particularly interesting - but that is probably linked to me needing that over here.

    Def agree with you about blow by blow now. In the end, bar one or two terrible or great dishes, you leave a meal with a this is good/bad attitude. Not sure breaking down each flavour is merited. But then I am probably just lazy.

  8. Kay - I think you'll like it.

    Su-Lin - Ba Shan relaunched their menu sometime last year but nothing else. I'd be interested in what you think.

    Gworm - Sichuan food is pretty unique in their use of the numbing Sichuan peppercorn, whilst Hunan is more about salted and pickled chillies. Both good in their different ways.

    Ute - I hope you're settling in OK in Wales.

    Krista - after last time, I thought I'd check it out first in case it was crap.

    LChow - you ought to try the other dishes ahead of the General Tso's. They were better.

    Tom - I will be mixing it up on the blog and there will be some educational posts. I'm quite looking forward to blogging differently.

  9. lol. I love that Krista acted as my advocate here, because I was thinking the same thing! But good response, mr. noodles.

    I know you'd given me the tip ages ago, so my fault, too, for not acting on it yet. Glad to hear it was pretty good!

  10. Am looking forward to your other blogging topics .... It's just a dip in enthusiasm for writing about the same all the time.
    I've never tried the General's Chicken, but Americans rave about it as if it is was made by God himself. Well maybe the General was. Who knows.
    I'm still addicted to the duck tongues there. Awesome.

  11. A-in-L – I'd love it for you to check out Ba Shan to confirm if this General the real deal. Even if it isn't, I enjoyed it so much more than that effort at No.10 in Earl's Court.

    Mzungu – I'll still be writing about eating out but I'll be focussing on one or two killer dishes rather than getting anal about making sure I've written a little something about every last dish that I ordered. I'm also thinking about what other stuff to blog about – that's the tough but exciting part!

  12. God I love Ba Shan. I haven't tried the General Tso's chicken, but will give it a go next time I go.

    I adore the catfish with pickled green chillies (and the noodles they dunk in the sauce after - yum), the hand torn cabbage and the dried radish and bacon. Transports me right back to being in Yeuyang and having some of the best food ever.

  13. Sharmila - it was an excellent meal, and I have to say one of the best of 2011 so far. I've not been to Hunan, unlike your good self, but Ba Shan is very reminiscent of Hunan joints that I've been to in Beijing.

  14. I went there with my family tonight, it was a stunning meal honestly.

    There were five of us and we were greedy and had the cabbage with chili, two orders of the dry fried beans (my sister's favourite), mao's pork belly, general tso's chicken, dried cucumber with pork (my favourite) and finally the fish with noodles as recommended. Best chinese meal I've had in London so far and edges out Chili Cool for me.

    Excellent recommendation and we were guided in our choices by you and your fellow bloggers. Thanks very much indeed!