As expected Gourmet San was jam-packed and I couldn’t be bothered with the queue. I always come prepared with a Plan B when it comes to eating out. Red Bar is located near the bus stop where I have to catch the number 8 back to the West End from a ritual Sunday doss in E2. From the outside the place looked seedy and uninviting. Judging by its close proximity to Gourmet San, Red Bar was assumed to be one of those opportunist (harsh wording but true) bandwagon outfits who came about purely to reduce the queues at Gourmet San. I also came here because it offered nose to tail eating, it was non-Cantonese and it had a website.
Like all Chinese restaurants, the name in English has little or no bearing on the original name in Chinese. Hung (sounds like red in Chinese) means magnanimous. Red Bar has been around since last December and despite having a web presence, its reputation was set in concrete by the Mainland Chinese diners who frequent here.
Just before we go on to the food, I thinks it’s worth quoting Fuchsia Dunlop- ‘If you visit a typical high-end Chinese restaurant alone, or with one dining companion, you are likely to be able to try only a few dishes, and to miss the excitement that comes from a really well-planned and diverse dinner for a group, which can be a kind of showcase for different cooking methods.’ Even taking the ‘high-end’ away this is very true when dining Chinese, which is also why I hardly blog about Chinese restaurants, what little dining companions I know, dining Chinese doesn’t rock them. The person I dragged with me to The Red Bar, is a wuss. He crumbles when both offal and chilli are on the menu, he came because there was no one else to call upon on a Sunday evening.
Sliced Tripe and Ox Tongue- like all the dishes to come this was massive and way too much for two.
Excellent sesame oil dressing with spicy kick. Wonderful bar food to go with beer.
Stir-fried Pork with Agarics. The young lady wrote this dish down in error, we actually wanted Double Cooked Hunan pork. Never mind, we insisted that we’ll have it. Again huge and not exactly a sophisticated plating.
The agarics in this dish are the Cloud Ear fungus and Golden Needle mushroom (some of you folks call it Enokitake). Gawd there must have been at least four eggs cracked into the dish as well. Excellent nonetheless.
Chongqing style Aubergine. By the time this dish turned up I knew we were in trouble, how could we possibly eat the whole aubergine! It’s all very well saying that we’ll skip the rice, but that’s impossible as these dishes are too salty to be consumed on their own.
Terrific tasting dish, the only gripe I have is the inclusion of crabsticks. I hate bloody crabsticks, they immediately taint whatever credentials the chef might have. Oh well, prepared to forgive, the entire dish was only six quid.
The foodies’ favourite of Poached Sliced Sea Bass in Hot Chilli Oil. Declaration time, this one betters the ones that I had at Bar Shu, Snazz Sichuan,
I also noted that the fish slices were rather mean in quantity for a huge bowl. Goes without saying I had to tackle this dish on my own as dining companion, bless his cotton socks, bit into a Sichuan pepper that numbed him senseless for the rest of the evening.
Magnanimous by name and certainly relayed to the portions as well. Excellent value and assured service. Highly recommended, I intend to come back here with more people and exploit the extensive menu; the food here is indeed tasty.
132 Bethnal Green Road
London E2 6DG