Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Red Bar

It was on our way to Gourmet San (much lauded Northern Chinese restaurant on Bethnal Green Road) that we came across this. London’s East End is riddled with this kind art, albeit temporary but it’s generally downright more acceptable than the usual eyesore graffiti. The idea is if you see something like it, snap it immediately (with your camera that is). It won’t be there for long as the person or artist who hung it up in the first place is loitering around stealthily watching you (with a degree of self satisfaction I dare say) .

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. By enlarge The dining room looks nothing like the photos shown on its site, the seediness from the outside is transformed to the inside as well. The room also suggested thoughts of Hakkasan aspirations, but the budget sort of ceased on the first day of shop fitting. The furniture seemed like the abandoned variety from Chinatown. The service from the young girl (she was the only waitress that evening) was remarkable, what enthusiasm and commitment! Her willingness to converse in English was certainly noteworthy and you know how the womenfolk go on about multitasking, well let’s just say I’ve witnessed it.

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, Mr Chow and Angeles. An astonishing tasting pot of spicy goodness, I’m convinced that the huge amount of chilli and Sichuan peppers in this dish is enough to kill off any flu viruses.

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.

True enough that painting has disappeared.

132 Bethnal Green Road
London E2 6DG


Helen said...

I'd be interested to know what you think of the hotpot at chilli cool as a group of us went there recently and enjoyed it.

bellaphon said...

Helen, I must get myself down to Chilli Cool, but first I need to assemble a group of afficionados to revel with ;)

Anonymous said...

This looks SO good, and isn't too far from where I live. We tried to order delivery last night after reading this review. The nice lady asked for my phone number which contains a quadruple 3, something that I've always found most people appreciate when making note of it. Not this lady. After trying to convince me it was "074333" about twelve times, the penny finally dropped. Then I tried to give her our address,and we were doing really well until we got to the street name and she just couldn't fathom the concept of "field" and "gate" being one word. In the end we gave up and got our usual Tayyabs take away. Such a shame! Looks like I might just have to stop being so lazy and actually head down there at some point! Bah!

bellaphon said...

GG- A pleasure to have you stopping by. Lost in translation prevails. I know it may sound incredulous, but I've never had a delivery takeaway before which probably confirms my eccentricity of not owning a television as well.If you do come here don't go for the generic Cantonese dishes, stick to the rough and 'take no prisoners' Northern or Eastern Chinese ones instead. Think sichuan pepper and dried chilli peppers; good luck.