BaoziInn in Soho: Vibrant Chinese street food and Cantonese dim sum
Stepping into Soho is always a good start to the evening if you’re heading to a new restaurant with traditional Asian cuisine. Situated on Romilly Street, BaoziInn is everything but an opulent place, in the best possible way. Its front door opens into a very cosy space where you can have great dinner for a good price in the heart of London. Already, the decoration reveals the roots of the food and the aim with which it was created: to reflect the flavours and revive the recipes of the Mao era. The menu offers a vibrant array of Northern Chinese street food and Cantonese Dim Sum with Sichuan and Hunan influences.
The service was particularly helpful in assisting us to pick the best signature dishes, also providing some background to each one of them – including two craft beers from China and Thailand. Though it was our first time trying these delicacies, our expectations were more than fulfilled. The variety of dishes is considerable, although we tried to cover every type, from veggies to dim sum, skewers and of course, many dumplings.
Baozilnn claims to make the best wonton in London, the pork ones being the most popular on their menu. We should highlight that, if not the best of their kind, they were truly a gift to the senses. Mixed in a chilli sauce, they managed to balance the taste of the vegetables, the steamed pastry and some tender bits of pork that enhanced both its aroma and flavour – all that sprinkled with the usual spring onions, which could be found in more than one dish.
But let’s start with the first dishes, and also one of the biggest surprises of the evening: the Ruby Prawn Dumplings, the Pepper Chili Shao Mai and the Watercress Prawn Dumplings. All of them are coloured naturally with beetroot, chilli and turmeric which gave a very beautiful and distinctive appearance, one which would be at home in the middle of a street food stall as well as in a restaurant. For the fans of rich and more balanced flavours, you should definitely go for the third dish, as the watercress provides a nice touch mixed up with the spices and the slices of prawn.
Next, we had a Chinese bun – with more prawns inside – that had been fried and coated with a mixture of black and white sesame seeds. This was a dish that made us somehow aware of the culinary differences between Asia and the western world as well as the heritage we owe to Chinese culture in particular, from pasta to sandwiches and everything in between. Funnily enough, the manager compared the texture and feel of the dish to a French brioche.
With regard to its heritage, the restaurant’s name finds its etymology in the historical tradition of people eating in a canteen during Mao’s era, since it was forbidden for each family to cook in their own kitchen for themselves. This sharing culture is reflected broadly in a menu that is often fit to be divided, with small portions and a big variety of dishes. Without a doubt, the star of the night – in taste, aroma and surprising simplicity – was the Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles, mixed in a soy, peanut and sesame sauce that brings out the most delicious toasted and smokey notes.
We also had the chance to try the Crispy Oyster Mushrooms, which again packed a great flavour – although they were not as crispy as the title would suggest – as well as the Vegetable Dumplings with Vinegar Sauce and the skilfully carved Squid with Sichuan Pepper, one of their signature dishes – which was very spicy but which had a strong impact on the senses. Dessert consisted of Fried Glutinous Rice with a Brown Sugar Sauce and a refined jasmine tea, imported directly from Taiwan.
All this was accompanied by a delicious chilli sauce with fragrant chilli oil and pepper on one side and some hotter and sweeter sauce on the other, a great treat for those who enjoy playing with various tastes and experimenting with something different to the more classic accompaniments you can find in most restaurants.
Soho’s BaoziInn is the second venture from the team behind Barshu and an evolution of the original BaoziInn in Newport Court; it aims at expanding the offer of London’s regional Chinese cuisine and raising the quality of the restaurant group as a whole with food that makes a statement.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Maria Barrios and Cristiana Ferrauti
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti
To book a table at Baozilnn, 24 Romilly Street Soho London W1D 5AH, call 020 7287 3266 or visit their website here.