Despite positive reviews of Ba Shan in TimeOut and by knowledgeable blogger World Foodie Guide, I was reluctant to visit because of a horrible and expensive meal I had at Ba Shan’s older sibling, Bar Shu.
Cue Jon, who occasionally gets to pick where we eat dinner. Last week, he was in the mood for the Chinese street snacks that Ba Shan is known for serving, so off we went.
Let’s start with the Good: Of the five dishes we ordered, the only one I found delicious was the kung pao chicken. In case that previous sentence sounds overly negative, let me clarify that this kung pao chicken was so tasty that I’d go back to Ba Shan just to order it again. Actually, to be more specific: I’d go back to Ba Shan just for the peanuts in it. They were huge, crunchy and beautifully roasted.
Moving on to the Bad: The pork jia mo (unleavened flatbread sandwiches) were bland and dry, even with the marinated pork filling. Just barely a step up from matzoh, really. [If you’ve ever had matzoh, you know that’s no compliment.]
Pork and chive guo tie (aka pot stickers that are lightly boiled and then pan fried), usually a crowd pleaser, arrived at our table with the dumplings glued to a flat dough sheet. Thinking it looked better with the dough sheet down, we flipped over the guo tie to take the above photo. And then we dug in and found that the pork and chive filling was dry. Good thing there was soy sauce nearby, but guo tie that are saved by soy sauce are like cupcakes whose only saving grace is the frosting: No Good At All.
Recalling that most reviewers of Ba Shan were happy with the restaurant’s dumpling dishes, we also tried these won tons in a chili soy sauce. Unfortunately, the sauce wasn’t spicy at all, which meant it was just a plate of won tons in soy sauce. Not very exciting, especially for £5 or £6.
And wrapping up with the Ugly: Because the one dish I enjoyed at Baozi Inn (also a sibling restaurant) were the dan dan noodles, and because Ba Shan’s menu is heavy on Szechuan dishes, Jon and I tried the dan dan noodles at Ba Shan, too. Sadly, these turned out to be the low point of the evening, by far. It was just spaghetti with soy sauce pooled at the bottom of a bowl. No heat from any chilis; no meatiness from the dried-out minced pork topping; and definitely no complexity from any other ingredient, preserved or otherwise.
Most dishes at Ba Shan fell into either a £5-6 bucket or an £8-10 one (the portions, being “snacks” are generally small). Our bill arrived in Chinese and un-itemized, totaling about £50 for five dishes and three beers. Although our server was efficient, she looked pretty unhappy to be there. Overall, £50 for two people was too much money for a generally eh meal. I wouldn’t go back. (Well, except to try that kung pao chicken again).
Ba Shan, 24 Romilly Street, W1D 5AH; 0207 287 3266; closest Tube station: Leicester Square