China Tang gets busier and busier. The basement room seats 200 at any one time and was completely packed tonight, with tables being turned. The tables were so tightly spaced now that it was difficult to get in and out, and there was barely room for waiters to get past between tables. The noise levels were high tonight despite the thick carpeting. There is a new chef from Hong Kong who cooked at the China Club there (run by David Tang, who has made his fortune with the Shanghai Tang fashion chain).
Scallop (£16) served in a scallop shell with black bean sauce was of decent quality, and cooked well enough, but was not prepared properly so that as I bit into tender sweet scallop I got a mouthful of the hard muscle that should have been removed prior to cooking; other than this pretty basic issue the scallop was fine (12/20). Crabmeat and sweetcorn soup (£10) was pleasant enough and did at least have some crab, while seasoning was OK (12/20).
The main courses were better. Steamed sea bass (£40) arrived as a whole fish but carefully filleted, and was nicely timed, served with a light stock flavoured with ginger (14/20). Szechuan prawns (£20) were tender, though I found the tomato-based sauce with them rather one-dimensional, and for me this needed more chilli bite (13/20). Singapore noodles had pleasant texture (13/20). Gai lan (£12) was presented well and carefully steamed with garlic, the shoots young and tender, the texture excellent (14/20). Egg fried rice (£5) was above average, with carefully defined and well cooked rice grains (13/20).
The service was a shambles. Our sea bass arrived in glorious isolation from the rest of the main course dishes. We waited, waited some more, couldn’t see a waiter in sight so started eating rather than let the fish get cold. We were halfway through the fish before a waiter finally responded and promised to chase up the rest of the dishes, which duly appeared in short order. Although we were in a corner near a waiter station I found getting attention, such as for more beer (an important thing for me) very difficult: the waiting staff seemed rushed off their feet, and communication with some was difficult: “what is the fish of the day?” was met with the puzzling response: “well, we have gai lan, morning glory….”. The bill for two, with just four beers and tea, no dessert or other drinks of any kind, was £158.63, and in my book £79 a head is an awful lot of money for this level of cooking, and for service that would have not been out of place in Chinatown. The cooking was objectively fine, but the value for money factor was poor.
Further reviews: 31st Dec 2012